His and Hers Lulavim

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

While women are exempt from most seasonal obligations (as opposed to prohibitions), they retain the option to perform them. In the Ashkenazic tradition, women are also able to recite the blessing (despite its inclusion of the phrase “Who commanded us”) and have generally tried hard to hear the shofar on Rosh Hashanah and shake a lulav on Sukkos. It is this latter mitzvah that raises a complex problem based on a detail in the obligation and an aspect of Jewish family law. We will explore this dilemma before I ask readers to let us know about their personal pactices.

I. Owning a Lulav

On the first (two) day(s) of Sukkos, you must own your own lulav in order to fulfill the obligation. It must be “lakhem – yours” and a borrowed lulav is insufficient. The only option for someone lacking his own is to acquire a lulav as a gift, generally given on explicit condition of return (matanah al menas le-hachazir). This requirement only applies at the beginning of the holiday and not subsequent days. On the first day(s), however, if you do not properly own the lulav then you cannot fulfill the obligation and may not recite the blessing on it.

With a husband and wife, things get a little more complicated. An ancient enactment determined that a husband owns (almost) all money in a marriage but is obligated to provide for the wife’s needs. This simplifies the management of the marital assets and protects women. Couples can also opt out of the enactment at any time, in which case the wife and husband each own whatever they earn and neither is obligated to support the other (Shulchan Arukh, Even Ha-Ezer 69). To my knowledge, even progressive Orthodox couples do not officially opt out of the enactment because you can easily go about your lives as equal spouses by having the husband give, often implicitly, his wife blanket access to marital assets.

When it comes to a lulav, however, an ownership issue arises. If anything that either spouse buys automatically belongs to the husband (mah she-kansah ishah kanah ba’alah), how can a wife own a lulav on which to recite a blessing on the first day(s)? If she buys it, it’s his.

II. A Husband’s Gift

Based on the above, R. Ya’akov Ettlinger (Bikurei Ya’akov 657:5) ruled that a husband must give his wife a lulav as a gift on condition that she return it. In this way, it belongs entirely to her until she returns it (cf. Shulchan Arukh, Even Ha-Ezer 85:7). I looked but have not yet found any authority to disagree with R. Ettlinger.

However, I’ve never seen or heard of this being done. What I’ve always seen (or heard) is that fathers give their lulav to their adult daughters as gifts on condition of return but not their wives. I asked two local rabbis about this. One said that of course he does this because he saw his father do it. The other said that no one does it. (The former learned in YU and the latter in Lakewood.) What follows are a few attempts to explain/justify the practice of wives using their husbands’ lulav.

III. Explaining Current Practice

1. Ishto ke-gufo

There is a general concept that a husband and wife are considered one entity. While it seems obvious that if a wife’s actions count for the husband then the vice versa should apply, it isn’t necessarily so. R. Yosef Engel (Beis Ha-Otzar sv. ishto ke-gufo) struggles to prove or disprove that ba’alah ke-gufah with inconclusive results. While the Or Ha-Chaim (Lev. 20:9) clearly held that way, there are other indications to the contrary. I wouldn’t hang my hat on this concept without stronger backing.

2. Learn from Matzah

Based on a comparison of matzah with challah, the Talmud (Pesachim 38a) seems to require a person to eat on Pesach matzah that he owns. Therefore, the Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chaim 554:4) rules that you cannot fulfill your obligation with stolen matzah. While some authorities dispute exactly how much, if any, ownership is required (cf. Sha’agas Aryeh nos. 94-95; Mekor Chaim 554:1), the Yad Ha-Melekh (Hilkhos Chametz U-Matzah 6:7) writes that according to those who insist on full ownership a host must give matzah as an explicit gift to each guest and household member. Otherwise, they will be unable to fulfill the mitzvah because they do not own what they are eating. Except for the host’s wife. The Yad Ha-Melekh writes that it is a “distant and strange thing” for a husband to give matzah to his wife as a gift for her to own in order to fulfill the mitzvah. This same attitude presumably applies to lulav. However, the Yad Ha-Melekh fails to provide a halakhic basis for his statement.

3. Implied Gift

A man effects a marriage by giving his bride an item from his possessions, generally but not necessarily a ring. It is crucial that the man initially own the ring. Otherwise, the marriage is not valid. The Shulchan Arukh (Even Ha-Ezer 28:17) rules that a man who takes an item from someone else without permission that the original owner does not mind his taking and then uses it to marry a woman, the marriage is valid. The Noda Bi-Yehudah (vol. 1 Even Ha-Ezer no. 58) explains that because the original owner did not mind if someone took the object, he implicitly declared it ownerless, hefker. Therefore, when the groom took the item he acquired it and was able to use it to marry his bride. The Avnei Milu’im (28:49), however, explains that when the groom lifts the item, the original owner implicitly gifts it to him.

Based on this Avnei Milu’im, we can suggest that a husband implicitly gifts to his wife many items. Particularly when she needs an object to fulfill a mitzvah, we are safe to assume that her husband gives to her any reasonable required item. This can explain why the lulav she lifts and matzah she eats belong to her without any explicit gift. The gift is implied.

Perhaps this can also explain how a woman gives tzedakah, an annual obligation she must fulfill. If she does not technically own her and her husband’s earnings, what money does she have to give away? Young women may have money they bring into the marriage but that does not last forever. Some women earn more than their expenses and retain that extra money (mosar ma’aseh yadeha) but many, perhaps most, do not. The Gemara (Bava Kamma 118a) states that charity collectors may only accept small donations from women, although “small” depends on each family’s financial situation. Perhaps this is based on the concept of implied gift. A husband does not object to his wife performing a mitzvah with a reasonable cost, and therefore implicitly gifts her the money. However, the Yam Shel Shlomo (Bava Kamma ch. 10 no. 59) quotes the Rosh and Tur as saying that the wife gives charity as an apotropus, a messenger or administrator, for her husband. Further study is required to determine if others disagree.

4. Partnership

In years past, when lulavim were scarce in particular locales, communities would purchase a single set and each individual would take a turn shaking it. How could they do this, if everyone must own a lulav for himself? The Rashba (Responsa 1:62 – link) explains that when a group buys a lulav for the mitzvah, they include an implicit condition that when one person uses it, everyone else make him the sole owner at that time on condition that he return it to the group (cf. Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 658:9). Similarly, perhaps we can assume that when a man buys a lulav, he implicitly plans on giving it to his wife when she takes it.

IV. Conclusions

I’m not sure if any of these explanations is sufficient. As always, ask your rabbi. However, I would appreciate readers telling me what they do. Do the wives in their family acquire the lulav explicitly or merely use their husbands without comment? Or do they have their own?

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student has served two terms on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and currently serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

27 comments

  1. In my family we’ve had, for many years already, a number of lulavim; one for me, one for my wife and one (or maybe two) for my daughter(s), depending on who’s home. My family is not alone in that in my shul; there are always a number of lulavim on the women’s side of the mechitzah — not many, but always some.

  2. Tzedaka is a good example, except that it isn’t al menat lehachazir. I give my lulav to my wife without saying anything. In general our arrangement is sheli shelach, shelach sheli.
    BTW an example of gufo kegufa is that the husband can say hattarat nedarim for the wife before rosh hashana.

  3. I give the lulav to my wife as a matana al menat lehachzir. I thought that was obvious. Maybe because she also has a serious Torah education. I assume that when our kids are older and she can go to shul for hallel, she will have her own, like my sons and daughters.

  4. Ilana Elzufon

    My husband gives me the lulav as a matana al m’nat lehachzir. (I always bought my own lulav when I was single, but never when married.)

  5. ishto Kgufo – the famous K hadimyon question. Is there a consistency in chazal’s use (kilu as well) or is it case by case. if the latter – why weren’t chazal more specific in their use of language?
    KT

  6. R’JR-How can the usage be consistent if there are at least six usages for the K-prefix;as, like, when, at, about, according to. If there is ambiguity as to which meaning is used, that is where the mefarshim come in. Is k’gufo “as himself” or “like himself”? In this case I don’t see a big nafka mina,since in the lulav question we aren’t talking about shlichut but about ownership. We go back to the question of whether in halacha a husband and wife can own something in a partnership, and whether the lulav would be considered both shelcha and shelach.

  7. Not sure why you think most husbands don’t give their wives – ע”מ להחזיר- i thought everyone does!

  8. Isn’t the better question on if the husband can give his wife a gift that isn’t his in the big picture? or to rephrase, while the husband and wife can opt out, (that implies requirements to each others), is their any evidence elsewhere that they can opt out on only one thing with no quid pro quo?

    anyways, shul I grew up in was always said that that the father had to give it to the mother as a matana al manat le-hachazir.

    I’ve heard of people doing this with non adult children as well, and a standard questions is at what age would they have daat to give it back, but that’s a weird question, because they can’t be koneh anything for themselves in the first place under any condition afaik.

    sometimes I think this is all pilpul and we’ve logiced ourselves into confusion.

  9. In Israel arba minim are very inexpensive (mehudar sets can be purchased for as low as $22; kosher sets can go for $15). Therefore, in my community, it is not uncommon for wives to purchase their own arba minim. In my family, as in many others, we also buy all the kids (boys and girls) arba minim from around the age of 7-8 (when they can daven properly).

  10. “In my family, as in many others, we also buy all the kids (boys and girls) arba minim from around the age of 7-8 (when they can daven properly).”

    In my community it also seems that every boy over the age of 7 has a lulav and etrog. (Not the case with girls although some do have.) I was discussing this with someone and mentioned that the very first time I had my own lulav and etrog was when I was in law school, which was the first time I was not home throughout Succot. I think the same was true for my brother (make that Harvard Grad School rather than law school for him), but he can correct me if I’m wrong.

    A similar generational change exists, I think, with succot. I don’t know a single Orthodox family in Teaneck which doesn’t have a succah. When I was growing up (in a very MO community for that time), many families in our shul did not have succot and either ate, or only made kiddush and hamotzi, in the shul succah.

  11. Shachar Ha'amim

    I don’t think it is so simple to assume that according to Halacha there is a presumption of partnership in a marriage.
    I note the opposition of the Israeli Batei Din to Aron Barak’s ruling that the Batei Din were obligated to the secular common law’s presumption of partnership with respect to division of assets between a married couple. WHile some of this opposition is 1) hesitation to accept the rule of the high court under the view that the HCJ overstepped its legal bounds of authority with respect to the batei din and/or 2) politically based; my understanding is that there are also some halachic grounds for refusing to accept this presumption

  12. A partnership doesn’t help because the lulav of a partnership is invalid for BOTH partners.

    Buying for the wife doesn’t necessarily help because mah she-kansah ishah kanah ba’alah. The husband has to buy it and give it to his wife as a gift.

    Yes, a matanah works. They can opt out on this one thing. See Even HaEzer 85:7.

  13. Joseph Kaplan wrote in part:

    “In my community it also seems that every boy over the age of 7 has a lulav and etrog. (Not the case with girls although some do have.) I was discussing this with someone and mentioned that the very first time I had my own lulav and etrog was when I was in law school, which was the first time I was not home throughout Succot. I think the same was true for my brother (make that Harvard Grad School rather than law school for him), but he can correct me if I’m wrong.

    A similar generational change exists, I think, with succot. I don’t know a single Orthodox family in Teaneck which doesn’t have a succah. When I was growing up (in a very MO community for that time), many families in our shul did not have succot and either ate, or only made kiddush and hamotzi, in the shul succah.”

    This is an example of how our individual and communal levels of observance have increased since the mid 1960s. MO haven’t been afraid of displaying such outward manifestations of Shmiras HaMitzvos such as Arbaah Minim and Yeshivas Sukkah since the mid 1960s which were marked by increased ethnic pride as well as the huge positive sense of self worth accomplished in American Jewry by the still amazing results of the Six Day War.

  14. All I can say is thank G-d that Gil is not Hareidi or this entire issue would have been dismissed as another Hareidi Humrah deserving of ridicule and not worthy of anyone’s time. Instead, wonder of wonders, none less than Joseph Kaplan actually practices this Humrah [although I wonder if that may be due to other reasons] and now we discover that this is not uncommon in Israel either [although I’ve never seen it in the five years I lived there]

  15. I mention a story attributed to R YCZ of yerusholaim. A poor young man came to him with a very nice etrog which must have costed a lot. He pronounced it posul. The reason, its a mitsva to buy your wife new clothes for yom tov not a nice etrog so the money was not ‘correct’.
    On a practical note, a wife has to take her rings off when making the brocho. It also has to be held in the correct hand the whole time, even during hallel and hoshanos. An ovel should not be going round but this is not kept by chasidim (i.e. the two rebbes who recently lost their mother). But lately even by other rabbonim. He should be giving it to someone else to go round with. I think the same applies to a sefer torah during hakafos, if you dont go round yourself you should not be standing on the ‘sidelines’ just watching but give it to someone else.
    ‘Leining’ by night with a brocho is against R J Ettlinger. But no one seems to keep it.
    Big kiddushim before mussaf even if one does not delay the mussaf are against the halacha and again not kept, and mussaf is usually delayed till late. Although on yom kipur they are machmir like the shulchan oruch a siman with only this single halacha.

  16. Joseph Kaplan

    Mark, your suspicions are correct; I don’t think I’ve ever seen my name and the word “cumrah” in teh same sentence. 🙂

  17. Joseph Kaplan wrote in part:

    “I don’t think I’ve ever seen my name and the word “cumrah” in teh same sentence”

    Believe it or not, I suspect that we all observe more chumros, which can be traced back to and defined by the Tannaim , Amoraim,and Rishonim as opposed to the so-called 21st notion of what is a chumra, than we are actually are aware of in our daily lives. One need only think about, let alone learn in even a superficial manner such Mitzvos as Tekias Shofar, the intricate halachos of Arbaah Minim, Sukkah, Channukah, Birkas HaMazon and Hilcos Midah amd one will discover many Chumros that we adhere to without raising an eyebrow.

  18. Joseph Kaplan-
    On the Chumrah subject, since your name has just been mentioned in connection with it, can you (or anyone else) formulate a reply to the challenge that People who care about G-d’s law observe Chumrot, and those who do not observe Chumrot care less about it?

  19. phineasgage wrote in response to
    Joseph Kaplan: “On the Chumrah subject, since your name has just been mentioned in connection with it, can you (or anyone else) formulate a reply to the challenge that People who care about G-d’s law observe Chumrot, and those who do not observe Chumrot care less about it?”

    There is a well known hashkafic POV expressed in the Rishonim in RH and elsewhere that observance of chumros is indeed a way of showing that one observes mitzvos as a means of Ahavas HaShem and that chumros, especially during Ymei HaRatzon bHarachamim are a very important and proper means of demonstrating one’s Ahavas HaShem.

  20. Doron Beckerman

    See Halichos Shlomo Succos, Chapter 11, sections 10 and 11; Orchos Halachah there no. 34 and 36, and Dvar Halachah there note 16.

  21. Saul Mashbaum

    As others here, I always give my lulav to my wife and daughters
    as a matana al m’nat l’hachzir.

    The status of teenage children fully supported by their
    parents is halachically complex, partly similar to that of
    the wife in the family. The extent of their independent ownership
    of property, necessary to fulfill some mitzvot, prominently mitzvat
    arba minim, is not clear; the father of the family may in fact
    halachicly own things in their possession. Indeed, if a teenager
    has his or her “own” arba minim, perhaps the father should give it to him as a matana (shelo al m’nat l’hachzir), in order to firmly establish the teenager’s ownership of the arba minim.

    Nitpick: not everywhere does the requirement to personally own the arba minim extend to both of the first two days of Succot; note where about half of the respondents on this subject live.

  22. About chumras- A standard comment of poskim when they pasken ikkar ha din is “aval hamachmir tavo alav habracha”. On the other hand I have never heard it said ” hameikel tavo alav habracha”.

  23. David Tzohar-What one is very common is a statement of many Poskim to the effect “VhaMeikil Yesh Al Lismoch Alav Vain Mochin”, which can find in many of the sefarim of the Piskei Halacha of RSZA. See especially Oro Shel Olam where it is clearly documented that RSZA was not enamored with the larger shiurim and such similar chumros.

  24. Great post! I was wondering about this exact topic on the first day of yom tov.
    My wife and I switched esrog boxes (by mistake) and I was wondering what the affect of that, if any, was.

  25. I use my husband’s as a matana al menat lehachzir.

    In practical terms my marriage and most marriages I see around me work on a foundation of complete financial partnership. Just as all of the wife’s assets belong to her husband, the husband’s assets all belong to his wife. This is the reality today of how I – and my friends – live our lives. We view and behave this way.

    I have heard a rabbi teach a class to a group of girls at Bar Ilan University’s midrasha saying how terrible and un-halachic this is. But this is the mindset and behavior among all young halacha-observant couples I know. Is there a halachic framework we can fit this in? (and yes, I know lots of people don’t like these kinds of questions. But when lots of frum people do something and take it as a matter of course, it’s a good idea to see why and how this works in halachic terms, right?)

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter


The latest weekly digest is also available by clicking here.

Subscribe to our Daily Newsletter

Archives

Categories

%d bloggers like this: