Waving the Lulav [Mishnah Monday]
Last week, during the holiday of Sukkot, I was curious about whence we get the waving of the lulav. So, I decided to start at the Mishnah! The primary location for this discussion is in the third chapter of Sukkah, wherein we find four references to the waving of the lulav.
The first time we see waving of the lulav mentioned is not concerning the “software” of it (that is, how to wave it), but in the “hardware” of it (with what does one need to wave) in every lulav requires to have three fistbreadths in order to wave it (mSukkah 3:1) -וכל לולב שיש בו שלושה טפחים, כדי לנענע בו – כשר. The final time we see waving of the lulav is that concerning the minimum age of waving, which has no finite numerical consideration, but is when a child has knowledge to do so (mSukkah 3:14) – וכל קטן שיש בו דעת לנענע – חייב בלולב.
So, when does the Mishnah say that we wave the lulav? It is actually a debate (surprise!). Not only is it a debate, but it seems to be that the authors of the Mishnah are looking back to Temple times to try to figure at which parts during Hallel that the lulav was waved.
We first have a mid-second century disagreement (mSukkah 3:9):
ובאיכן היו מנענעין?
ב”הודו לה'” תחילה וסוף, וב”אנא ה’, הושיעה נא”, כדברי בית הלל
בית שמאי אומרים, אף ב”אנא ה’, הצליחה נא
And how would they wave them?
“With ‘Thank the Lord’ – at the beginning and the end, and with ‘Please, Lord, save us’,” according to Hillel’s Academy.
Shammai’s Academy says: “Even with ‘Please, Lord, make us successful’.”
So, according to Hillel’s Academy, they would wave it at both הודו לה’s and אנא ה’, הושיעה נא, while Shammai’s Academy said to wave it at both הודו לה’s, אנא ה’, הושיעה נא, and אנא ה’, הצליחה נא, but, seemingly no other times.
Then, we have a verbal report from Rabbi Akiva (mSukkah 3:9):
אמר רבי עקיבה, צופה הייתי ברבן גמליאל וברבי יהושוע, שכל העם מטרפין את לולביהם, והם לא ניענעו אלא ב”אנא ה’, הושיעה נא” בלבד
Rabbi Akiva said, “I saw Rabban Gamliel and Rabbi Yehoshua, that the whole people would constantly be shaking their lulavs, but they would only wave their lulavs at ‘Please, Lord, save us’.”
Interestingly, this is not his own opinion, but rather his reporting of what he had seen these two rabbis who had grown up during Temple times do, trying to figure it out. And they would only do it at אנא ה’, הושיעה נא – although it is unclear why they had a more restricted waving than the houses….
So now that we know the what (three fistbreadths minimum), the who (a child who knows how to do it), the when (at certain points in Hallel), the Mishnah leaves open the questions of why the lulav is waved – either at all or why at those certain points in the Hallel – and how it is waved, such as in which types of directionality. Although it also leaves open the question of where, it seems that coincides with the when: mSukkah 3:12 discusses the taking of the lulav that it was to be taken on the first day of the holiday only outside of the מקדש and all seven days within the מקדש, but, Rabban Yohanan, son of Zakkai established that it was to be done all seven days even outside of the מקדש.