Rava says that the same motions used to waive the lambs and the loaves are used on Shavuot to are also used with the lulav.
R. Aha b. Yaakov seems understand the lulav as a weapon against Satan, as if by waving the lulav, one is putting it into Satan’s eyes.
But the Talmud isn’t so comfortable with such a blatant provocation of Satan. Provoking Satan might lead Satan to tempt the person in a way that the person would not be able to resist. This is a complex topic, but it seems that the rabbis preferred one to just try to avoid Satan somewhat surreptitiously. Outward hostility towards this tempting force was risky
It is preferable to take up the lulav first thing in the morning before one eats. This is usually done today during the morning prayer service, right before Hallel. However, one can fulfill the mitzvah any time during the day. If one is returning from a trip and he didn’t have a lulav with him, he should take one as soon as he gets into his house. Even if he is in the middle of a meal and then remembers that he hasn’t performed the mitzvah of taking the lulav, he should put aside his meal and take the lulav. One can perform the mitzvah all the way through dusk.
The mishnah says that when he comes home from his trip he should immediately take up his lulav, even if this means interrupting a meal. However, this contradicts a different baraita which states that if one starts a meal before he has prayed the minhah prayer, he need not interrupt his meal. He can finish eating and then complete minhah. The difficulty is that one source says that if one is in the middle of the meal and realizes he has not yet performed a mitzvah, he must stop and perform the mitzvah, whereas the other source says that one need not stop. He can perform the mitzvah after.
R. Safra offers the first resolution to the contradiction. If there will be time during the day to take up his lulav or say minhah after he is done his meal, then he need not interrupt his meal. But if the day will be done before he finishes his meal, he better take up his lulav or say minhah before the day is over, otherwise he will have missed the opportunity to perform a mitzvah.
Rava rejects this, saying it’s really not a difficulty at all. The obligation to take the lulav is from the Torah, deorayta. Therefore, one would have to interrupt his meal to take up the lulav. But the obligation to recite minhah is considered derabanan, from the rabbis. Therefore, if one begins his meal before reciting minhah, he need not interrupt in order to recite it.
Rava maintains R. Safra’s resolution but says that it was stated over an internal contradiction in the mishnah. The first clause states that he should interrupt his meal to take his lulav, whereas the second is read by Rava as implying that he need not interrupt his meal. Since these are both the same mitzvah, taking the lulav, we cannot resolve the difficulty the way we did above. Therefore R. Safra answers that it depends on whether he will have time after his meal to take up the lulav.
R. Zera says that the mishnah also does not contradict itself. The first clause of the mishnah states that it is preferable to take the lulav before one starts his meal. The second clause says that if one does not, he has not missed the opportunity to take the lulav, because the whole day is kosher for taking the lulav.
R. Zera restores the original difficulty between the mishnah about the lulav and the source concerning minhah. Rava had said this was not a good difficulty because lulav is from the Torah and reciting the minhah prayer is only from the rabbis. To this R. Zera responds that the mishnah refers to the subsequent days of Sukkot, not the first day, when taking the lulav is only derabanan.
He also proves that the mishnah refers to the subsequent days by noting that it refers to a person who comes back from a trip. Since one would not be allowed to travel on Yom Tov, the first day of Sukkot, this mishnah cannot refer to the first day of Sukkot.
In the time of the Mishnah not every person in the synagogue would recite the Hallel on his own, as we normally do today. Rather, the leader would recite part, or perhaps most of the verse and the rest of the congregation would respond with the second half of the verse, or with “Halleluyah.” In this way, the leader would aid the congregation in fulfilling their obligation to recite Hallel.
In this mishnah we learn that slaves, women and minors cannot aid a free adult male in his recitation of the Hallel because they themselves are not obligated to recite Hallel. This fits in with two general rules: 1) women and slaves are exempt from positive time-bound commandments; 2) a person who is not obligated for something cannot fulfill that obligation on behalf of someone who is.
The second part of the mishnah is concerned with the repetition of verses during Hallel. This mishnah will be explained later in the Talmud.
The mishnah describes an adult man who doesn’t know how to recite Hallel and therefore needs someone else to recite it for him. Usually, this would be done by another free adult male, but for some reason, this person cannot find another free adult male who knows how to recite the Hallel. He therefore turns to a slave, a woman or a minor who does know how to recite Hallel. This is allowed, except unlike a normal case where the person would only answer “Halleluyah” (as is the case in section two), in this case he must repeat the entire verse after the slave, woman or minor. In this way, he fulfills the obligation himself and they do not fulfill it on his behalf.
It is interesting to note that it sounds like the rabbis had to confront the possibility that a slave, woman or minor would be more educated, at least religiously, than a free man. It is hard to know how realistic this situation was or how often it might arise. Nevertheless, it is at least a theoretical possibility. The mishnah is clearly disturbed by the man’s lack of knowledge and hence it says that a man who allows this situation to happen should be cursed.
This is the normal way in which Hallel was recited during the time of the Mishnah and Talmud.
This is a related baraita that basically teaches the same thing that was taught in the mishnah about the Hallel and relates it to Birkat Hamazon. Women, slaves and minors can recite birkat hamazon for the “man of the house” but it is considered disgraceful for a man to have a woman, slave or child recite birkat hamazon on his behalf.