Kosher Hadasim

Question #1: “Stupid myrtle”

Why is one type of myrtle considered less intelligent than others? Did this variety get a poorer SAT score?

Question #2: Seven at a Time!

“Why should a three-leafed plant suddenly sprout seven leaves?”

Question #3: “Grafted Hadas

May a hadas be grafted?

Answer

In Parshas Emor, the Torah teaches: “And on the first day, you shall take for yourselves the fruit of a beautiful tree, branches of date palms, branches of a thickly leaved tree and river willows, and you shall rejoice before Hashem your G-d seven days” (Vayikra 23:40). Of the four species that we take on Sukkos, two, the lulav and the aravah, are described quite clearly in the Torah, whereas the other two are described in the Torah in an unclear way and require the Torah shebe’al peh to identify them. The Hebrew term used to describe the third of these species is anaf eitz avos, which I translated above as “branches of a thickly leaved tree,” although at times in this article I will call it a “twig” rather than a “branch.”

The Written Torah does not provide any more indication as to what we are to take, but the Oral Torah’s mesorah from Sinai is that it is what we call a hadas. As the Rambam teaches in the Introduction to his Commentary on the Mishnah, there is an oral tradition from teacher to disciple, going all the way back to Moshe at Har Sinai, to identify anaf eitz avos as hadas. In contemporary parlance, the species that we call hadas is the “common myrtle” or the “true myrtle,” scientifically identified as Myrtus commonis, as opposed to the “crape myrtle” and other shrubs that are called myrtle, but with a descriptive adjective.

Nevertheless, we are left with two questions:

(1) How do we know that anaf eitz avos of the Written Torah means a myrtle?

(2) Why doesn’t the Torah use the word hadas? Unlike the word esrog, which shows up nowhere in Tanach and is terminology used by Chazal (see Ramban, Vayikra, 23:40), the word hadas appears many times in Tanach (see, for example, Yeshayahu 41:19; 55:13; Zecharyah 1: 8, 10, 11; Nechemiah 8:15). The word hadas is much shorter than the description anaf eitz avos that the Torah uses. And, the Torah taught that we should use a shorter term to teach whenever possible (Pesachim 3b).

To quote the Gemara, “anaf eitz avos refers to a species whose leaves cover the wood of the branch,” which is an unusual feature. Look at the branches of most trees and shrubs and you will notice that this feature is atypical.

The Gemara (Sukkah 32b) asks how we know that anaf eitz avos is a hadas; perhaps it is a different species. The Gemara analyzes several options, including whether anaf eitz avos refer to the branches of an olive, or of either of two other types of trees, called in Aramaic dulba and hirduf. Based on careful analysis of the Torah, the Gemara eliminates all these options and concludes that anaf eitz avos is hadas.

Perpendicular leaf

Even some varieties of common myrtle grow with the leaves sticking out perpendicular to the branch, and, in these varieties, the wood of the branch can be easily seen. There is discussion among halachic authorities whether such myrtles may be used on Sukkos to fulfill the mitzvah, since they do not fulfill the Torah’s description of anaf eitz avos (see Mor Uketziah and Graz, Orach Chayim 646:1; Rashash, Sukkah 32b; Eimek Brocha, Lulav #11).

How long?

How long must a hadas be? The branch of the hadas must be at least three tefachim, not including leaves that extend beyond the wood of the branch. How long is three tefachim? We usually assume this to be about 9 and a half inches (according to Rav Chayim Na’eh) or about 11 and a half inches (according to the Chazon Ish).

“Stupid myrtle”

The Gemara discusses whether any branch of a hadas bush qualifies for fulfilling the mitzvah. Rav Yehudah says that a hadas is kosher only when three leaves grow alongside one another around the width of the twig, what we call meshulash. Rav Kahana disagrees, ruling that a hadas is kosher even if two leaves are at the same height and a third is a bit lower, but it overlaps the other two. Rav Acha deliberately chose those that Rav Kahana had ruled kosher, since he wanted to fulfill Rav Kahana’s words. However, Ameimar used to refer to those hadasim as “hadas shoteh,” which most authorities assume means that one does not fulfill the mitzvah with this variety.

The word “shoteh,” when referring to a person, means someone not legally responsible for his actions, the equivalent of an insanity defense. The term kelev shoteh (Shabbos 121b; Yoma 83a-84a), means a rabid dog. Does this mean that Ameimar called this type of myrtle branch a “stupid hadas,” an “insane hadas or a “rabid hadas?”

No. Although the word “shoteh” has a similar meaning in the expressions chassid shoteh (Sotah 20a; 21b), and bechor shoteh (midrashim in parshas Mikeitz), the word shoteh is also used in other contexts, such as “luf shoteh,” which does not mean a “stupid luf” or a “rabid luf,but an uncultivated, usually not eaten, variety of the vegetable called “luf.” The Ritva (Sukkah 32b) explains that the word shoteh means “imperfect” or “not in proper order.” If you are familiar with the Modern Hebrew usage of something/someone being shelo beseider, it is easy to understand the term shoteh as used in every one of the above contexts.

The rishonim (Rambam, Hilchos Lulav 8:1; Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 646:3) conclude that a hadas shoteh is not kosher. Although some places had a custom to use them, as reported by the Terumas Hadeshen (2:259) and Rema (Orach Chayim 646:3), the halachic conclusion is not to, even when no other hadasim are available (Mishnah Berurah 646:15).

Two by two

The Rema (Orach Chayim 646:2) writes that if there are only two leaves at each point and no single leaves, the hadas is kosher for fulfilling the mitzvah. Evidently, he held that the term shoteh refers to a myrtle having one leaf sitting by itself (Yevakesh Torah). However, this approach is not accepted by other halachic authorities, who accept only a hadas with three leaves growing alongside one another.

How much?

How much of the hadas must be meshulash to be kosher? There are many opinions among the rishonim. Some contend that the entire twig must be meshulash, or at least the top three tefachim (Tur, Orach Chayim 646, quotingthe geonim; Ritva, quoting his rebbe, the Re’ah; Magid Mishnah, Hilchos Sukkah 7:2). The Ra’avad, in his work on the laws of lulav and esrog, and the Rosh conclude that it is best if the entire hadas is meshulash, but it is kosher if it is meshulash most of the way. Another approach rules that although the entire hadas must be three tefachim long, it is kosher if it contains three places where the leaves are meshulashim (Sefer Hamichtam, quoting Ba’al Ha’itur). And yet another opinion is much more lenient, contending that it is kosher for Sukkos-use even when it is meshulash in only one place (Tur, quoting Ba’al Ha’itur). The accepted halacha is that the majority of the twig must be meshulash, but it is preferred for it to be meshulash the entire length.

The Eimek Beracha (#11) explains the dispute among the rishonim as follows: The opinions that contend that it is sufficient if the hadas is meshulash in only one place, or in only three places, contend that this requirement identifies the hadas as the correct variety called anaf eitz avos. A minimal amount of meshulash suffices to identify it as such.

Those that require that the hadas be entirely meshulash, or at least most of its length, contend that anaf eitz avos is a gezeiras hakasuv defining what the Torah requires for the mitzvah, just as it requires that the hadas not be extremely dried out or that the esrog have proper color.

Leaves or stem?

Is meshulash determined by the leaves or by their stem? In other words, if three leaves begin and end at the same height, but the stems from which the leaves grow are not at the same height, or vice versa, is the hadas considered meshulash?

Numerous poskim describe meshulash as three leaves lying side by side, and I know of no authorities who state that the stems of the three must be at the same height.

Nechemiah

I once read that someone asked how anaf eitz avos of the Torah can be identified as hadas, when the same posuk in Nechemiah mentions both, implying that they are not the same. However, reading the verse carefully resolves any difficulty:

“On the second day, the heads of all the families, the kohanim, the levi’im and the rest of the people came to Ezra to learn the words of the Torah. They discovered that the Torah had written that Hashem commanded, via Moshe, that the Bnei Yisrael dwell in sukkos during the festival of the seventh month. They then sent an announcement through all the cities and Yerushalayim, instructing everyone to go to the mountain and bring olive branches, olive lumber, hadasim branches, date branches, and anaf eitz avos to make Sukkos, as written. The people went out and brought; they manufactured sukkos for themselves, each man on his rooftop and in his courtyard… and the entire community that had returned from captivity observed Sukkos and they dwelled in sukkos” (Nechemiah 8:13-17).

It is quite clear from the verse that the “olive branches, olive lumber, hadasim branches” were used as construction material to make the walls and schach of the sukkos, and not used for the four species. (Note that the word Sukkos referring to the festival was capitalized, whereas when referring to the huts, it is lower case.)

Seven at a time!

We asked above: “Why should a three-leafed plant suddenly sprout seven leaves?” The Gemara (Sukkah 33a) refers to a hadas mitzra’ah that grows seven leaves at one height, rather than just three (Sukkah 33a). In other ways, this looks like a regular hadas. Rashi mentions two opinions as to what the term hadas mitzra’ah means. His first approach is that mitzra’ah means “on the border;” a hadas mitzra’ah grew on the edge of a field and had no competition for nutrients. As a result, it grew with many extra leaves. Even if most of its leaves fell out at each point, as long as three leaves remain at every point, we have a hadas that lost most of its leaves and is still fully kosher.

Rashi’s second opinion is that the word mitzra’ah is from the word Mitzrayim, Egypt, and means a variety of hadas, common in Egypt, that usually grew seven leaves at each point. The hadas of either interpretation of the Gemara is kosher, notwithstanding that this variety was usually identified as a hadas mitzra’ah, and not simply “hadas” (see Tosafos and Ritva, Sukkah 33a).

Grafted hadas

Reference to grafted species on Sukkos usually calls to mind esrogim produced by grafting esrog branches onto rootstocks of other species. Most poskim prohibit using these esrogim to fulfill the mitzvah, because the fruit is considered to be partly esrog and partly the species of the rootstock (Shu’t Rema #117; Shu’t Alshich #110; Magen Avraham; Taz). Others prohibit their use because the Torah bans grafting different species together (Levush, Orach Chayim 649:4).

Later poskim discuss whether an esrog of unknown lineage may be used based on appearance: If it looks like an esrog (both inside and out), grows seeds like an esrog does, and has the shape of an esrog, the Beis Efrayim (Shu’t Orach Chayim #56) rules that it is a kosher esrog. Others contend that we may use the esrog only when we have a tradition that the growers in that area did not graft esrogim onto other species.

However, our discussion is about the use of a grafted myrtle as a hadas. In the early eighteenth century, a shaylah was raised in Prague whether a variety of myrtle growing locally was kosher as a hadas. At that time, hadasim were imported from warmer areas, and they often arrived very dried out. The question was asked of Rav Yaakov Breisch, the author of Shevus Yaakov, Chok Yaakov, Toras Hashelamim and many other classic halachic works, whether these Prague myrtles were kosher as hadasim. If they were kosher, they would be much more mehudar to use, since they were available fresh. If they were not, the dry, imported hadasim should be used.

The Shevus Yaakov first reviews the literature germane to the use of grafted esrogim. He notes that if the reason not to use grafted esrogim is because they were used for an aveirah, grafted hadasim will be kosher. This is because the prohibition of cross-grafting species exists only regarding trees bearing edible fruit, not for trees and shrubs that do not bear edible fruit. Although the hadas does produce a berry, it is never cultivated for its berry, and it is therefore excluded from the prohibition of grafting trees.

However, the Shevus Yaakov notes that this is not the primary reason cited to prohibit grafted esrogim. The main reason is that the fruit of a graft is considered a mixed species. Thus, if the Prague hadas is grafted onto a different species, it will not be considered a pure hadas, and cannot be used to fulfill the mitzvah.

The Shevus Yaakov notes that the Prague myrtle grows with three leaves at each point, like a hadas meshulash grows, and its leaves and twigs are indistinguishable from the traditional regular hadas in every way. However, the berry that grew on the new variety looked very different from the berry found on the traditional hadas, both in terms of its shape and its inside. He thereby surmises that this new myrtle is either a species different from the hadas, or, more likely, grew from a graft that caused its fruit to be different from a typical hadas.

The Shevus Yaakov then suggests that this new myrtle might be kosher anyway, based on the logic written by the Rema in answer to a question regarding the hadas that has seven leaves at each point, which is called by its own unique name, hadas mitzra’ah. The Rema questioned why this hadas is kosher for the mitzvah when it is called hadas mitzra’ah and not just hadas, implying that it is a variety. The Rema answered that the Torah never told us to use a hadas, but anaf eitz avos; therefore any species that is anaf eitz avos is kosher. Thus, the Prague hadas should be fine, notwithstanding its unusual berry. (However, note that the Kapos Temarim disagrees both with this assumption and the ruling.)

The Shevus Yaakov then wonders whether the Prague hadas might have been grown on a stock that was not a myrtle at all, and therefore it is not kosher for Sukkos use. He notes that he then discovered that he was not the first one to be asked about using this particular myrtle on Sukkos, but it had been asked of the great Maharash (the rebbe of the Shelah Hakadosh), who had been the posek of Prague in the 16th century. A talmid chacham wanted to use these new myrtles as hadasim, contending that they were preferred, since they would be fresh. The Maharash, however, concluded that the new myrtles should not be used, unless there are no hadasim of the traditional variety available, and this is the way the Shevus Yaakov concludes (Shu’t Shevus Yaakov 1:36). The Shaarei Teshuvah (646:4) suggests that these myrtles are not kosher as hadasim for Sukkos, even according to the Levush, because the rootstock that they are grown from might be of a tree that produces edible fruit, unlike the assumption of the Shevus Yaakov.

Notwithstanding the conclusion of the Shevus Yaakov and the Shaarei Teshuvah not to use the Prague hadasim, several later authorities ruled that they are kosher (Shu’t Chacham Tzvi #161; Shu’t Panim Meiros, Orach Chayim #9; Bikkurei Yaakov, 646:12; Biur Halacha 646:3 s.v. ho’il).

Conclusion

Our halachic literature is replete with shaylos regarding howcommunities fulfilled the mitzvah of arba’ah minim, under less than ideal circumstances. Looking around shul on Sukkos and seeing everyoneholding his own set of arba’ah minim, we should praise Hashemfor making it so easy today to fulfill these mitzvos.