Lulav versus Esrog

Erev Sukkos 5780 in Brroklyn, New York (Y. Boltshauser / Kuvien Images)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

“Daddy, Can I have your lulav and Esrog?”

The bas-Mitzvahed daughter has asked the question correctly on that first day of Sukkos.  She said the word “Have” – indicating that she knows the halacha of “lachem” that on the first two days of Sukkps the lulav and esrog have to belong to the person making the bracha – otherwise it is a non-fulfillment of the Mitzvah and a bracha levatalah.  But which one should she (or he) take first, halachically?  Should the lulav (et al) be taken first, or the esrog?

An unofficial survey revealed that when women perform the Mitzvah, they usually take the esrog first and then the lulav.  Yet when most men do it, they take the lulav first and then the esrog.  It is unclear, however, as to whether this is done by them as a halachic practice or just as a habit. [When bussing off the table and there is a set of unused silverware, men will more often bus it clean, while women will more often bus it dirty, but we digress].

What is the halacha?  The correct answer is that it is a machlokes – a debate in halacha.  Indeed, this author would like to suggest that originally, after the publication of the Sefer Mogain Avrohom, most of the Ashkenazic world followed the view that the Esrog goes first.  Only later, did the Ashkenazic world change.  But, let’s start at the beginning.


The Ramah in 651:12 writes that one takes the Lulav first. The Mishna Brurah (citing the Vilna Gaon) explains that since the wording of the bracha is on the lulav – it must be the closest thing to the bracha.  The Shaarei Teshuvah cites the view of the Machazik bracha who also states that one takes the lulav first and indicates that this view is the preferred method.


The Mogain Avrohom (651:8 citing a Mateh Moshe who cites a Shla) writes that one should first take the esrog and then the lulav.  When putting it away, he writes to put the lulav away first and then the esrog.  He compares it to Tefillin, where we first put on the shel yad, then the shel rosh and then we take off the shel rosh and then the shel yad.  It would seem that the comparison is based on the fact that the shel yad appears in the pasuk first and then the shel rosh.  By the same token, the esrog appears in the verse first and then the other minim.

“On the first day you shall take the product of hadar trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before Hashem..” Vayikrah 23:40


Rav Yechezkel Landau, of Prague in his Dagul Mervava, however, claims that this must be an error.  He attempts to disprove the assertion from the Gemorah in Menachos 36a – where the Gemorah asks how do we derive that when he removes the tefillin that the shel rosh comes first?  It seems that the fact that a special verse is required, and they shall be as frontlets – totafos – being plural at all times – shows that the go-to halacha would be to take off the first one first.  The Dagul Mervava also questions the first assertion that the Esrog is taken first in the first place.  He asks how could the Magain Avrohom have missed an explicit Rambam, Tosfos, Rosh and Tur – who all state that the Lulav is taken first?  The Chayei Odom (from Vilna and after the Shulchan Shlomo) in Siman 148 also attacks the Mogain Avrohom like the Dagul Mervava.

The original Shulchan Shlomo (of Vilna) (Mirkes) cites the halacha in accordance with the Mogain Avrohom.  Rav Yaakov Lorberbaum (athor of the Nesivos) in his Derech haChaim (101:5) also rules like the Mogain Avrohom. The Yad Ephraim and Machatzis HaShekel seem to rule like him as well.

The Sdei Chemed cites the Chida as indicating like the view of the Dagul Mervavah, but it seems that elsewhere th Chida writes explicitly like the view of the Mogain Avrohom (in his Sefer Tov Ayin).


In defense of the Magain Avrohom, the Sefer Zichron Sofrim (a contemporary work often based on various writings of the Chasam Sofer) writes that the Mateh Moshe connects and correlates the 4 minim to the 4 parshios in the Tefillin – that there is a spiritual connection between the two Mitzvos. Therefore, one is learned out from the other. [This fits nicely with Gemorah in Sukkah 38a where the lulav is the arrow in the eye of the Satan, derived the same vere that refers to the Tefillin shel Rosh].  The Aishel Avrohom and the Chasam Sopher both defend the view of the Mogain Avrohom as well.


It is interesting to note that both the Mishna Brurah and the Rav Shulchan Aruch leave out the view of the Mogain Avrohom.  It could be that there were two other factors that swayed their decisions.  Firstly, the Lulav has three of 4 minim bound together – which may give them greater weight. Secondly, since the right hand has greater weight than the left hand – this would also apply to Mitzvos of the right hand.  Since the Lulav is taken in the right hand, it would have precedence.  It could very well be that the Mishna Brurah utilized these two factors to set aside the order of the Pasuk issue (See Nezirus SHimshom and Sdei Chemed cited in the Kuntrus Acharon of the Mateh Ephraim).


Perhaps one could say that Rav Landau is of the opinion that one cannot derive the law of the 4 minim from Tefillin because in Tefillin, there are two separate Mitzvos – while in the 4 minim – they are all one Mitzvah – so the order in the psukim wouldn’t count.  The Mogain Avrohom would hold either that there is a spiritual connection – therefore one could derive one from the other or that one may derive the internal order of the elements of one Mitzvah from the external order two Mitzvos.

An alternative approach lies in how one understands the Mitzvah of the 4 minim.  Is it the taking of the 4 minim or the holding of the 4 minim?  The Binyan Shlomo (Siman 48) cites the view of Rav Yisroel Salanter [the founder of the Mussar Movement], that the Mitzvah lies in the former – the initial taking of the 4 minim.  The Chazon Ish and the Netziv are of the opinion that the Mitzvah lies in the latter – the holding of the 4 minim.  The Mogain Avrohom would be of the opinion that the order in the verses have great weight – since that is where the Mitzvah lies.  On the other hand, the Dagul Mervavah would hold that the order is only when there is a Mitzvah being fulfilled, but since the Mitzvah is only in the holding of the 4 minim – we would sooner give weight to the wording of the bracha.

A third approach is like we suggested before.  The Lulav has three minim bound together.  What has precedence the order of the pasuk or the fact that there are more weighty Mitzvos or the order found in the Pasuk?  The Mogain Avrohom would give more weight to the order, while the Dagul Mervava would give more weight to the Mitzvos.

A fourth approach is that the issue is strictly a matter of kavod habracha (like the Vilna Gaon writes), honor to the blessing.  Since the blessing was established on the Lulav – that is the one that should be taken first, according to the Dagul Mervava.  The Mogain Avrohom would hold that the order of the pasuk has precedence.


Rav Elyashiv followed the view of the Mishna Brurah strictly, and took the Lulav first (Ish al HaAida page 21).  This was also what the Steipler did as well as Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach.


If we assume that most people are unaware of the halachic aspects of the issue, and if we assume that our initial statistics are correct that women more often than not take the esrog first – why would this be?  Perhaps the answer to this is similar to what some Chassidim explain is the order that Moshe Rabbeinu himself took the esrog first.  The esrog alludes to the heart.  Moshe Rabbeinu wished to capture the heart of the people first.  By the same token, women are usually more attentive to the emotional aspects of things.  Perhaps, subconsciously, this is the reason that they may reach for the esrog first.

The author can be reached at [email protected]