Mishna in Sukkah 4:3 describes the mitzvah of Aravah, which was performed in the temple by circling the mizbeach with willow branches. This mitzvah is not mentioned in any indexes of the 613 mitzvos. What is the origin and the logical explanation for this mitzvah?

It is presumed that any mitzvah not mentioned in the Torah (i.e. mitzvah that's not a chok) should have a logical explanation behind it.

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    @user17319 "It is presumed that any mitzvah not mentioned in the Torah (i.e. mitzvah that's not a chok) should have a logical explanation behind it." Why are you making this assumption? I do not see that being the case with מנהג נביאים or הלכה למשה מסיני which are both classified as rabbinic. Feb 24, 2022 at 16:00

3 Answers 3


Taanis 3a “Rav Yochanan said in the name of Nechunia man of the valley of the house of Churtan ...Arava...pouring of the water...are all Halachas for Moshe From Sinai”

  • This is a machlokes brought in Yerushalmi Shvi'is (Gemara following perek 1 halacha 5) - Rabbi Yochanan holds that it's halacha lemoshe miSinai, and Abba Shaul holds that it's deOraisa. If I understand the Gemara correctly over there, Abba Shaul learns from the wording "arvei nachal" in the pasuk, where arvei is plural smichut form of arava - mashma that there's two mitzvos of aravos, one with the arba'a minim and one by the mizbeach.
    – malkizedek
    Jun 21, 2022 at 19:52
  • Oh interesting. In Taanis the Ayin Mishpat brings down the Rambam on that quote so he assumedly paskens like R Yochanan Jun 21, 2022 at 23:07
  • From Sukka 44a it seems Rabbanan hold like rabbi Yochanan, so it's no pele that the Rambam paskens like them and against Abba Shaul.
    – malkizedek
    Jun 22, 2022 at 5:43

The Bartenura writes expressly that it is Halacha L'Moshe MiSinai:

יום שביעי של ערבה כו׳ דעבוד הכירא לדעת שהיא דאורייתא, כלומר הלכה למשה מסיני. ומשום האי הכירא תקון דשביעי שלה דוחה שבת במקדש, שבערבה היו מקיפים את המזבח. והאידנא אינה אלא מנהג נביאים שהנהיגו את העם ליטול ערבה בשביעי חוץ מערבה שבלולב, ואין מברכין עליה:

יום שביעי של ערבה כו' – for the sake of recognition to know that it is from the Torah, that is to say, a usage dating from Moses as delivered from Sinai (i.e., a traditional interpretation of a written law), and because of this recognition, it was established that its seventh [day] supersedes the Sabbath in the Temple, for with the willow, they would make a circuit around the altar. But today, it is not other than a custom of the Prophets that they directed the people to take the willow on the seventh day other than the willow in the Lulav, but we don’t make a blessing upon it.

However, when looking at Rambam in Mishna Torah, Hilchos Lulav 7:22 it writes:

וַעֲרָבָה זוֹ הוֹאִיל וְאֵינָהּ בְּפֵרוּשׁ בַּתּוֹרָה אֵין נוֹטְלִין אוֹתָהּ כָּל שִׁבְעַת יְמֵי הֶחָג

And since this [practice with the] willow is not explicit in the Torah, we do not lift it up all seven days of the festival

The Lechem Mishna there goes on to write your express question, wondering where exactly it comes from and questions whether it is to be viewed as a DeRabanan or Halacha leMoshe MiSinai. He concludes there:

ואין זו קושיא כלל דפי' הגמ' לדברי רבינו כך הוא אמאי מקלינן ביה אע''ג דהוי מדרבנן כיון דהוי הל''מ או רבוי א''כ יש להחמיר בו כדין תורה וכפי מה שהניח רבינו בשרשו דאע''ג דהוי דרבנן יש להחמיר בו כדין תורה:

So one should view it stringently as if it is an explicit halacha, since even though he (i.e. Rambam) views it as a derabanan, one should be strict like it is a law in the Torah.

  • It's hard to understand what Bartenura means here, as Rambam doesn't include Aravah in his list of 31 halachos leMoshe miSinai("HLM"). Does anyone disagree with the Rambam's list of HLM?
    – user17319
    Sep 24, 2021 at 14:53
  • @Tesov take a look here -sefaria.org/… will add to the answer when I have some time....
    – Dov
    Sep 24, 2021 at 15:30
  • @Tesov - I added it in. It would seem that Rambam clearly does not view it as HLM but rather a derabanan . However יש להחמיר בו כדין תורה
    – Dov
    Sep 24, 2021 at 15:57
  • So this question is asking: what is the source and the logical reason for this mitzvah derabanan if it's not HLM?
    – user17319
    Sep 24, 2021 at 19:11
  • "whether it is to be viewed as a DeRabanan or Halacha leMoshe MiSinai" this statement betrays some misunderstanding. HLM is itself classified as derabanan. It seems that perhaps this clause was mistranslated: אע''ג דהוי מדרבנן כיון דהוי הל''מ או רבוי which seems to me to be saying that you can either see it as being derabanan by virtue of it being HLM, or deoraitha by virtue of biblical hermeneutics (רבוי, i.e. from the plural usage of עַרְבֵי-נָחַל in Lev. 23:40). See the relevant sugya (Sukkah 44a). Feb 24, 2022 at 15:54

Vayikra 23:40 https://www.sefaria.org/Leviticus.23.40?lang=bi&aliyot=0

" וּלְקַחְתֶּ֨ם לָכֶ֜ם בַּיּ֣וֹם הָרִאשׁ֗וֹן פְּרִ֨י עֵ֤ץ הָדָר֙ כַּפֹּ֣ת תְּמָרִ֔ים וַעֲנַ֥ף עֵץ־עָבֹ֖ת וְעַרְבֵי־נָ֑חַל וּשְׂמַחְתֶּ֗ם לִפְנֵ֛י יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֖ם שִׁבְעַ֥ת יָמִֽים׃

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 the LORD your God seven days. "

  • This refers to the arava plant being part of the mitzvah of arba minim. The question relates to a different mitzvah of Aravah.
    – user17319
    Sep 24, 2021 at 18:49
  • Sorry about that.
    – Rafi Hecht
    Oct 17, 2021 at 20:08

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