Now Rava uses Mishnah Parah 6:1 to prove that “taking” by means of something else still counts as taking. According to Numbers 19:17 one is to “take” of the ashes and put them in the water. But Rava deduces from the Mishnah that if he casts them into the water directly from the tube in which they were previously put, the “taking” is still valid.
This successfully proves Rava’s point. “Taking” by means of holding the object with something else, still counts as “taking.”
According to Rabbah when putting his lulav into the bound hoshanna, with the hadas and aravah, one should be careful not to cause leaves to fall off, because they will interpose between his hands and the lulav.
Surprise—Rava disagrees. Since the leaves are of the same species as that being held, they categorically cannot interpose.
This is basically the same dispute as above, just a slightly different situation.
Today’s section opens with another statement by the amora, Rabbah, concerning various laws governing the four species. The specific topic today is smelling the hadas or etrog, the two species that have a fragrant smell.
Rabbah prohibits smelling a hadas because the main purpose of a hadas during the year is for fragrance. Indeed, I’m not sure there is any other use for the hadas. So when one designates it for use during Sukkot to fulfill his mitzvah, he cannot use it during this same period for its regular use. However, one can smell an etrog because the main use of an etrog is for food, like a lemon. Since its main purpose is food and not fragrance, he can smell it during Sukkot.
Rabbah seems to enjoy the paradox that the laws are reversed when the etrog and hadas are still attached to the ground. In such a case, one can smell the hadas. There would be no need to detach it in order to smell it. On the other hand, if he smells the etrog he might be tempted to cut it down and eat it. This will not be helfpul if we want to use it for a mitzvah. Therefore, it is prohibited to cut it down.
Today’s section focuses on another statement by Rabbah, this time concerning the manner in which one is to hold the four species.
One should hold the lulav bundle in his right hand because it has three mitzvot in it—lulav, hadas and aravah. Since the right hand is usually the stronger one, that’s where you put the greater number of mitzvot (sorry lefties). The etrog goes in the weaker left hand.
This section is related to the previous one, for both talk about why the lulav is more prominent than the others. Here, R. Zerika explains that the blessing is “to take the lulav (על נטילת לולב) and not “to take the etrog” because the lulav is taller than the others. This is true both in the way that we hold the lulav but also in the way that they naturally grow. Palm trees are higher than the trees on which the other species grow.
Today’s section starts with a new mishnah, concerning what one actually does with the lulav.
The mitzvah of taking the lulav involves waving it in six directions—to the directions of the four winds and up and down. The custom was and still is to waive the lulav the first time one takes it up, and then to waive it again in the synagogue at various points during the recitation of Hallel at the morning service. This is the background to our mishnah. Here we see that there is a debate about one of these wavings. According to all of the sages, one waves at the beginning of Psalm 118 and at the end, a Psalm that begins and ends with “Give thanks to the Lord.” Everyone agrees that there is also a waving in the middle of this Psalm, but they disagree as to the extent of the waving. Bet Hillel says that one waves during the first half of verse 25, “O Lord, deliver us”, but not during the second half, “O Lord, let us prosper.” Bet Shammai says that one also waves during the second half of the verse. Rabbi Akiva, who lived long after Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai were no longer really in existence, testifies that he saw all of the people waving at “O Lord, let us prosper” as Bet Shammai stated, while Rabban Gamaliel and Rabbi Joshua, two of Rabbi Akiva’s elders, waived only at “O Lord, deliver us,” as Bet Hillel posited. The halakhah is according to Bet Hillel. As an aside, while it is typical for the rabbis to follow Bet Hillel, it is interesting to note that in this case most of the people acted like Bet Shammai.
The Gemara is puzzled by the Mishnah seeming to discuss how one waves the lulav without first stating that one does wave the lulav. Our mishnah, in other words, seems to come out of nowhere.
Today’s section deals with a different mishnah that discusses other rituals that involve waving.
This section quotes from Mishnah Menahot 5:6, which discusses the two loaves of bread and the two lambs used on Shavuot (see Leviticus 23:20) which must be waved in the Temple. In describing how an offering is waved, the Torah states that it was “waved and lifted up” which seems to be repetitive. The rabbis interpret “waving” as moving it forward and backward and “lifting up” to mean moving it upward and downward.
There will now be various symbolic meanings attributed to the waving back and forth of the lambs and the loaves. By extension, since the same motions are used for the lulav, this is also symbolically what we’re doing when we wave the lulav (this is made explicit below).
R. Yohanan explains that we wave these items in all directions to acknowledge that God owns everything.
In Eretz Yisrael they have a different understanding of the symbolic waving of the ritual items—this waving stops bad winds and dews. It is a preventative (apotropaic) ritual. It’s interesting to note the small debate that seems to be occurring here. The first tradition understands this ritual as a type of prayer, acknowledging God’s power. The second tradition understands it in a manner akin to magic. It has the power to prevent bad things from happening.
R. Yose b. Abin adds that this text proves that even the ancillary parts of commandments, such as waving, protect people from harm. Obviously, the mitzvot themselves also have this capacity.