R. Nahman b. Yitzchak says that according to R. Yohanan b. Zakai, when the Temple is not standing and the omer sacrifice cannot be offered, it is prohibited to eat the new grain on the whole day of the sixteenth, for the Torah says “until this very day.” R. Yohanan b. Zakkai reads this as including the entire day. Therefore, in the absence of the Temple it is prohibited from the Torah to eat on the entire sixteenth of Nisan.
The problem with the above explanation is that R. Yohanan b. Zakai and R. Judah explicitly disagree in a baraita. R. Judah responds to R. Yohanan b. Zakkai’s takkanah (that found in the mishnah) by saying that such an enactment wasn’t even necessary—the Torah itself prohibits eating new grain until the sixteenth of Nisan is over. So how could R. Nahman say that they agree?
The difficulty is resolved by claiming that R. Judah didn’t understand R. Yohanan b. Zakkai’s intent. Rabbi Judah thought he meant that the prohibition of eating grain for the whole day was a rabbinic decree lest the Temple be rebuilt. But in reality R. Yohanan meant that it was prohibited from the Torah to eat for the entire day when the Temple no longer stood. Although the baraita says “he instituted” it really means that he first expounded (darash) the Torah where he found a verse that he read as saying said that it was forbidden to eat new grain for the whole day. Then he instituted the law based on this interpretation of the verse.
We should note that this is not the simple meaning of the tannaitic sources—the mishnah and the baraita. In both sources R. Yohanan b. Zakai legislates a rabbinic law, not one from the Torah.
Today’s section is from the Mishnah.
Today we don’t take the lulav on Shabbat. However, in the time of the Mishnah if the first day of the festival fell on Shabbat, they would take the lulav, because as we learned in mishnah twelve, the taking of the lulav on the first day of Sukkot is mandatory even outside of the Temple. The mishnah teaches how they avoided the problem of carrying the lulav to the synagogue on Shabbat, which is clearly a transgression.
Section one: In order to avoid the problem of carrying on Shabbat, the people would bring their lulavim to the synagogue on Friday and leave them there for the next day.
Section two: The only problem with this is that a person needs to use his own lulav on the first day of the festival, because the Torah says “and you shall take for yourselves on the first day”—understood to mean that the lulav must belong to the person taking it. If all of the lulavim were heaped together in the synagogue a person might not know which lulav is his own. Therefore the mishnah says that everyone must be able to recognize his own lulav.
Section three: The verse which implies that the lulav must belong to the person taking it refers only to the first day of the festival. After this day a person may fulfill his obligation with someone else’s lulav. The result is that if Shabbat falls on another day of the festival, not on the first day, they need not recognize which lulav belongs to them. They therefore would bring their lulav to the synagogue on Friday but they wouldn’t have to worry about recognizing their own lulav.
Section four: According to Rabbi Yose, since a person is supposed to take the lulav on Shabbat if it is also the first day of the festival, he is not obligated if he mistakenly carries it out into the public domain. In other words, since he was allowed to take it in the first place, he is excused for making the mistake of carrying it outside. However, if he did this on another day of the festival, meaning if another day of the festival fell on Shabbat, he would be liable since he should not have taken it at all.
Finally, we should note that if he carries it outside into the public domain on Shabbat intentionally he is always liable, whether on the first day or on any other day.
Today’s section provides scriptural support for the halakhah mandating that one must own one’s lulav.
The words, “And you shall take for yourselves” from Leviticus 23:40 are interpreted by the rabbis to mean that every Jew must take the lulav in his hand and that each must own his own lulav. The lulav cannot be borrowed or stolen, as we learned in the beginning of this chapter. However, one can give the lulav to his friend as a gift. This will be illustrated in the following story.
Here we can see that R. Gamaliel’s very expensive lulav was passed from one sage to the other as a gift so that each could use it to fulfill his obligation.
At the end of the story of the sages, R. Akiva returns the lulav to Rabban Gamaliel. But why does the baraita even need to mention this? What additional halakhic information do we learn from this line? After all, Rabban Gamaliel already fulfilled his duty to take the lulav.
The answer is that this line hints at an important principle. If someone gives a present to someone on condition that it be returned, while the receiver holds the gift it is legally his. This means that I can give my friend an etrog (or any other part of the lulav) and specifically state that it is his on condition that he returns it. If he doesn’t return it, he has broken the condition and he has not fulfilled his obligation because retroactively it was never his.
There is one more extraneous detail to the baraita—that R. Gamaliel spent 1000 zuz to buy his lulav. This just teaches us how precious the commandments were to them.
As an aside, the notion of a one thousand zuz lulav is clearly exaggerated. But if you want to see a great movie that picks up on this piece of folklore, watch Ushpizin.
Today’s section discusses the practice of holding the lulav in one’s hands all day long. It seems that these people read the verse “And you shall take for yourselves on the first day” as if it meant that one should just hold the lulav all day long! Today the practice is generally to take the lulav once during the day at synagogue, to hold it during parts of the service, but then to put it aside for the rest of the day.
Mar bar Amemar, a late Babylonian amora, says his father used to pray while holding his lulav. The Talmud objects by citing a baraita that states that one shouldn’t hold objects in one’s hand while praying, even a pair of tefillin or a Torah scroll. Shmuel adds that the same is true for more mundane items. Basically, holding an item is considered distracting and therefore one should not do so while praying.
The answer is that there is a difference between holding something used to fulfill a mitzvah and something that is not a mitzvah. When holding an object that he need not be holding he is worried over it falling and he won’t concentrate on his prayers. But when he is holding his lulav, he will be so happy to be performing a mitzvah that he won’t feel as if he is worried and he will be able to concentrate on his prayers.
As an aside, this line contains the interesting and in my opinion true notion that when we are excited about something, it is less difficult to perform a task.
In this baraita we learn that the people of Jerusalem basically carried their lulavim with them everywhere they went during Sukkot. There were only a few occasions when a person would put it down. When reading Torah or reciting the priestly benediction a person would need both hands, so he would have to put it down on the ground (I’m assuming they just didn’t have anywhere else to put it). And when studying in the Bet Midrash, the person would be so intensely occupied with his learning that he would forget he had a lulav in his hand. To avoid the problems that this could cause, he would send his lulav away with someone else who wasn’t going to be studying in the Bet Midrash.