This section begins a new mishnah.
The Talmud will explain below how the various rabbis derived their halakhot.
In this baraita the three tannaim from the mishnah expand, a little bit, upon their opinions.
R. Ishmael explains how he derives the idea that one must hold one etrog, one lulav, three hadasim and two aravot. One etrog might come from the singular word “fruit.” One lulav might come from the defective spelling of “branches” which is written כפת and not כפות, the more expansive spelling of the word. Three hadasim probably comes from the three words used to describe this tree. Two aravot comes from the plural form “aravot.” Of course, there is not great consistency in these derashot. This just goes to show that R. Ishmael probably had a tradition as to how many of each species one was to take. He then used the verses to support the traditions that he already knew.
R. Tarfon basically reiterates his opinion from the mishnah, showing that he agrees with R. Ishmael that three are necessary, but holds that all three can have their tips cut off.
R. Akiva’s words are the same as those in the Mishnah.
This is the continuation of the baraita from above. In the first clause R. Eliezer uses the lack of the word “and” between the “fruit of a goodly tree” (etrog) and “branches of palm-trees” (lulav) to derive the halakhah that the etrog need not be bound up with the other three species mentioned after.
The second clause teaches that if one doesn’t have one of the four species, one cannot partially fulfill the mitzvah with the others. When it comes to the lulav, it’s all or nothing.
R. Ishmael said in the mishnah that two of the hadasim can have their tips broken off but one has to be whole. The Talmud believes this to be inconsistent. Either they all have to be whole or none have to be whole. Bira’ah an amora basically agrees with this difficulty and claims that R. Ishmael changed his mind. He actually holds as he does at the end of his statement. Only one hadas is required, but it must be whole.
Today’s section deals with the halakhic ruling stemming from the mishnah concerning how many of each species one must take.
R. Judah rules in the name of Shmuel according to R. Tarfon in the Mishnah, who held that one has to take three hadasim, but that they can all have their tops broken off.
This, the Talmud points out, is consistent with a story in which Shmuel tries to keep the price of hadasim down by threatening to tell the merchants that if they don’t, he will let everyone know that they can use hadasim whose tips have been broken off, which are cheaper.
This story proves that Shmuel really holds like R. Tarfon for if he was just trying to be lenient, he could have ruled like R. Akiva who requires only one.
The Talmud rejects the proof, noting that Shmuel is indeed threatening to rule in the most lenient manner, for it is easier to find three hadasim with broken tips than one complete one.
In any case, this section seems to rule like R. Tarfon. One has to use three hadasim, but their tips can be broken. I should note that many rishonim do not rule according to this sugya, so please do not assume from here that you can use a hadas whose tip has been broken off. You’ve been tipped!
Today’s section is a mishnah which deals with the etrog. There are several reasons why the mishnayot concerning the etrog are much longer and more detailed than those about the other four species. First of all, of the four species, only the etrog is a food and hence only an etrog is subject to the normal agricultural laws—tithes, terumah, and orlah (fruit prohibited in its first 3-4 years). The mishnah therefore focuses on these subjects. Second, the Torah calls the etrog the “fruit of the goodly tree.” Therefore, there are more details about how it looks.
My commentary from below is taken from the Mishnah Yomit archives (Mishnah Sukkah 3:5-7).
Sections one and two: Explained earlier.
Section three: Orlah is fruit grown from a tree less than three years old. It is forbidden to eat such fruit or derive any benefit from it. Hence an etrog that is from an orlah tree cannot be used. Similarly, it is forbidden to eat or derive any benefit from unclean (impure) terumah. Therefore it too cannot be used in the performance of the mitzvah.
Section four: A pure terumah etrog should not be used to perform the mitzvah, although if it is used it is valid. In the Talmud they debate why it should not be used. The core of the reasoning seems to be that by using it he may ruin it from being a food and terumah is supposed to be eaten. Alternatively, by using a terumah etrog with the lulav he may cause the etrog to get wet and thereby susceptible to impurity [produce is susceptible to impurity only after it has been in contact with liquid].
Section five: Demai is doubtfully-tithed produce, produce that was purchased from someone who is suspected of not separating tithes. There is a frequent debate between Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel over the use of demai produce in the performance of a mitzvah. The talmudic explanation is that demai can be eaten by the poor. Since anyone can renounce ownership over all his possessions and thereby become poor, Bet Hillel holds that anyone can use demai to perform a mitzvah. In other words, every person is potentially a poor person. Bet Shammai holds that since it cannot be eaten by anyone but the poor it cannot be used as part of the lulav.
Section six: Second tithe must be brought to Jerusalem and eaten there. Nevertheless, the mishnah says that even in Jerusalem he should not use a second tithe etrog as part of his mitzvah. The reasoning is the same as that in section four concerning pure terumah. However, if he did use it he has performed the mitzvah, again the same rule as with terumah.
Section seven: If there is a rash, which might refer to some discoloration, or things like warts (not just bumps, which are considered desirable in an etrog) on a majority of the etrog, than it is invalid. The pitom is the funny looking mushroom which sticks out of the ends of some etrogim (Google pitom and etrog and you can find some nice pictures). I should note that not all etrogim have a pitom. An etrog without a pitom is valid, indeed in some ways it is preferable because it is less likely to become invalid. The etrog is invalid only if the pitom was there and was then removed. However, if its stem, the part of it which attached it to the tree is removed, it is still valid. The stem is basically not part of the etrog.
Section eight: Likewise it is invalid if it is peeled, split or any part of it is missing.
Section nine: A black etrog is invalid.
Section ten: There is a debate over the green etrog, Rabbi Meir declaring it valid and Rabbi Judah invalidating it. In Israel one sees many green etrogim, which never fails to surprise my family (as does the pitom-less etrog).
Section eleven: Rabbi Meir sets the minimum size of an etrog at that of a nut, assumedly something about the size of a walnut. I have never seen an actual etrog this size, but I suppose that if they are picked early from the tree one can find them this size. Rabbi Judah sets the minimum size at that of an egg.
Section twelve: In this section they argue about the maximum size of the etrog. According to Rabbi Judah (who is the stricter sage in both parts of the mishnah), it must be small enough so that one could hold two with one hand. The reason is that sometimes a person might need to hold the lulav and the etrog in one hand. If the etrog is too big he might drop the etrog which might ruin it by disfiguration. Rabbi Yose disagrees and says that the etrog can be so big that one needs both hands to hold it. In the Talmud, Rabbi Yose tells a story of Rabbi Akiva who came to the synagogue with an etrog so large that he had to carry it on his shoulder! In Israel, I have seen very large etrogim, ones that look like they would be difficult to carry with one hand.