(By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times)
“Psst.. Hey Buddy, wanna buy some Arba Minim? I got Lulavs, Esrogs, and some good Hadassim for you..”
Watchout, however, you may be purchasing something that Chazal call, “Fools’ Hadassim.”
Most people know that the nickname for Iron Pyrite is “Fools’ Gold.” Few people, however, know that there are non-kosher Hadassim out there called “Fools’ Hadassim” or rather, in the Hebrew – “Hadas Shoteh.”
It is one of the scandals having to do with the Haddasim that has not really been adequately addressed. When “photocopied Mezuzos” were being sold at Jewish Seforim stores and Judaica shops – the Sofrim and Rabbonim got together and pulled the plug on it. When falsified kosher certifications were printed on non-kosher cheese in Canada this past summer – the Canadian authorities were able to find it and stop it.
Yet for some reason, the non-triple leaved Haddasim scam has never really been fully revealed or addressed. By the way, the Hadas or myrtle is a woody, evergreen plant with essential oils that is indigenous to the Mediterranean area.
What is the Hadassim scam? It is a fact that is only whispered among Talmidei Chachomim, but many, many of the Hadassim that are sold are not kosher – and never were. Most of the haddasim being sold are unkosher, because they do not fit the halachic requirement of Meshulashim – three leaves emerging from the same circumference of the twig. Indeed, even some of the pre-packaged Hadassim with a hechsher from a BaDaTz are invalid and in these cases it is almost impossible to check them because the packages are closed and cannot be inspected.
The Gemorah in Sukkah 32b explains that the word “avos” used to describe the hadas plant means that the leaves are braided. In order for something to be considered braided – three strands are required.
TWO POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS
What needs to be done is that the Judaica stores who sell the haddasim (and of late the makeshift street-corner Arba Minim dealers) should inform the consumer that the majority of hadassim are actually non-kosher. Either that or they should stop selling the problematic ones altogether.
THE THREE, OR FOUR VIOLATIONS
There are actually three or four areas in which halacha is being violated. Firstly, the innocent people who are buying the Arba Minim with haddasim that are posul are not fulfilling the Mitzvah of Arbah Minim. They could be spending $150 on an esrog only to find that they did not fulfill the Mitzvah at all since the hadassim were posul.
The second violation is that of Bracha Levatalah. Those people with haddassim that are not meshulash – are reciting blessings incorrectly.
The third violation is that of Lifnei Iver – putting a stumbling block before the blind.
And finally, the fourth possible violation: Many Rishonim are of the opinion that a non-triple-leaved Hadas is actually considered a different halachic genus. If that is the case than there is also a violation of Bal Tosif – the prohibition of adding onto the Torah. This violation would even be violated if someone had merely added one extra Hadas to three fully kosher ones. Other Rishonim hold that the violation involved in using a Hadas Shoteh – Fools’ Hadas is not that it is a different halachic species or genus – it is that it is not Hadar – beautiful.
As far as the question as to how it is possible for the Fools’ Hadas to be considered a different genus, the Mishnas Yaavetz explains that it is in fact, possible, for two different geus to emerge from the same mother. There is also the idea that sometimes a male offspring is permitted while a female offspring would be forbidden.
Below is a picture drawn by the author of three types of haddasim leaves that come together. There are three levels of leaves in the illustration. Level b is considered meshulash according to all rishonim (See Tur 646). Level a is considered meshulash according to some rishonim (Tosfos Sukkah 32b t’lasa). Level c is completely non-kosher.
The Ran’s opinion is that the entire hadas must be meshulash. Ideally, the Shaar HaTziyun says we should follow this view. However, the Shulchan Aruch 646:5 states that if the majority of the hadas is meshulash – the hadas is kosher bdieved. According to the simple understanding of this halacha, since the Hadas must be three handbreadths, the majority of the Hadas must be greater than 1.5 handbreadths to be kosher.
HOW MUCH IN PRACTICAL TERMS?
In practical terms, according to Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l there must be 5.4 inches of meshulash Hadas. According to the Chazon Ish, there must be 6 inches and according to Rav Chaim Na’eh zt”l, there must be 5 inches.
DO THE 5.4 INCHES OF MESHULASH NEED TO BE CONSECUTIVE?
The ruling of the acharonim is that the area that is meshulash – does not need to be consecutive – as long as it constitutes the total majority of the Hadas (See PMG MZ 646:9 and Shulchan Aruch Haav #3). Some acharonim even imply that it is kosher even if the Hadas is bigger than 3 Tefachim and the meshulash area is only slightly more than 1.5 handbreadths (See Bikkurei Yaakov #14). The Mishna Brurah is concerned, however, for the first view.
IS THE MAJORITY CALCULATED BY INCHES OR BY NUMBER OF LEAF LEVELS?
We mentioned earlier that according to the simple understanding of the halacha one would need to have more than 1.5 handbreadths for the Hadas to be kosher. Indeed, this is the way the Chazon Ish indicates that the halacha may be.
There is, however, a possibility that we do not calculate Meshulash by mere distance, but rather by the number of leaf levels. That’s right, when it says majority of the Hadas – it could mean that out of 29 leaf levels, only 15 of them need to be Meshulash, and since the leaf levels are shorter and thus more numerous toward the top of the Hadas – maybe we have a majority of leaf levels. The Rav Shulchan Aruch clearly implies that a majority of the number of leaf levels is how we calculate the requirement of Meshulash. Those that follow Lubavitch custom can calculate with number of leaf levels. If you happen to have purchased a semi-problematic set of Haddasim, then ask your Rav.
There are other halachos that may render a Hadas invalid, such as the top wood missing or if it is too dried out and withered. There is even a problem of a grafted Hadas, if one knows clearly that it was grafted. This article dealt solely with the concept of Meshulash.
The author can be reached at [email protected]
(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)