1) AGADAH: RAIN DURING SUKOS, THE OVERTURNED PITCHER
QUESTION: The Mishnah (28b) says that rain during the festival that prevents the Jews from dwelling in their Sukos is comparable to a servant who prepared a drink to serve to his master "and he poured a pitcher on his face."
(The Gemara in Ta'anis (2b) says that the Arba'as ha'Minim, which require water in order to grow, are held during Sukos as a form of supplication to Hash-m that He send water to the world. If He is not pleased with our service, He throws the water back at us, as it were.)
The VILNA GA'ON asks why the Mishnah says "Limzog" ("to dilute"), which refers to the act of diluting a cup of wine with water. The Mishnah should say instead that the servant came "to give" a cup to his master, and not "to dilute" a cup for his master. (KOL ELIYAHU #85)
ANSWER: The Vilna Ga'on explains that the days before Sukos, from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, are days of judgment. During those days, Hash-m acts with strict justice. The days of Sukos, during which we are surrounded with Mitzvos (the Sukah and the Arba'as ha'Minim), are days of Divine mercy and blessing. During Sukos, which occurs during the time of gathering in the fruits from the fields, Hash-m showers us with bountiful blessing.
When Hash-m causes rain to fall and prevents us from sitting in the Sukah, it shows that He does not want us to have the ability to arouse His mercy by being surrounded by the Mitzvah of Sukah. Wine, in its raw state, is very sharp, and alludes to the attribute of justice. As Hash-m's servants, we try to mix the wine with water by performing Mitzvos in order to make the wine, the justice, less sharp. When the Mishnah says that the master "poured a pitcher on his face," it means that Hash-m does not want to mix any water with the wine, but rather He wants the wine to remain sharp and His attribute of strict justice to dominate.
2) SUN DIMINUTIONS
QUESTION: The Gemara discusses the prognostic properties of sun diminutions ("Likuy Chamah") as well as those of the moon and other celestial bodies. "Likuy Chamah" seem to refer to solar and lunar eclipses.
RAV YONASAN EIBESHITZ (Ya'aros Devash, volume 2, p. 67b) asks that an eclipse is a natural phenomenon that occurs according to a set astronomical pattern. How can a natural phenomenon be a harbinger of inauspicious times, if it occurs according to a predictable schedule?
(a) RAV YONASAN EIBESHITZ explains that the Gemara here does not refer to eclipses, because an eclipse is not called a "diminution" ("Likuy") of the heavenly bodies. Eclipses are merely shadows that are cast when the light of the sun is blocked by another celestial body from reaching the earth. Rather, the Gemara refers to sunspots and similar phenomena which occur on the moon (such as transient lunar phenomena).
(b) The ARUCH LA'NER says that the Gemara indeed refers to eclipses, and the question of Rav Yonasan Eibshitz is not problematic for the following reason. RASHI in Bereishis (1:14) writes that the fourth day of the week (Wednesday) is predisposed to certain illnesses. Even though the day occurs on a natural calendrical cycle, it is still associated with tribulations. Similarly, the Chachamim knew that the set times that Hash-m arranges for eclipses to occur are times of judgment for the world. Therefore, it is possible for an eclipse to be both a natural phenomenon and an ominous omen.
How, though, does this approach explain the Gemara's statement that "the sun is diminished due to four types of sins"? If eclipses (the "diminishing" of the sun) occur according to a natural pattern, they how can they occur as a result of the sins of man? The Aruch la'Ner answers that the Gemara does not mean that such sins must be committed in order for there to be an eclipse. Rather, the Gemara means that during the period that follows an eclipse, Hash-m passes judgment on those who have committed these particular sins.
The Aruch la'Ner proves that the Chachamim understood the mechanics of an eclipse. He points out that the Gemara repeatedly refers to an eclipse as "during the time (bi'Zeman) that an eclipse occurs." These words imply that an eclipse happens at an established, known time.
The Aruch la'Ner explains further that the sins associated with a lunar eclipse are all sins that harm the sinner himself as much it harms others: 1. One who writes lies about others reveals his own faults, because "he who finds fault in others suffers from the same fault" (Kidushin 70a). 2. One who bears false witness loses the respect and trust of the very people who hired him (Sanhedrin 31a). 3. When one allows his animals to graze in the fields of others, others will allow their animals to graze in his fields. 4. One who cuts down a fruit tree will suffer from the loss of the fruit as much as anyone else.
RASHI (DH Bishvil) writes that he does not know why these specific sins are associated with eclipses of the moon. The Aruch la'Ner suggests that perhaps the very mechanism of a lunar eclipse symbolizes the nature of these sins. When the earth blocks the light of the sun from reaching the moon and thereby causes a lunar eclipse, it gives the impression as though it is trying to "harm" the moon by blocking its light. However, it is the earth itself that suffers by losing its moonlight during the eclipse.
3) WHY IS A DRY LULAV INVALID?
OPINIONS: The Mishnah states that a dry Lulav ("Yavesh") is invalid and may not be used for the Mitzvah. Why is a dry Lulav invalid?
(a) RASHI (DH Yavesh) writes that the Mitzvah of Lulav must be "Mehuderes," beautifully glorified, as the verse teaches, "Zeh Keli v'Anvehu" -- "This is my G-d and I shall glorify Him" (Shemos 15:2).
TOSFOS (DH Lulav) asks that the principle of "v'Anvehu" applies to all Mitzvos, and yet no other Mitzvah is invalid if it is not done in a beautiful manner.
The Acharonim explain that Rashi maintains that the principle of "v'Anvehu" applies in two different ways. The first way is a "l'Chatchilah" requirement; it instructs a person to beautify every Mitzvah that he performs, but it does not invalidate the Mitzvah if he fails to beautify it. The principle of "v'Anvehu" teaches that one should add beauty to an object of a Mitzvah which already has beauty.
The second way that "v'Anvehu" applies is that it instructs a person to add beauty to an object of a Mitzvah that has no beauty, and if no beauty is added then the Mitzvah is invalid. A dry Lulav is unsightly and lacks beauty. In such a case, one's failure to beautify the Mitzvah invalidates it. (See Insights to 29:5:a for Rashi's source for this understanding.)
Perhaps this second application of "v'Anvehu" applies only where the Torah requires that a product of nature, in its original state, be used for the Mitzvah. Where the Torah requires that one may not use a processed object for the Mitzvah, but rather an object in its natural state, the object must not have deteriorated from its natural state. In this case, "v'Anvehu" is not a secondary or external requirement for the fulfillment of the Mitzvah; rather, it is an inherent part of the object that must be used for the Mitzvah. (M. Kornfeld)
(b) TOSFOS (DH Lulav) explains that the Pesul of a dry Lulav is derived from the Pesul of a dry Esrog. The Torah says that an Esrog must be a "Pri Etz Hadar" (Vayikra 23:40), which means that it must be beautiful (Sukah 31a). The requirement that the other Minim also be beautiful is derived from the Esrog through a Hekesh (see Gemara there).
(c) The RA'AVAD (in LULAV HA'GADOL, cited by the ROSH) quotes the Yerushalmi that states that the Pesul of a dry Lulav is derived from the verse, "Lo ha'Mesim Yehalelu Kah" -- "The dead cannot praise Hash-m" (Tehilim 115:17). The verse teaches that something which is dead cannot be used to praise Hash-m. A dried Lulav is considered dead, since it has lost its color and vitality (see following Insight).
4) HOW DRY IS A DRY LULAV?
OPINIONS: The Mishnah states that a dry Lulav ("Yavesh") is invalid and may not be used for the Mitzvah. How dry is considered "Yavesh"?
(a) TOSFOS (DH Lulav) cites an opinion which suggests that after twelve months, any object is considered to be completely dried out.
(b) TOSFOS rejects that opinion and asserts instead that if an object is so dry that it cracks when it is bent, it is considered dried out and may no longer be used for the Mitzvah.
(c) The BA'AL HA'ME'OR (cited by the Rosh) rejects Tosfos' opinion and says that only food that is dry cracks when bent. Trees and other forms of flora have different criteria for whether they are considered dried out. According to the Ba'al ha'Me'or, a plant is considered dried out when it is no longer moist at all. Not only is it wilted, but no moisture at all is visible in it.
(d) The RA'AVAD, based on the Yerushalmi (see above, Insights to 29:3:c), says that a plant is considered dried out when it is so dry that it has no vitality left, such that even if one would soak it in water for several days it would not regain any life. That state of dryness is reached when the leaves turn white and lose all traces of green. The ROSH sides with this opinion.
HALACHAH: The SHULCHAN ARUCH (OC 645:5) rules like the Ra'avad, that when a Lulav has lost all of its green color it is considered dried out and is invalid. The REMA writes that in extenuating circumstances, such as when there are no other Lulavim available, the custom is to rely on the opinion of Tosfos and to use a Lulav even though it is completely white, as long as its leaves do not crack when bent.
5) THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE "PESUL" OF A DRIED LULAV AND THE "PESUL" OF A STOLEN LULAV
QUESTION: The Gemara differentiates between the Pesul of "Yavesh" (a dried out Lulav) and the Pesul of "Gazul" (a stolen Lulav). Although the Mishnah implies that both Pesulim apply all seven days of the festival, the Gemara questions this implication. A dry Lulav certainly is invalid all seven days, because it is not "Hadar." However, a stolen Lulav should be invalid only on the first day, and not on all seven days, because the verse of "Lachem" -- which teaches that the Lulav must be owned by the person who uses it to fulfill the Mitzvah -- applies only on the first day of Sukos, as it says, "You shall take for yourselves (Lachem) on the first day..." (Vayikra 23:40). Rebbi Yochanan therefore gives a different reason for why a stolen Lulav is invalid all seven days. Shmuel concludes that a stolen Lulav indeed is invalid only on the first day of Sukos.
Why does the Gemara assume that "Lachem" applies only on the first day, while "Hadar" applies on all seven days? The Torah says both "Lachem" and "Hadar" in the same verse: "You shall take for yourselves (Lachem) on the first day the fruit of the Hadar tree" (Vayikra 23:40)! If "Lachem" refers only to the "first day," then "Hadar" must also refer only to the "first day."
If, on the other hand, "Hadar" applies all seven days, then "Lachem" also must apply all seven days. Indeed, TOSFOS and the Rishonim point out that the Gemara later (41b) teaches that the Mitzvah to hold the Lulav all seven days of the festival applies to every male and not just to Beis Din, as is derived from the verse, "You shall take (u'Lekachtem)," which implies that everyone must hold the Lulav and not just Beis Din. Since the word "u'Lekachtem" in the verse applies all seven days, the word "Lachem" should also apply all seven days.
(a) RASHI (DH Lo Shena) explains that the Gemara here is discussing the Mitzvah of Lulav outside of the Beis ha'Mikdash, where the Mitzvah applies mid'Oraisa only on the first day. On the other six days, the Mitzvah is only mid'Rabanan, commemorative of what is done in the Mikdash ("Zecher l'Mikdash"). The Rabanan did not require that all of the d'Oraisa requirements of Lulav be fulfilled outside of the Beis ha'Mikdash on the last six days of the festival. The requirement that a Lulav not be dry is not a requirement in the laws of Lulav itself, but it is a requirement based on the principle of "v'Anvehu," which is a general rule that applies to all Mitzvos, both d'Oraisa and d'Rabanan. Since it is a Mitzvah d'Rabanan to hold the Lulav on the last six days of Sukos, the Lulav must be "Hadar" because of "v'Anvehu." In contrast, it does not need to be "Lachem" (the property of the one who holds it, and not stolen property) because "Lachem" is a specific requirement in the laws of Lulav, and the specific laws of Lulav do not apply during the last six days of Sukos (since the Mitzvah is only a commemorative act). This may be Rashi's source for his explanation that a dry Lulav is invalid because it does not fulfill the requirement of "v'Anvehu" (see Insights to 29:3:a).
(b) TOSFOS (DH Ba'inan) also explains that the Gemara is discussing the Mitzvah of Lulav outside of the Beis ha'Mikdash on the last six days of Sukos. The Rabanan were not stringent with the details of the Mitzvah of Lulav, as Rashi says, because the Mitzvah outside of the Beis ha'Mikdash was instituted only as a "Zecher b'Alma," a commemorative act. Why, though, were the Rabanan stringent with the requirement that a Lulav not be dry?
Tosfos explains that l'Chatchilah, an unsightly object certainly should not be used for a Mitzvah, because of the general principle of "v'Anvehu." Since "v'Anvehu" provides a reason not to use a dry Lulav l'Chatchilah, the Rabanan considered the requirement of "v'Anvehu" sufficient reason to enact that the Pesul of a dry Lulav, which applies on the first day (because of "Hadar"), applies also on the last six days. They enacted that one hold the Lulav on the last six days, but they did not require that one fulfill all of the conditions that the Torah requires on the first day of Sukos. However, with regard to a dry Lulav, they enacted their Mitzvah d'Rabanan k'Ein d'Oraisa, similar to the Torah's requirement, because even without the Torah requirements for a Lulav, a dry Lulav should not be held l'Chatchilah for the Mitzvah. Therefore, a dry Lulav on all seven days is invalid.
(c) The RA'AVAD says that the Gemara is not discussing the Mitzvah outside of the Beis ha'Mikdash, but rather the Mitzvah in the Beis ha'Mikdash itself. Even in the Beis ha'Mikdash, where the Mitzvah of Lulav is mid'Oraisa all seven days of Sukos, the Pesulim of Lulav -- including the Pesul of "Lachem" -- apply only on the first day. The only exception is the Pesul of a dry Lulav, since that Pesul is learned from the verse, "The dead cannot praise Hash-m" (Tehilim 115:17), which teaches that something which is dead cannot be used to praise Hash-m (see Insights to 29:3:c). A dried Lulav is invalid all seven days, because it is not fit to be used to praise Hash-m.
(d) The RAMBAN (in Milchamos) and the RITVA explain (like the Ra'avad) that the Gemara is discussing the last six days of Sukos, in the Beis ha'Mikdash. Although the Pesul of a dry Lulav applies all seven days, the Rabanan understood that there is reason to be lenient with regard to the Pesul of "Lachem" (a stolen or borrowed Lulav) on the last six days of Sukos in the Beis ha'Mikdash. That attribute of a Lulav (its status as stolen) is not something that changes the physical appearance of the Lulav. The Rabanan were lenient because the Torah itself was lenient with regard to the last six days of Sukos (the Torah did not require that the Lulav be held outside of the Beis ha'Mikdash on those six days). From the Torah's leniency, the Rabanan derived that where there are grounds to be lenient with the laws of Lulav, the Halachah follows that leniency during the last six days in the Beis ha'Mikdash.