MIKDASH AND LULAV PERFECT TOGETHER?

Based partially on shiurim by Rabbi Michael Rosensweig.

Rambam, in the heading to his laws of lulav, uses an intriguing phrasing. He states that the command is to "take the lulav in the Mikdash for all seven days of the festival." What does he mean by this? Certainly we are commanded to take the four species even today in the Diaspora! Why does he limit this commandment to the Beit HaMikdash alone? What makes this even more intriguing is that in the actual laws of lulav (7:13), he states that the mitzva is to take the lulav on the first day anywhere a person may be, and only then does he continue to write that in the Beit HaMikdash the lulav must be taken all seven days! Thus, we have two issues to deal with how many days is one obligated to take the lulav, and where is one obligated to do so?

First, we must realize where Rambam may be taking his law from. Vayikra 23:40 (our only source for the mitzva of lulav) states "You shall take for yourself on the first day the fruit of a good tree, palm branches, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days." Seemingly, the verse itself presents us with some degree of confusion. Is there a commandment for only the first day, or does it apply to all seven? Also, what does it mean to rejoice "before the Lord your God"? The Kesef Mishne contends that this can be anywhere, as God is everywhere, while Rambam is seemingly interpreting this clause to refer to the place where God resides, namely the Beit HaMikdash.

At any rate, the language of Rambam in the heading should raise eyebrows. Even if there is a notion of taking the lulav specifically in the Beit HaMikdash, why should that be considered to be the more important aspect of the mitzva? Is it possible that Rambam considers the taking of the lulav in the Mikdash to be the actual mitzva, with the taking of the lulav anywhere else to be merely a by-product of that mitzva? Let us examine the possibilities.

An extreme option would be to state that there are actually two mitzvot involved in taking the lulav one in the Beit HaMikdash and one everywhere else. Rav Yerucham Fishel Perlow tests this theory by hypothesizing about one who takes the lulav on the first day in his house, and then enters the courtyard of the Beit HaMikdash. If they are two separate commandments, then such a person should logically have to take the lulav again (and make another blessing)! He concludes that this option, while somewhat attractive (and certainly with some support from the verse), is incorrect, as there is no one who lists more than one mitzva of lulav among the 613.

A second approach would be to state that the real mitzva is in effect everywhere, and that there is an added aspect of the mitzva that applies only in the Beit HaMikdash. If we take this path, we have to be careful to distinguish between the first day and the other six days. Virtually everyone agrees that the main mitzva is on the first day only. However, it appears that Rambam is claiming that the status of the mitzva on the other six days in the Beit HaMikdash is tantamount to its status on day one. This would mean that there is a very clear distinction between the Beit HaMikdash and the rest of the country for the final six days, and leave us to ponder if there is any difference between them on the first day.

Perhaps the actual mitzva is to take the lulav in the Beit HaMikdash. If this is the case, then what do we do with the taking of the lulav elsewhere? Is it still a mitzva? Is it a d'oraita (Torah-based) law, or does it perhaps merely have the status of a d'rabbanan (Rabbinic ordinance)? Perhaps it is neither, but is merely a "zecher l'mikdash" a reminder of the actual mitzva of taking the lulav in the Mikdash. If this were to be true, it would dilute the force of the mitzva outside of the Mikdash for the latter days. Perhaps it really is a d'rabbanan law, but instead of trying to re-enact what went on in the Mikdash, we are merely trying to commemorate it. The issue will be whether or not we have a "ma'aseh mitzva," an action of mitzva going on here, or if the taking of the lulav on those days is reduced to something merely symbolic.

The various approaches taken by Rishonim to the mitzva of lulav are also somewhat indicative of how they perceive the nature of this mitzva. In discussing the law that a dried-out lulav may not be used to fulfill the mitzva, there are many reasons offered as to what exactly is wrong, other than the general notion that we want the four species to be beautiful. Ra'avad offers the verse of "When you bring it (a blemished offering) to your governor, will he accept it?" (Malachi 1:8) Ba'al HaMaor says that the issue is one of "The dead cannot praise the Lord" (Tehillim 115:17). By departing from Rashi's view that the problem with a dry lulav is the lack of beauty, these Rishonim choose instead to focus on other themes of the four species.

Ra'avad has chosen a verse that speaks about bringing sacrifices, and by doing so he highlights the centrality of the Mikdash with regard to the lulav. Ba'al HaMaor offers another option the connection between lulav and Hallel. This connection is evident in the Yerushalmi (5:1) as well. In discussing why we say full Hallel for all seven days of Succot, and not for all of Pesach, the Bavli claims that each day of Succot had a different sacrifice, and thus each day requires a new Hallel (unlike by Pesach, where the sacrifice remained the same every day). However, the Yerushalmi argues and claims that Hallel on Succot is not connected to the sacrifices, but rather is a function of the lulav. Since the lulav is taken all seven days in the Mikdash, we say Hallel for all seven days. What is fascinating about this view is not only that it links the lulav to Hallel and to the Mikdash, but that it links the Hallel that is said outside of the Mikdash to the taking of the lulav inside of the Mikdash! Seemingly, the Yerushalmi has both fused and confused the various issues that we have to deal with regarding lulav.

While there is clearly more work to be done on this topic (for instance, or there different standards for the quality of the lulav or for one's relationship to it between the Mikdash and the rest of the country), I would like to end here by offering an insight to the various theme connected to the mitzva of taking the lulav. Halachically, there is no discussion anymore one must take the lulav and make a blessing on it all seven days, and on the first day one must own the lulav that is taken. On a more philosophical level, we have to understand what the lulav represents for us. The holiday of Succot represents the time of the year when all of the farmers gathered in their grain and now had a chance to relax and to rejoice in their successes of the past year. Having spent an entire summer focused on their fields, they now had the peace of mind to look beyond their labor to the larger world around them. Thus, they are commanded to turn their hearts to Hashem and acknowledge His hand in their success and rejoice before Him in Yerushalayim.

However, I believe that there may another aspect to the holiday as well. Unlike the other two times of the year when all of the Jews came up to Yerushalayim, only on Succot was there a sense of completion. On Pesach and Shavuot, the agricultural cycle of the year was just hitting its stride, and while everyone made their way to the Beit HaMikdash, they had to return to their fields the very next day. Succot, however, was a vacation without such strings attached. No one had to run anywhere, a fact stressed by the fact that Shmini Atzeret is appended to Succot. It is only now, when the Jews could afford to spend the extra day, does Hashem implore us to spend one more day with Him. What I suggest may result from this time of leisure is the opportunity not merely for coming together to offer thanks to Hashem, but also for all of the Jewish people to come together as a nation. This may be part of the idea behind the mitzva of Succah as expressed in the gemara (Succah 27b) which says that "all of the Jewish people are fit to sit in one Succah." We remove ourselves from our homes not merely to show our faith in Hashem or to commemorate the booths of the desert, but also to show that we are giving up our private lives, our seclusion from our neighbors, and seeing ourselves as simply another member in the whole of the nation.

And thus we come back to the lulav. On the one hand, it expresses the theme of Hallel. The four species are reminders of the produce of our land during this harvest season, and thus it is through that produce that Hashem has given us that we choose to thank Him and to offer praise. However, there is also the aspect of the lulav that reflects that Beit HaMikdash. More than being the sanctuary of Hashem, the Beit HaMikdash is the national center of the Jews and for the world. As Yeshayahu says (56:7) "For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples." Thus the lulav has strong connection to the Beit HaMikdash as well, as it reflects the unifying aspect of the holiday, the one time during the year when everyone comes to the Mikdash not merely to worship Hashem, but also to strengthen their ties with the rest of the nation. That theme is one that can only be expressed in the Mikdash, and perhaps that may help us understand why outside of the Mikdash a person is only obligated to take the lulav for one day, as he lacks the full force of that element, while in the Mikdash itself the lulav is taken for all seven as a d'oraita law.

(Final thought: perhaps this idea can help to explain why the mitzva of hakheil, when the king reads the Torah to the entire nation, took place specifically on Succot of the Shemitta year, and not on Pesach and Succot. Various authorities have suggested that hakheil is intended to serve as a re-creation of Har Sinai. Rashi by Har Sinai describes the Jewish people as standing at the foot of mountain " as one man with one heart." Only on Succot is there an atmosphere of such unity that is appropriate to attempt such a re-enactment.)


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