Sukkos is upon us, and we are bereft of the gedolim of yesteryear. Not to fret, however, because we still have sefarim that tell us of what they had ruled. Below we find 19 rulings from Rav Elyashiv, zt’l, in regard to both the sukkah and the arba’ah minim.
As an introduction, we must know that each of the yomim tovim has its own special avodah, method in which to serve Hashem. It is with this special method that we can become ever closer to Him. Sukkos is called Z’man Simchaseinu, the time of our joy. Although all yomim tovim are times of simchah, Sukkos is singled out as the one in which joy is the essence of the holiday.
The Inner Sanctum
The Nesivos Shalom explains that the sukkah is a manifestation of “Heviani haMelech chadarav”—the King has brought me into His inner room (Shir HaShirim 1:4). It is like a U.S. president bringing us into the White House, but much more. After the High Holidays, during which Klal Yisrael has been elevated and purified, Hashem has given us the mitzvah of sukkah. He gave us a holy booth. The sukkah’s holiness is a revelation of Hashem’s intense love for His people. It is a love comparable to the love demonstrated when He was with us in the Beis HaMikdash itself.
Developing the Bond
This is why Sukkos has an extra dimension of simcha to it. We are a nation whose very essence thrives upon dveikus b’Hashem, closeness to Hashem. This is our true joy, our simcha. One manner in which we can further develop this bond is through halachah. Like a patriotic soldier, lovingly adhering to the protocols of raising the nation’s flag, the flag of Hashem’s mitzvos, as taught to us by the leading sage of this past generation, can certainly help further the bonds of dveikus b’Hashem as well. The rulings below were culled primarily from the works titled Ashrei HaIsh, Liknos Chachmah, and the Chashukei Chemed.
- Generally speaking, there are only six melachos that are partially or fully permitted on yom tov but forbidden on Shabbos. Building is completely forbidden on both Shabbos and yom tov, and instructing a gentile to do so is also forbidden, even for the mitzvah of sukkah.
- However, if on yom tov or Shabbos, the wind blows the schach off the sukkah to the point where there is a gap of more than three tefachim (10.62 inches) from the wall, it is permitted to tell a gentile to place some plastic over the sukkah in order to build a halachic “bent wall.” This is called the halachah of “dofen akumah,” a bent wall (i.e. the wall and the plastic serve as a bent wall and connect to the rest of the schach to a wall). The bent-wall concept was taught to us within the oral laws that were handed down by Moshe Rabbeinu. This is not considered instructing the gentile to perform the melachah of “building” because it is not deemed full building according to Rav Elyashiv (Chashukei Chemed, Sukkah, p. 63).
- When the government forbids the building of a sukkah on a front terrace in an apartment building, on the grounds that it causes the neighborhood to become uglier, Rav Elyashiv ruled that it is forbidden to build a sukkah unless one has obtained a legal permit. There is a concern of a theft violation under such circumstances (Chashukei Chemed, Sukkah, p. 239).
- If a sukkah is made around or near sewage pipes, the sukkah is still considered to be completely kosher. The reason is that the sewage is completely covered [there is no smell] and it is completely clean. It makes no difference whether the sewage pipes are made of cast iron, plastic, or asbestos (Liknos Chachmah 8, p. 14). If there is a detectable leak, however, that is quite a different story.
- The Gemara tells us that “noy sukkah” (sukkah decorations) are muktzah on Shabbos and yom tov. The Taz (O.C. 638:23), however, rules that since a person is concerned for theft, he does not in his mind make his sukkah decorations full-fledged noy sukkah. The Taz is therefore lenient, and allows the noy sukkah to be moved. Rav Elyashiv ruled that we no longer count the opinion of the Taz that sukkah decorations are not muktzah on Shabbos and yom tov. The reason for this is that no one steals the sukkah decorations anymore (Note in Shalmei Yehuda 1:13 #52). The Taz’s rationale was that a person made it conditional since he is concerned for theft (638:23).
- One should remove a ring or a bandage so that no chatzitzah (interpolation) will be present when he takes the arba’ah minim. A cast, however, is considered batel (as nothing) to the hand and there is no need to use the other hand; it is not considered a chatzitzah (Liknos Chachmah, page 14).
- We all know that a black dot is bad news for an esrog. There is a ruling of the Mabit, however, which states a black dot only disqualifies an esrog if one can see it from afar, without a close inspection. This leniency of the Mabit certainly does not apply to a hadas in regard to whether its top was cut off (nektam rosho). Thus, one must thoroughly examine each hadas to make sure that the top was always intact (Liknos Chachmah, p. 5).
- Rav Elyashiv held that there was such a thing as more-mehudar aravos (Ish Al HaEidah, p. 29). If the aravos were actually culled from next to a riverbank (arvei nachal), they would be preferable to use. His grandson, Reb Aryeh Elyashiv, reported that he would use the regular aravos, though. This also seems to be the implication of the Mishnah Berurah’s view.
- We know that the lulav must be bound together to the other minim in a form of igud, binding. It is forbidden, however, to take a leaf off of a lulav that was used even once for the berachah to use as an igud knot. If the lulav was never actually used, it is permitted (Liknos Chachmah, p. 12).
- If the twin middle leaf of the lulav is split, the Gemara states that the lulav is invalid. The Mishnah Berurah rules that one may still recite a blessing if the majority of it is not split. The Vilna Gaon rules stringently that it may not be split at all. Rav Elyashiv ruled that a lulav seller is forbidden to glue it together, even if it is technically kosher according to the Mishnah Berurah. Only the final consumer may utilize glue to keep it together — but never the retailer (Toras Daled Minim #3, end of footnote 14).
- There are some shuls that explain the shul minhagim in how to shake the lulav during Hallel. When doing the na’anuim in shul for Hallel, one may follow his father’s minhag even though the other shul members follow a different minhag. This does not present a problem of “Lo Sisgodedu,” creating subdivided groups within a shul (such as in regard to the wording of Kaddish). The reason is that there are so many customs, it is considered like the halachah of two batei din in one city (Liknos Chachmah, page 14).
- The opposite side of the pitom is called the oketz. Generally speaking, the oketz is an “innie”—where the branch attaches to the fruit there is a recessed area. If the oketz is a complete “outie,” it is still mehudar, a beautiful esrog (Yashiv Moshe, p. 83).
- A bletl is a scab or a crust that appears on the esrog. It comes in various forms; sometimes it is lighter or a gray or a brown discoloration or dot. Rav Elyashiv ruled that if it is difficult to get an esrog that is clean and that has a pitom, it is preferable to get an esrog with a pitom that has bletlach than to get a pitom-less esrog with no bletlach (Liknos Chachmah, page 9).
- If the pitom dried up, but the rest of the esrog is still fresh, the esrog is still completely kosher. The term “dried” esrog applies only to the fruit itself (Nesivos HaHalachah, page 39.)
- If the shoshanta (the flower portion of the pitom) came off but the rest of the pitom is still intact, the esrog is still kosher and there is no need to attempt to place the shoshanta back on the pitom (Yashiv Moshe, p. 79).
- We know that there is a halachah forbidding food that was kept under the bed because of tumah, impurities. If an esrog was left under the bed, one may still recite a blessing upon it, unlike the ruling of the Kaf HaChaim [649:80] (See Ashrei HaIsh, p. 218).
- Purchasing or owning a silver esrog box is considered chivuv mitzvah, loving the mitzvah. It is not, however, considered a fulfillment of either hiddur mitzvah or “zeh Keili v’anveihu,” this is my G-d and I shall glorify Him (Ashrei HaIsh, p. 226).
- Women may eat and perform melachah prior to taking the arba’ah minim (Liknos Chachmah, page 12). It should be noted that women do have the mitzvah of “Lachem” — owning the arba’ah minim. A husband may gift it to his wife (but can gift it on condition that she give it back to him — matanah al menas l’hachzir).
- Men should hold the arba’ah minim during the recitation of Hallel. Women have no obligation to do so (Note 26, Avnei Yashpeh, chapter 15).
- On Hoshanah Rabbah, the last day that the arba’ah minim are used, it is proper to take aravos that are slightly bigger for the banging of the aravos, because the Gemara tells us that they used large ones in the Mikdash (Ashrei HaIsh, p. 227, citing a tape recording).
Rabbi Hoffman can be reached at Yairhoffman2@gmail.com.