Hadassim Meshulashim By Rabbi Chaim Jachter


Perhaps the most challenging aspect of selecting a Kosher set of the Four Minim is finding Hadassim that are Meshulashim.  This term refers to Hadassim whose three leaves emerge at the same level.  There are many opinions regarding the precise parameters regarding Hadassim Meshulashim; therefore, it seems to be a positive development that today, many sets of Hadassim come in packages that have been checked by a competent rabbinic authority.  In this essay we shall seek to discuss many of the issues regarding Hadassim Meshulashim.

Hadas Shoteh

Interestingly, the Gemara (Sukkah 32b) refers to a Hadas that is not Meshulash as a “Hadas Shoteh,” a psychotic Hadas.  An explanation might be that a Hadas that is Meshulash is balanced whereas the Hadas that is not Meshulash is imbalanced.  A characteristic of a mentally healthy person is one who is balanced and one who is not mentally healthy is not balanced. 

Indeed, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik is quoted by Rav Hershel Schachter (Mipninei Rabbeinu p. 201) as explaining that a Katan (a boy below the age of Bar Mitzva) and a K’tanah (a girl below the age of Bat Mitzvah) are considered to be mentally incompetent (“Lav B’nai Dei’ah Ninhu”) because they are not yet psychologically balanced.  For example, the Rav notes that, as parents and others who deal regularly with children are acutely aware, when a child is happy, he is thoroughly happy with no bit of sadness evident.  On the other hand, when a child is sad, he is completely sad, without any hint of happiness.  Rav Soloveitchik asserts that a psychologically healthy and mature individual will never be completely happy or completely sad.  Even in moments of great joy and sorrow we seek to maintain our composure and not be entirely swept away by emotion.  Accordingly, we can understand why Chazal refer to a Hadas whose leaves are not “balanced” as a Hadas Shoteh.”  

Understanding the Requirement for Hadasim Meshulashim

The Rambam in Hilchot Lulav 7:1-2 outlines the basic definitions of each of the Four Minim.  Interestingly, the Rambam mentions the requirement of Hadassim Meshulashim in his initial presentation and identification of Hadassim as Anaf Eitz Avot.  The Rambam writes:

“The term Pri Etz Hadar that is mentioned in the Torah refers to an Etrog.  The term Anaf Eitz Avot refers to the Hadas whose leaves covers its branch and whose three or more leaves are in one stem.  If two of the leaves are even and the third leaf is above it, this is not “Avot” [as described in the Torah], rather it is a Hadas Shoteh.”

In contrast, the Rambam addresses all of the other details regarding Hadassim considerably later in Hilchot Lulav (8:5) Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (cited in Reshimot Shiurim to Masechet Sukkah p. 154) quotes his illustrious grandfather Rav Chaim Soloveitchik in explaining why the Rambam presents the requirement of Meshulash separate from all the other Halachot regarding Hadassim.  Rav Chaim asserted that a Hadas that is not Meshulash is not merely not an invalid Hadas, it is simply not a Hadas.  A Hadas, for example, that has more blackberries on it than leaves is an invalid Hadas, whereas a Hadas that is not Meshulash is regarded a different species – a Hadas Shoteh.  This explains why the Rambam presents the issue of Hadassim Meshulashim in his initial description of Hadassim and separate from the other Halachot concerning Hadassim.  The requirement for Hadassim Meshulashim reflects of the basic identity of the Hadassim and is not a detail that can be saved for later discussion.

Rav Herschel Reichman (in his notes to his aforementioned Reshimot Shiurim) explains that even though a Hadas Shoteh and a Hadas Meshulash grow in the same bush, nevertheless they are considered to be different species regarding the Halachot of the Yom Tov of Sukkot.  Rav Reichman adds that even though a Hadas Shoteh and Hadas Meshulash are not considered to be separate species regarding the Halachot of Kilayim (the prohibition to plant different species together), nevertheless a Hadas Shoteh is regarded as a different species regarding of Sukkot. 

Rav Chaim’s assertion has at least two practical ramifications.  First is that a Hadas Shoteh is unacceptable on all seven days of Sukkot.  Indeed, the Meiri writes (Sukkah 29b) that a Hadas Shoteh is unacceptable all seven days of Sukkot “since it is not a Hadas”.  Many disqualifications in the Four Minim are acceptable on the last six last of Sukkot (in Eretz Yisrael and the last five days in Chutz La’aretz) such as an Etrog that has a small piece of it that is missing (Chaseir).  An Etrog that is Chaseir is acceptable on the last days of Sukkot because even though an Etrog Chaseir is an Etrog with a P’sul (disqualification), it is still defined as an Etrog.  On the other hand, a Hadas Shoteh is not considered a Hadas and is thus unacceptable even on the last days of Sukkot.  Just as one cannot take a pear instead of an Etrog even on the last days of Sukkot, so too one cannot take a Hadas Shoteh even on the last days of Sukkot.  The reason for the leniencies on the last days of Sukkot is because the requirement to take the Four Minim during those days is merely rabbinic in nature.

A second ramification is that a Hadas Shoteh is unacceptable even “B’sha’at Hadchak”(a case of pressing need).  Indeed, the Rav (ibid) reported that his illustrious father, Rav Moshe Soloveitchik, ruled during the extremely difficult times of World War I that Hadassim that are not Meshulashim are not acceptable even during those times of deprivation.  Even though the Rama (O.C. 649:6) rules that one may recite a Bracha on a Lulav HaYavesh (a desiccated Lulav), Rav Moshe felt that a Hadas that is not Meshulash is not a Hadas, unlike a Lulav HaYavesh, which is defined as a Lulav, albeit a Lulav that is disqualified.  Just as one cannot take an orange instead of an Etrog even Bisha’at Hadchak, so too one cannot take a Hadas Shoteh even B’sha’at HaD’chak (also see Rama O.C. 646:4 and Mishna Brura 646:15).

Rov Meshulash

The Raavad (commenting on the Rambam’s Hilchot Lulav 7:2) writes that the Hadas must be “entirely Meshulash or a majority Meshulash”.  The Rosh (Sukkah 3:10) explains that the Raavad believes that it is best for the Hadas to be entirely Meshulash but it suffices if a majority of the Hadas is Meshulash.  The Maggid Mishneh (commenting on the Rambam Hilchot Lulav 7:2) insists that the entire Hadas be Meshulash.  The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 646:5) rules in accordance with the opinion of the Raavad and the Rosh.  For an analysis of the dispute between the Raavad and the Maggid Mishneh, see Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (cited in Reshimot Shiurim to Masechet Sukkah p. 154) and Rav Yigal Ariel (Techumin 11:188-189).  For a critique of the Rav’s analysis, see my essay that appears in HaDarom 5760. 

A Hadas must minimally be three Tephachim long (Sukkah 32b).  Thus the Hadas must be Meshulash along a majority of its minimum three Tephachim length.  Twentieth century authorities, however, engage in a major and unresolved debate about the exact measurement of a Tephach (see the Encyclopedia Talmudit for a summary and sources of the many opinions).  According to the Chazon Ish a Tephach is 3.8 inches, it is 3.6 inches according to Rav Moshe Feinstein and the Aruch Hashulchan, and according to Rav Avraham Chaim Na’eh it is 3.2 inches.  I have seen many Hadassim packages that state that there contents are a majority Meshulash according to the Shiur (measurement) of the Chazon Ish. 

The Chazon Ish (O.C. 146) is uncertain how to gauge whether a majority of a Hadas is Meshulash,and whether we determine it by a majority of the branch or a majority of the leaf levels.  It appears to me that the straightforward reading of Mishna Brura (646:18) indicates that we determine it by the majority of the branch.  In my aforementioned essay that appears in HaDarom 5760, I present an argument which seeks to prove that this is the correct approach since it is conceptually consistent with the Shulchan Aruch’s ruling that it is sufficient for a majority of the branch to be Meshulash.  

Rav Melech Schachter (father of Rav Hershel Schachter) advises that if a Hadas is longer than the minimum three Tephachim and its bottom part that is longer than the necessary three Tephachim has leaf levels that are not Meshulash, then one should cut off that bottom portion of the Hadas.  One must be certain that a Shiur of three Tephachim remain, though, and that he does not cut off the top of the Hadas as this might disqualify the Hadas (see Shulchan Aruch O.C. 646:10).

What is a Hadas Meshulash?

Accordingly, we see the paramount importance of taking a Hadas Meshulash.  We must, however, specifically define the requirement of Meshulash.  The Gemara (Sukkah 32b states that “the three leaves should be in one root”.  Rashi understands the Gemara literally as defining Meshulash as “three leaves that emerge from one bud”.  Tosafot (ad. loc. s.v. T’latah) comment on Rashi’s explanation that “it is a profound stringency, as it is rare to find this”.  Tosafot suggest a non-literal interpretation of the Gemara (based on a parallel term that appears in Bava Kama 58a) that the three leaves being in very close proximity to each other, even if they do not emerge from one bud, is the equivalent of the three leaves “being in one root”.  The Rosh (Sukkah 3:8) cites Tosafot’s suggestion as authoritative and without any reservations.  He writes that the Hadassim are defined as Meshulashim if they are “in one circle”.  The Shulchan Aruch (646:3, according to the understanding of the Mishna Brura 646:10) rules in accordance with Tosafot and the Rosh.  Rashi’s definition is not even mentioned by the Shulchan Aruch or its major commentaries as worthwhile accommodating even by the most pious individuals.

Tosafot’s argument bothers my Talmidim, as it seems that they are merely interpreting the Halacha to suit their convenience.  I respond that the Torah is by definition practical and “doable”, as is specifically stated in D’varim (30:14) “the matter is very near to you in your mouth and your heart to perform it”.  The Torah must be possible to implement.  If an interpretation of the Tanach or Gemara makes a Halacha nearly impossible to implement in practice, Chazal consider the possibility that the interpretation is incorrect.  Indeed, the Gemara (Sukkah 32b) cites Rava’s criticizing a stringent ruling that Rabi Tarfon issued in the context of Hadassim Meshulashim, saying that Rabi Tarfon’s ruling makes it nearly impossible to fulfill the Mitzva of Hadassim.  Tosafot, in turn, criticize Rashi’s interpretation in a similar manner. 

We should note that it seems that the far- reaching leniencies regarding Hadassim Meshulashim that Rama (O.C. 646:3) cites, should be understood in light of this understanding of Tosafot.  We must emphasize, though, that Tosafot have a textual basis for their lenient approach and that they did not contrive an interpretation with no basis in the text of the Gemara.  Orthodox Judaism utterly rejects the notion that “where there is a rabbinic will, there is a rabbinic way” is heresy (see Rashi, Yoma 40b s.v. Al Titnu Makom La’tz’dukkim). 

It also seems to be that the Shulchan Aruch codifies the opinion of the Raavad that a majority of the branch being Meshulash suffices because it is difficult to find enough Haddasim that are completely Meshulashim to satisfy the needs of an entire community.  Indeed, Rav Yigal Ariel (Techumin 11:177) reports that in his experience supervising the marketing of Hadassim that are grown in the area of the Golan Heights, he finds that after examining hundreds of thousands of Hadassim that only twenty percent of Hadassim are entirely Meshulash, even allowing for minor imperfections in the Hadassim. 

Practical Implementation of this Halacha

The question remains how to practically implement the requirement that the three Hadassim must be “in one circle”.  Finding a Hadas whose three leaves are perfectly aligned for the entire length of three Tephachim in accordance with the Shiur of the Chazon Ish, is a very difficult task, as many know from experience.  Indeed, I heard Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik state that it took his grandfather Rav Chaim Soloveitchik many hours to find Hadassim that were Meshulashim according to his standards.  Rav Yigal Ariel (Techumin 11:177) reports that in his experience he finds that only a tiny percentage of Hadassim are “perfect” and meet the highest standards.  As we stated earlier, this standard cannot be what the Torah expects from every Jew, as it is nearly impossible to implement (though perhaps with genetic manipulation it is possible to achieve – the question remains whether the Torah requires us to engage in such “heroics” in order to fulfill the most stringent standard). 


A somewhat more practical standard is cited in the name of the Chazon Ish by Rav Shmuel Graineman (Chiddushim U’biurim Sukkah number 5).  He considers a Hadas as Meshulash as long as the bases of the three leaves meet at some line, even if there are slight differences between the levels of bases.  Pictures and diagrams to make this point clear appear in Rav Yechiel Michel Stern’s Halachot of the Four Species p.111.  Rav Graineman adds that the Chazon Ish clarifies that he does not consider this to be the absolute baseline Shiur, but that this approach is definitely acceptable beyond any question. 

Rav Yigal Ariel adds that the basic standard appears to be that as long as the leaves do not blatantly deviate from their row, the Hadas is considered to be Meshulash.  It seems to me that this matter probably depends on how close one must examine the Hadassim to insure that they are Meshulashim.  Indeed, Rav Yosef Adler reports that Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik examined Etrogim at arm’s length.  I have heard that was also the practice of Rav Moshe Feinstein.  Rav Ariel’s assertion is especially convincing if Halacha only requires an examination from an arm’s length to determine that the Hadassim are Meshulashim.  One should consult with his Rav to determine if a Hadas that is Safek Meshulash (doubtful if it is Meshulash) is acceptable on the last six days of Sukkot when the obligation to take Lulav is merely rabbinic in nature


Today it is very common to purchase packaged Hadassim that have been inspected by competent rabbinic authorities.  The obvious advantage of this system is that it insures that the Hadassim one purchases are Kosher, as is not simple for a non-expert to determine the Kashrut of a Hadas.  It is similar to other relatively recently introduced practices such as meat and poultry that are soaked and salted before purchase and packaged romaine lettuce that is inspected under rabbinical supervision for bugs.  These recent innovations enable a larger circle of individuals to properly observe the Halacha.  A disadvantage, though, is that it eliminates opportunities for parents and teachers to transmit the hands-on skills necessary for Torah observance to the next generation.  It also eliminates a bit of the personal and emotional connection to the Mitzvot we observe by reducing the time that is necessary to invest to insure proper Halachic observance.  However, it seems that the advantages of the new system outweigh the disadvantages as we have seen that it is both vital and challenging to insure that one takes Hadassim that are authentically Meshulashim.  Of course, one must ascertain that the Hadassim have indeed been inspected by competent rabbinic authority.                   


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