7

On Sukkot, we shake the Arba Minim. But

ארבע = four

מינים = heretics

Why do we shake four heretics on Sukkot? And furthermore, what heretics are you supposed to shake? Sadducees and Cuthites? This has really been on my mind recently.

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6

This is in fulfillment of numerous Biblical verses that imply that the wicked will be shaken.

For example, Job (38:12)

לֶאֱחֹז, בְּכַנְפוֹת הָאָרֶץ; וְיִנָּעֲרוּ רְשָׁעִים מִמֶּנָּה

That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it.

Furthermore, Psalms (112:5-6) states that specifically the righteous shall not be shaken; implying that the wicked will be shaken.

טוֹב-אִישׁ, חוֹנֵן וּמַלְוֶה; יְכַלְכֵּל דְּבָרָיו בְּמִשְׁפָּט: כִּי-לְעוֹלָם לֹא-יִמּוֹט

Well is it with the man that dealeth graciously and lendeth, that ordereth his affairs rightfully. For he shall never be shaken. (Trans. Mechon Mamre).

In a similar vein, see Proverbs (10:30).

Additionally, Isaiah (13:13) states that God will shake the heavens and the Earth as punishment:

עַל-כֵּן שָׁמַיִם אַרְגִּיז, וְתִרְעַשׁ הָאָרֶץ מִמְּקוֹמָהּ--בְּעֶבְרַת ה' צְבָאוֹת, וּבְיוֹם חֲרוֹן אַפּוֹ.

Therefore I will make the heavens to tremble, and the earth shall be shaken out of her place, for the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and for the day of His fierce anger.

From context (ibid 9), it appears that these punishments are specifically for the wicked:

וְחַטָּאֶיהָ יַשְׁמִיד מִמֶּנָּה

And to destroy the sinners thereof out of it.

See also Radak thereon.


So we see that we shake the wicked just as God shakes the wicked. However, the question remains, which heretics are considered the wicked who must be punished. It appears that these are the people about whom we are commanded to "lower [to their doom] and not save" (Avodah Zara 26b). This appears to refer particularly to those who betray their fellow Jews to gentile authorities (cf. Hilkhot Hovel UMazik 8:10) and to idolaters and those who sin to anger God (cf. Hilkhot Rotseah 4:14).

  • I've never been clear on this -- am I supposed to shake any four heretics I happen to have access to, or do I need one from each category, or what? – Monica Cellio Feb 26 '17 at 19:16
  • B'diavad shake any heretics you can get your hands on. Optimally, shake them all together. – mevaqesh Feb 26 '17 at 19:20
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Once Yom Kippur passes and our repentance was accepted, we do everything in our power to get rid of any heretics that did not repent. Thus we combine them all together and shake them to wake them up and tell them there is still time to repent, it is never too late.

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