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The Importance of Shaking the Lulav During Hallel

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This shiur is dedicated in memory of our grandmother, Baila bas Yosef,
who was niftara a year ago on Shabbat Chol Hamoed Sukkot, 17 Tishrei. - David and Aviva Friedlander, Teaneck, NJ


Based on a shiur by Harav Aharon Lichtenstein 

Summarized by Mordechai Safrai
Translated and Adapted by Rav Eliezer Kwass


          The standard procedure on Sukkot is to recite the blessing over the lulav and etrog, shake it ("na'anuim"), and then say Hallel with a minyan, shaking the lulav while saying, "Hodu LaShem ki tov" and "Ana HaShem hoshia na."  In a situation where not everyone has a lulav and etrog, it is not always possible to both say Hallel with a minyan and shake the lulav during Hallel at the appropriate points.  What does one do in such a situation?  In other words, what is to be preferred if one is confronted by two options:

1. saying Hallel with a minyan but without the four species in hand;

2. or saying Hallel privately with the four species?


          The answer demands dealing with three central questions:

A.  What is the status of shaking the lulav in general, and specifically during Hallel?

B.  What is the halakhic advantage of saying Hallel with a minyan?

C.  When there is a conflict between these two halakhot, shaking the lulav and saying Hallel with a minyan, which of them is preferable?


          Two general approaches to shaking the lulav present themselves:

1.  Shaking the lulav is a custom instituted by the Sages, not an essential part of the mitzva of lulav.  The Ba'al Ha-ittur compares shaking the lulav to searching for chametz, which is not an essential part of the mitzva - the mitzva is DESTROYING the chametz.

2.  Shaking the lulav is part of the mitzva of taking the lulav.  Whether it is an additional level of the mitzva or an essential element of the definition of the mitzva, a complete "netilat lulav" (taking the lulav) can only be achieved through both taking and shaking.

          The mishna in Sukka (42a) says that a child who knows how to shake the lulav is obligated in the mitzva.  In that context, the gemara (ibid.) compares the age when children begin shaking the lulav with the age when they begin wearing tzitzit.  The age given for wearing tzitzit seems to be when the child is capable of performing the the act of the mitzva, i.e. wearing the tzitzit.  We can therefore infer from the mishna's formulation ("a child who knows how to shake the lulav is obligated in lulav") that shaking the lulav is of the essence of the mitzva. 

          Is this true on a biblical level, or is this the rabbinic definition of the mitzva?

          The mishna (Sukka 29b) says that only a lulav that has three handbreadths (tefachim) to shake is kosher.  The gemara explains that the mishna means that besides three handbreadths, a kosher lulav must include an extra tefach for shaking.  This clearly implies that shaking the lulav is an essential aspect of the mitzva; the dimensions for fulfilling the mitzva of lulav are determined based on the ability to shake it properly.  This would seem to imply that shaking the lulav is part of the biblical definition of the mitzva, for all dimensions of mitzvot (shiurim) are of biblical status.

          On the other hand, it is possible that the mitzva of ACTUALLY shaking the lulav is itself rabbinic, and on a biblical level all that is required is the lulav be long enough to shake.  The dimensions of the lulav, though biblical, only demand the ABILITY to shake.  This is the Ba'al Ha-ittur's approach; and we do not find any rishon who disputes it. 

          The gemara (Pesachim 7b) says that a person fulfills the mitzva of the four species merely through lifting them.  A number of Rishonim ask: how we are able to make the blessing over the lulav after lifting it; are we not supposed to perform mitzvot only AFTER saying the blessing? 

          Tosafot answer that since after the blessing we are still INVOLVED in the mitzva through shaking the lulav during Hallel, our blessing is considered to be "before the performance of the mitzva."  It is not clear what Tosafot believe: Do they see the shaking of the lulav as an essential part of the mitzva - and therefore we consider the blessing as having preceded the mitzva?  Or do they understand the rule requiring blessings to precede mitzvot very loosely - even though the mitzva itself has already been fulfilled through lifting, the blessing is considered properly done as long as something related to the mitzva is still to come?

          Tosafot in Sukka (39a) reject this answer because, according to them, shaking the lulav is only "makhshirei mitzva" (usually translated as preparations for the mitzva; here, probably non-essential elements of the mitzva).  It is unclear from their statement whether they see shaking the lulav as merely a non-essential part of the mitzva or as a totally independent custom that therefore does not affect fulfillment of the mitzva of lulav itself.  The expression "makhshirei mitzva" implies that shaking is an ancillary element.  The gemara uses a similar expression with regards to pulling the lulav off the tree - unquestionably an ancillary element of the mitzva.  [It is possible that the text of the Tosafot should read "mi-shiarei ha-mitzva," of the remnants of the mitzva - an expression that appears in other Rishonim - and not "makhshirei ha-mitzva."]

          The Ba'al Ha-Maor refers to shaking the lulav as "shiarei mitzva."  The gemara (Menachot 93b) implies that "shiarei mitzva" is still considered part of the mitzva.  For example, "semikha" (laying on of hands) on a sacrifice is "shiarei mitzva."  A sacrifice offered without performing "semikha" atones, but not ideally (the gemara's expression is "kipeir ve-lo kipeir", it atones and does not atone).  Rabbeinu Tam (Sefer Ha-yashar, #406) also calls shaking the lulav "shiarei mitzva" and quotes an opinion that one does not fulfill the mitzva without shaking.  According to Rabbeinu Tam, though, "shiarei mitzva" here is identical to that referred to in Zevachim 52a - remnants of a sacrifice's blood; the dispute about whether they are essential to the sacrifice or not also applies to lulav.  In any case, whether or not shaking is ESSENTIAL, Rabbeinu Tam considers it part of the mitzva, and therefore prefers solving the problem (like we do today) by holding the etrog upside down until saying the blessing. 


          Even if we assume, as emerges from most of the sources, that shaking the lulav is essential to the mitzva, it does not necessarily follow that shaking the lulav during Hallel is essential to the mitzva. 

          The gemara in Berakhot (30a) indicates that shaking the lulav during Hallel is not essential.  It says that if one rises early for a journey, "they should give him a lulav and he should shake it."  In context, it is pretty clear that he does not say Hallel.  The Meiri in Sukka indeed sees the shaking at the time of the blessing as the essential one, and shaking during Hallel as only an addition which enriches the joy of Sukkot.

          The Ba'al Ha-Ittur, on the other hand, understands that the basic rule of shaking the lulav entails shaking during Hallel.  It is only in extreme situations, like the gemara's case of one who must rise early to travel, that one can fulfill the mitzva by shaking independently of Hallel. 

          This raises a crucial theoretical question - is shaking the lulav during Hallel one of the requirements of HALLEL or part of the mitzva of taking the LULAV?

          The same question arises in conjunction with Tosafot's explanation of why the lulav is shaken during Hallel - based on the verse, "Then all of the trees of the forest will sing out."  Does the mitzva of lulav - "the trees of the forest" - require that they sing out; or when we sing out during Hallel, must we also involve the trees of the forest? 

          The Meiri is a bit clearer but still leaves room for doubt.  He says that shaking the lulav is meant to arouse joy. He seems to mean the joy of Hallel, but it is possible that the mitzva of lulav, about which the Torah says, "You should rejoice before God," requires joy.

          The Rambam sees shaking as part of the mitzva of taking the lulav.  In his presentation of the mitzva of lulav, he writes how and where to shake it. 


          The second aspect of our question involves determining the status of saying Hallel with a minyan.  There are two possible understandings of how Hallel is enhanced when said with a minyan:

1.  Even though the mitzva of Hallel is identical whether fulfilled in private or with a minyan, there is always more "kevod Shamayim," honor of God, when mitzvot are done with a larger group.  This is based on the verse, "In a multitude of people, the king is honored."  This applies to all mitzvot, not just Hallel.  By reciting Hallel with a minyan we accomplish an extra, independent halakhic and religious goal.

2.  The mitzva of Hallel is essentially different when it is performed with a minyan. 

          The mishna in Erkhin mentions a list of days when "the individual finishes (i.e. recites a complete) Hallel."  This seems to leave room for reciting Hallel privately.  However, the Sefer Ha-manhig quotes the Behag as saying that the meaning of "individual" here is not a private individual, but rather a minority of the Jewish people, in contrast to "rabbim," the majority of the Jewish people.  According to the Behag's opinion, an individual cannot say Hallel alone. 

          Even though the Behag's opinion is a lone voice and not accepted as authoritative halakha, there is still evidence that Hallel said in public is essentially different than in private.  From a number of talmudic passages, and from the Rambam's Mishneh Torah (Hilkhot Chanuka 3:12-13), it seems that the proper way to say Hallel is the way it was done during the Exodus from Egypt - one person leads and the rest of the group answers after him.  This is only possible with a group.  These sources imply that without this, Hallel is somehow deficient.


          We now have the resources to deal with our original question, whether it is preferable to say Hallel with a minyan or to say Hallel with a lulav, when it is not possible to accomplish both.  Answering the question must take into account the different approaches we presented regarding the status of shaking the lulav and regarding saying Hallel with a minyan. 

          If shaking the lulav is not an essential part of the mitzva, it can be done independently of Hallel - and it is obvious that saying Hallel with a minyan is preferable to saying it with a lulav.  Likewise, if the reason for saying Hallel with a minyan is only to enhance the mitzva by doing it as a group, and shaking the lulav is essential to the mitzva - one should obviously prefer saying Hallel with a lulav over saying it with a minyan. 

          Our situation is more complicated, though, because the sources seem to indicate that shaking the lulav is essential to the mitzva and Hallel is essentially different when said with a minyan.  If so, how do we decide when confronted with a situation where both of them cannot be fulfilled? 

          Understanding the nature of the conflict depends on how we understand the importance of shaking the lulav during  Hallel.  If, as the Meiri seems to say, shaking the lulav is one of the laws of Hallel - then we are confronted with a conflict between two different rules of Hallel, which will be difficult to decide. What will make the best Hallel, one said with a minyan or with the shaking of the lulav? 

          On the other hand, if shaking the lulav is part of the mitzva of lulav, as the Rambam says, then the conflict is between two different mitzvot, lulav and Hallel, and we have guidelines how to deal with such conflicts.

          When there are conflicts between different mitzvot, two principles come into play:

1.  that which is more constant and frequent ("tadir") takes precedence;

2. that which has more holiness ("mekudash") takes precedence.

The mitzva of Hallel is certainly more frequent than lulav, but the mishnayot in Zevachim on the subject of precedence rule that frequency is only preferred when the two mitzvot in conflict are of equal importance. 

          On the first day, the mitzva of lulav is clearly to be favored, because lulav is of biblical force on the first day of the holiday (everywhere, not just in the Temple).  Hallel is a rabbinic mitzva (according to the Rambam; the Behag disagrees).  Even on the rest of the days of the holiday, lulav might still be on a higher level than Hallel because lulav has basis in a biblical mitzva.  [We would have to assume that Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai's decree to take the lulav all seven days of the holiday even outside the Temple is an expansion of the biblical mitzva - either the Temple mitzva or the first day's mitzva - and not a purely rabbinic law to remember the destruction of the Temple.]

          Based on a cold analysis, most approaches would prefer shaking the lulav during Hallel over saying Hallel with a minyan.  However, it is emotionally difficult to leave the congregation for the public recitation of the Hallel.  There is also not an open and shut case in favor of lulav.  Therefore, it is highly recommended that everyone acquire their own four species to be able to shake the lulav during Hallel and not to enter the conflict at all.  Another way to solve the problem is for two people to swiftly pass the lulav from one to the other so both can shake during the congregation's Hallel.

[This is a summary of a shiur given on Shabbat Parashat Nitzavim-Vayelekh 5750; it has not been reviewed by Harav Lichtenstein.]

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