Since the above baraita must refer to the Egyptian hadas, Abaye deduces that this type of hadas is valid for use in the “hoshanna,” an Aramaic word for the hadas, usually in reference to the hadas used on Sukkot. But this seems obvious—on what grounds would we have disqualified this hadas? The answer is that under certain circumstances if something has an accompanying name, it doesn’t count as part of the category (see for instance Mishnah Parah 11:7). But in this case, since the Torah doesn’t specifically use the word hadas, rather calling it the “thick tree”—any “thick tree” will do.
If most of the leaves have withered but only three bunches of green leaves remained, the hadas is still valid, as long as they are at the top of each twig, according to R. Hisda.
Today’s sugya deals with a concept calls “something set aside” in connection with commandments. What this means is that if something has become unfit for ritual use at the time it is meant to be used, it cannot subsequently be remedied for use. This is an abstract halakhic concept that appears several times in the Talmud, but this is one of the main passages in which it appears. Here the topic at hand is a hadas that had its top removed, rendering it unfit, but subsequently had a berry replace the top, rendering it fit again.
If the top of the hadas breaks off it is invalid. However, if a berry grows in its place the hadas is valid again because it no longer has a broken top.
The hadas was invalid when Sukkot began. Then it became valid again on the festival because a berry grew on its top. The question is whether once it was “set aside” from being valid at the beginning of the Festival it can again be valid on the festival.
The sugya that is brought to our discussion here is about covering the blood of a slaughtered bird or wild animal after the animal was slaughtered, as is mandated in Leviticus 17:13. If one fulfilled this mitzvah and then wind uncovered the blood, one need not cover the blood again. But if the wind covered it, he still need to cover it. This is the teaching found in Mishnah Hullin 6:4. The idea seems to be that it is a mitzvah to cover the blood, not to have the blood covered. Thus the slaughterer must cover the blood and not the wind. But if the blood is covered he need not make sure it remains covered.
Rabbah b. Bar Hana, an amora, changes this slightly, seeming to say that as long as the blood is covered, he need not cover it again. Thus if the wind covered the blood and it remained covered, he need not cover it again.
The Talmud asks—if the mitzvah was fulfilled by the wind covering it, why would he ever need to cover it again? Once the mitzvah has been fulfilled, it should be permanently fulfilled.
R. Papa answer that this is not so. The law of “set aside” doesn’t apply to mitzvoth. There are cases where a mitzvah might be fulfilled and then become “unfulfilled.”
Returning to our sugya, the Talmud asks why R. Yirmiyah had to ask a question when R. Papa already answered it. R. Papa said that the law of “set aside” doesn’t apply to mitzvoth, so the answer should be that just because the hadas is not fit for use at the beginning of the festival does not mean that it can’t become fit for use on the festival.
We should note that this is anachronistic question—R. Yirmiyah lived before R. Papa.
The idea that “the laws of ‘set aside’ does not apply to commandments was applied by R. Papa to the case of covering the blood in order to create a stringency—although the wind already covered the blood he must cover it again should it become uncovered. R. Yirmiyah knew that R. Papa had stated this rule in such a situation—but that was in order to be stringent (he must cover the blood again). But R. Yirmiyah wasn’t sure whether the rule could also lead to a leniency—if the berry grew on the top of the hadas on Yom Tov (the festival) it would be restored to validity. That is why he asked the question.
Sorry to say, but the Talmud doesn’t resolve the question. Nevertheless, tomorrow’s section continues to deal with the concept of “set aside.”
This section continues discussing the concept of “set aside” with regard to the commandment of the lulav. As a reminder, this concept means that once a certain mitzvah has either been fulfilled or something has been rendered invalid, it can no longer become unfulfilled or valid.
The passage opens with a dispute about the validity of a hadas on which where there are berries on the hadas at the outset of the festival but one removes them on the festival. The Talmud will now to try to analyze the dispute over whether such a hadas is valid. We should note that in these style of sugyot, there are often multiple possibilities as to how to frame the dispute. But the preference is to isolate each factor. You’ll see what I mean as we go through this sugya.
The discussion begins by alluding to two other possibilities as to how to understand the dispute; these will become clearer later in the sugya. The first has to do with whether one must bind the three species, lulav, hadas and aravah, together. The second has to do with whether one must “make” the lulav, just as one has to “make” the sukkah. We shall clarify how these two issues relate to the hadas with berries below.
For now, we should note that this is a hadas that begins Yom Tov invalid due to the berries. It is now considered “set aside”—invalid for the performance of the mitzvah. According to R. Elazar b. Zadok, since it is invalid when Sukkot begins, it remains “set aside” and cannot be remedied. Thus he is the one who holds that the concept of “set aside” does apply to the commandments. The sages, who validate this hadas, would hold that the concept does not apply to mitzvoth. Just because something is “set aside” does not mean that it can’t again become valid.
The Talmud now tries to find other ways to interpret the dispute between R. Elazar b. Zadok and the sages. The first possibility is that all tannaim hold that there is no concept of “set aside” with regard to mitzvoth. Furthermore, all tannaim hold that the lulav must be bound, which is considered to be an act of “making a lulav.”
The only dispute left is whether one has to actively make a lulav, or is a lulav “made on its own” valid. When it came to the Sukkah, all tannaim agreed that one must “make the sukkah” and that one that is “made on its own” is not valid. R. Elazar b. Zadok extends this to the lulav as well—if he removes the berries from a lulav that was bound before Yom Tov then he hasn’t made a lulav, rather it was “made on its own” (when he bound it it wasn’t valid, so he never made the lulav by binding three valid species together). The sages do not compare the lulav with the sukkah, and thus although he “made it on its own” it is still valid.
[I know, this is complicated.].
Finally, the Talmud suggests that the dispute concerning the berries may be tied to the dispute concerning binding. If you hold that the three species do not need to be bound, then there is no problem of picking the berries on Yom Tov. Even if you hold that the sukkah cannot be “made on its own” and you would compare the lulav with the sukkah, if the lulav need not be bound then there is no “making” of the lulav. So he can remove the berries on Yom Tov and the hadas will be valid.
The one who holds that lulav requires binding would hold that this would count as a lulav “made on its own” because it was made (bound) while invalid. So removing the berries on Yom Tov would not validate the hadas.
[Again, I realize that this is complicated].
Rabbi Judah derives that the lulav must be bundled from the fact that the word “take” is used in the context of the lulav and in the context of the bundle of hyssop used to apply the blood to the doorposts in Exodus 12. Just as the hyssop must be bound into a bundle so too must the lulav. The other rabbis do not deduce the laws of the lulav from the similarity in words.
The sugya concludes with a baraita which is a bit confusing. On the one hand the baraita says that it is a “mitzvah” to bind the lulav together. This seems to be R. Judah’s opinion. On the other hand it also says that if he doesn’t bind it together it is still valid. This seems to be the other rabbis’ opinion. So which is it?
The answer is that the mitzvah he fulfills here is the general mitzvah of glorifying God by “beautifying the commandments.” The lulav looks better when the lulav, hadas and aravah are neatly bound together. However, as far as the actual mitzvah of lulav goes, one need not bind it together in order for it to be valid. This is generally true of the concept called “hiddur mitzvah”—the beautification of a mitzvah. One should try to make the lulav, the etrog and other such physical mitzvoth look beautiful, but their validity is not dependent on this.
The mishnah rules that if the berries on the hadas were more numerous than the leaves, it is invalid. This is the topic of today’s sugya.
R. Hisda transmits a statement by his rabbi (identified by Rashi as Rav) limiting the mishnah’s ruling to a case where the berries were all in one place and there were more in that one place than on the entire hadas branch. But if the berries were spread out in several places the hadas is valid even if there were more berries than leaves.