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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays Arba'at Haminim

How to choose a Lulav

Laws of the Lulav

Rabbi Ido YaakoviTishrei 5776
1782
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"And ye shall take you on the first day... branches of date palm trees…" (Vayikra 23, 40)

Structure - The Lulav is a young palm branch, whose leaves are still stuck to the center. The Lulav has a spine - the branch from where the leaves go out. Each leaf consists of two leaves attached at their back. The leaf from the end of the spine is called "Tiyomet".

Type - There are more than seventy varieties of palms, it would seem that Lulavim from all palm trees are Kosher since they are branches of palm trees. A Lulav from 'Washingtonian' palm isn’t Kosher since it has no spine - the branch has a round shape. Canary Lulav - the problem with it is that its fruits are not edible and the Torah said "date palm branches". Some say that after all, it has fruit so it’s a kind of date and therefore is kosher, but some say to use a normal date Lulav and that's what we should do. The Canary signs are: - it’s much more flexible and soft and therefore the leaves go down (compared to a normal Lulav were the leaves point upwards), the leaves are closer together (the leavers are every half a cm while in a normal Lulav - every cm), its color is closer to pale yellow while the normal Lulav is grayish - green.

Straightness - If a lulav curves sideways or forward (opposite the spine) it’s Pasul but only if the curve is big. If the spine is curved backward it’s Kosher because that's the normal way of its growth. But it is more Mehudar if there are no curves at all and the Lulav is perfectly straight. The way to check it is by holding the Lulav upright in front and see if it curves.

Length - The spine, from the first leaf up to the beginning of the middle leaf (Tiyomet), should be four Tefachim. According to the Grach Na’eh, this is 32 cm, and to the Chazon Ish39 cm.

The Tiyomet - The Rishonim, followed by the Shulchan Aruch and Rema argued about how many leaves can separate and the Lulav will still be Kosher. The Shulchan Aruch rules that it’s Pasul only if the majority of the leaves, and most of the leaf itself, are separate. The Rema rules that as soon as all of the middle leaf separates, it’s Pasul. The source of the Rema is from the Ran who writes that the top of the Lulav has the same Halacha as the top of the Etrog. We hold like the Ran, as detailed:
If the Tiyomet splits the Lulav isn’t Kosher for the first day. According to the Rema, it’s Pasul if all of the leaf split until the spine. According to the Grah if most of the leaf split and according to the Taz - a Tefach (about 8 cm). Depending on how long the leaves are, sometimes the Gra is more stringent and sometimes the Taz.
The Mishna Berura writes that there is no problem if most of the Tiyomet is closed. However, the Rama writes that it's better to take a Lulav with a completely closed Teyomet. We should be careful the Tiyomet doesn’t open while shaking the Lulav (some glue the top to prevent this).
The Rosh wrote that a Tiyomet which folds inwards (like the letter ‘e’) is good because it ensures the Teyomet will not open. On the other hand, the Ran holds it’s Pasul. The Poskim wrote that if only the Teyomet is bent, it’s Kosher but if most of the leaves are bent, not to use that Lulav. If the middle leaf is bent a lot and it looks like two leaves, it’s Pasul.
If both parts of the leaf aren't completely overlapping, if one part covers most of the other part it is Kosher but not Mehudar.
Since the leaves should be parallel on both sides of the Lulav, if someone takes off leaves on one side, he should do so on the other side too.

"Kora" - A reddish-brown bark that surrounds the Lulav when it grows and sometimes wraps the Tiyomet. It has an advantage that it maintains the tip to be closed, but on the other hand, maybe there is a problem underneath that can’t be seen.
Some look for a Lulav with a Kora, but since it doesn’t shake as well, one should open a bit the leaves on the bottom. Ashkenazim usually look for open Lulavim to make sure they aren’t Pasul. Everyone goes according to his custom.

Dry - If the leaves are so dry they are almost white, the Lulav is Pasul. If it’s dry and the leaves can be chipped with a fingernail (but they still aren’t white) - the Rema permits using them if there are no other Lulavim (not relevant in our markets). We should attempt to have a Lulav that its head isn’t dry (this problem is common).

If the lulav is rotten it’s Pasul. If there is only some mold it’s Kosher but not Mehudar.

Pasul because shrinking relates only to the stem (spine) but it is better not to take a Lulav with a shrunken Teyomet (if it’s in a zigzag).



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