The Music of Halacha: Succot: It’s Beautiful!
Orach Chaim 646: 9: If the top leaves of the Hadas, the myrtle branches, are not fresh but wilted and the rest are dry, one should be stringent on the first day of the festival, but one may use it on the second day (Mishna Berurah 646:27)
- Mishna Berurah 645:17: The disqualifications arising out of a split middle leaf of the Lulav is in effect only on the first two days of the festival.
- Orach Chaim 648:6: The esrog must be whole. If even the minutest part is missing it is invalid for the first two days.
TBShabbat 133b: One must strive for beauty in the performance of the commandments. This is derived from the verse in Exodus 15:2; “This is my God and I will adorn Him,” which is interpreted to teach “adorn yourself before Him in the fulfillment of mitzvoth.
The extra demands of beauty are essential to the fulfillment of the commandment only on the first day in Israel, and the first two days in the Diaspora.
The biblical commandment of the Four Species is only on the first day of Succot outside of the Temple. After the destruction, the Sages commanded us to observe the commandment all seven days “as if” we were standing in the Temple. Yet, when they instituted the extra days for the Four Species outside of the Temple, the Sages did not include the extra obligation of adornment.
When we fulfill the biblical Mitzvah we are stringent about the extra requirements of fulfilling the commandment with beauty. However, when we keep the Rabbinic obligation the beauty is not in the actual four species, but in the fact that we expanded the mitzvah beyond the confines of the Temple. The enhancement is our ability to keep the Temple alive by acting “as if” we were actually standing in the House of God.
There are times when we adorn a Mitzvah with the physical beauty of the object; we purchase the highest quality four species, we search for the most beautiful Tallit or Torah scroll. There is an element of adornment that is far more profound than the beauty of the object: The exquisiteness of the act. There is attraction in our expanding the Mitzvah. There is loveliness in our commitment to keep the memory of the Temple alive. There is splendor in a tradition that thrives in its creativity.