"לולב מצוה לאגדו"
“It is a mitzvah to bundle the lulav with the hadassim and aravot.” (Sukkah 33a)

QUESTION: How many rings should be placed on the lulav, and why?

ANSWER: The Shulchan Aruch Harav (651:11) writes “It is customary to make three bindings (rings) on the lulav, corresponding to the three Patriarchs; i.e., in addition to the binding (ring) which holds the three species together, (because the Torah (Shemot 15:2) states ‘This is my G‑d and I shall beautify him,’) two additional bindings (rings) are made to bind the lulav leaves to the spine.”

QUESTION: But don’t we make three rings just for binding the species together (plus another two on the lulav — a total of 5 bindings)?

ANSWER: The three rings for binding the species are all made within a tefach handbreadth. Thus, we apply the rule of lavud — attached — so the three rings are considered as one.

QUESTION: But why do we make what appears as five rings but which halachically is counted as three?

ANSWER: It says in Pirkei Avot (3:6) “From where do we learn that the Divine Presence rests among five that occupy themselves with Torah? For it is said ‘va’agudato al eretz yesadah — He has founded His band upon the earth’ ” (Amos 5:6). According to another version, this pasuk is proof that the Divine Presence is with three who are occupied in Torah. Because three is considered agudah — banding together (see Bartenura).

In deference to the opinions whether an agudah — binding together — is three or five, we make five rings which are considered as three, corresponding to the Patriarchs.

(שו"ע סי' תרנ"א סעי' א' ט"ז, חיים וברכה לבעמ"ח ספר משמרת שלום על פמ"ג סי' רפ"ח)

"בליל ראשון של סוכות אומרים תחילה לישב בסוכה ואח"כ שהחיינו"
“On the first night of Sukkot, we say first leishev basukkah and afterwards shehecheyanu.”

QUESTION: When we make Kiddush the first night of Sukkot, why is the berachah of leishev basukkah recited first and then shehecheyanu, while on the second night the order is reversed?

ANSWER: Biblically, the Yom Tov of Sukkot is to be celebrated one day — the fifteenth of Tishrei. Rosh Chodesh — the new month — would be established by Beit Din on the testimony of witness who saw the new moon, and then messengers were dispatched to inform the public. The communities of Israel and the Diaspora that would not be reached by mid month, celebrated Yom Tov for two days out of doubt as to which day was the 15th. Though we now have a pre-calculated calendar, we continue the “custom of our parents” and observe Yom Tov two days.

A shehecheyanu is recited at a time of joy, e.g. a Yom Tov or over a mitzvah which is applicable only at a certain time during the year, e.g. shofar, reading megillah, etc. Since there was a time when a real doubt existed concerning which day was actually Yom Tov (the 15th of Tishrei) the berachah of shehecheyanu must be recited each night together with the Kiddush which ushers in the Yom Tov. A person cannot rely on the fact that he said it on the first night of Yom Tov since it is possible that it may not have been the fifteenth of Tishrei if the new month were established on the testimony of witness.

However, the Gemara (Sukkah 46a) says, “One who makes a sukkah for himself, says shehecheyanu. When he enters the sukkah during the Yom Tov to sit in it, he says the blessing of leishev basukkah.” Nowadays, we do not recite the shehecheyanu upon building the sukkah, rather it is done over the Kiddush cup.

Hence, on the first night the shehecheyanu is both for the Yom Tov and the sukkah, and therefore it is recited after we make the berachah of leishev basukkah. On the second night there is no longer a need to make a shehecheyanu over the sukkah, since even if the first night were not Yom Tov one is yotzi — has fulfilled the obligation — even if the shehecheyanu were made before Yom Tov upon completion of the erection of the sukkah. Therefore, since the shehecheyanu on the second night is only for the Yom Tov (in the event that the first night was not 15 Tishrei) and not for the mitzvah of sukkah, the shehecheyanu is recited immediately after the Kiddush.

(שו"ע סי' תרמ"א וסי' תרס"א)

"ביום ראשון מברך על נטילת לולב ושהחיינו, וביום שני אינו מברך זמן אא"כ חל יום ראשון בשבת."
“On the first day we recite the berachot al netilat lulav and shehecheyanu, on the second day shehecheyanu is not recited unless the first day was Shabbat.”

QUESTION: Why is shehecheyanu recited both nights in Kiddush and only the first day of Yom Tov for taking the lulav and etrog?

ANSWER: Yom Tov is a joyous occasion which comes from time to time, and thus a shehecheyanu must be recited. Since there is a doubt which day is actually Yom Tov (the 15th of Tishrei), it is recited both nights together with Kiddush.

Halachically, however, the shehecheyanu over the lulav may be made even before Yom Tov when one prepares (binds together the lulav with the species], but it has become traditional to make the berachah when the lulav is taken to fulfill the mitzvah (see Sukkah 46a, Shulchan Aruch 644, Magen Avraham). Thus, there is no need to make this berachah twice, since either way [even if the first day is a weekday and not Yom Tov] one fulfilled the obligation of reciting the shehecheyanu for the lulav.

(שו"ע סי' תרס"ב, מגן אברהם)

"אומרים תהלים בליל הושענא רבה אחר חצות"
“On Hoshana Rabbah after midnight, Tehillim is recited.”

QUESTION: Why necessarily after midnight?

ANSWER: According to the Zohar (Vayikra 103b) we welcome Ushpizin — guests — to our sukkah. These guests are Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aaron, Yosef and David. Each day of Sukkot another of these guests leads the others into the sukkah. Thus, Hoshana Rabbah, the seventh day, is the day of King David.

The Gemara (Berachot 3b) says that David did not sleep at night. Until midnight he would be involved in words of Torah; henceforth, he strengthened himself like a lion and occupied himself with singing and praises to Hashem. (When he would sleep, he would be careful to only doze off for less than 60 human respirations, see Sukkah 26b).

Since on Hoshana Rabbah David is the primary guest, and he compiled the Tehillim which contains the songs and praises he would say to Hashem after midnight, we too recite the Tehillim on Hoshana Rabbah after midnight.

(טעמי המנהגים בשם מחזה אברהם ועי' שו"ע אדמוה"ז מהדו"ק סי' ד' סעי' ט"ז)

"בהושענא רבה קודם הלל – מסירים שתי הכריכות אשר על הלולב"
“On Hoshana Rabbah, before Hallel, the two (top) rings are removed from the lulav.” (Sefer Haminhagim-Chabad)

QUESTION: Why necessarily these two rings?

ANSWER: In the Torah (Vayikra 23:40) the lulav is called “kapot temarim” — “branches of date palms.” The word “kapot” (כַּפֹת) can also be read as “kafut” (כָּפוּת) which means “tied up.” The Gemara (Sukkah 32a) derives that the leaves of the lulav must be fresh (soft) so that they can be tied to the lulav spine. Thus, to firmly tie the leaves to the spine it is customary to place two rings on the lulav itself (see Rav Shulchan Aruch 651:11).

Now, in the Torah, the word “kapot” is written without a vav (כַּפֹת). Since the letter vav has the numerical value of six, we take the lacking vav as an indication that the requirement of kafut — tied up — is an imperative only during the six days of Sukkot and not the seventh — Hoshana Rabbah.

(לבוש סי' תרס"ד סעי' א', ועי' לקו"ש ח"ד ע' 1368)

"יש נשים מעוברת שנוהגת ליטול הפיטום של האתרוג בהו"ר"
“Some pregnant women have a custom to bite off the pitom of the etrog on Hoshana Rabbah [after davening].”

QUESTION: What is the significance of this?

ANSWER: According to the Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 15:7) the forbidden fruit that Chavah ate and also gave to Adam was an etrog. As a punishment, from then on, she and all womanhood would have to suffer pain in childbirth.

The etrog is an edible tasty fruit and has a good aroma. The pitom, however, is a hard inedible piece of wood with no aroma. By biting off the pitom the woman is declaring that she disagrees with Chavah and wants absolutely no pleasure from the etrog.

The Gemara (Sotah 12a) says that righteous women of all generations were not affected by Chavah’s verdict that womankind should suffer pain in childbirth. Therefore, by disassociating herself from Chavah’s iniquity, she prays to Hashem that He grant her a childbirth without pain and complications.

(אוצר כל מנהגי ישרון בשם ספר זכירה ועי' בנטעי גבריאל פרק פ' ס"ז)

"שמחת תורה"
Simchat Torah

QUESTION: Simchat Torah literally means the Simchah of the Torah — is it our simchah or her simchah?

ANSWER: In Hebrew a son is called ben from the root of boneh — builder — because he continues to build that which his father started.

A very sad day in a person’s life is when he must sell a large thriving business to a stranger because his only son has no interest in continuing the business. Through our dancing and rejoicing we demonstrate our love for Torah and that it is very dear to us. Thus, Simchat Torah — Torah is immensely happy when she sees the cherish and love her children, the Jewish people, have for her.