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Shabbat Parashat Ha'azinu-Succot | 5769

Asking someone to be his shaliach (agent) to hold the arba minim

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Question: If a person is in a place where arba minim (lulav, etrog, etc.) are unavailable, can he fulfill his mitzva by asking someone to be his shaliach (agent) to hold the arba minim?

Answer: The mitzva of arba minim on Sukkot is a classic example of a mitzva sheb’gufo, a mitzva that devolves upon the body of the one who performs it, for which shelichut is ineffective (Tosafot Rid, Kiddushin 42b - see K’tzot Hachoshen 182:1). Thus, one must put the arba minim in his own hand. Likewise, one has to sit in a sukka himself and put tefillin on his body.

Follow-up Question: If anything that one needs to do with his body cannot be done by means of a shaliach, how can one make a shaliach to light Chanuka candles?

Follow-up Answer: We see you want us to get deeper into the lomdus (halachic analysis) of the concept and parameters of mitzva sheb’gufo. Firstly, we should admit that there is at least one opinion that when there are not enough arba minim to go around for a community, one person can hold it on behalf of the rest (Yad Hamelech, cited by Shut Chatam Sofer, Orach Chayim 182). This opinion is rejected, mainly because of the concept of davar sheb’gufo, as we explain further. Alternatively, the gemara (Sukka 41b) learns from the pasuku’lekachtem” (you [plural] should take) that every individual must take arba minim himself (see Chatam Sofer ibid.).

So, why does the Tosafot Rid consider arba minim a mitzva sheb’gufo, while lighting Chanuka candles is apparently not. The K’tzot Hachoshen (ibid.) makes the following distinction between various types of mitzvot in our regard. The main point of some mitzvot is to do an action. In such a case, we say that a shaliach’s action on another’s behalf relates to the meshale’ach (the one who asked him to do it), who fulfills his mitzva. Mitzvot whose fulfillment is m’meila (by itself) when a certain situation exists do not lend themselves to the transference principles of shelichut. One of his examples follows. It is true that if a shaliach attaches tefillin to someone’s head, we treat it as if the meshale’ach did the action. However, that is insufficient for fulfillment of the mitzva. If you were to put tefillin on your friend’s head, he would fulfill the mitzva, not you, for the fulfillment is in the tefillin being on one’s head. That is the case when a shaliach puts tefillin on his own head on your behalf. Although his action is like yours, his body remains his own, and the right action in the wrong place is of no value to you. The same is true with mitzva of arba minim, which requires them to be in your hand. (Mishneh Halachot III, 145 says that we know that the essence of arba minim is the situation, not the action, only from the limud of Sukka 41b).

One can distinguish this from the case of Chanuka candles in a couple ways. One way is to say that the main mitzva of Chanuka candles is the action of lighting (Mishneh Halachot, ibid.). However, your assumption is not exact. A shaliach cannot independently fulfill the mitzva of Chanuka lighting on your behalf; he must light the candles in your house (Minchat Shlomo II, 58). In that way, it is similar to someone else putting tefillin on your head, which works even for a mitzva sheb’gufo. (The difference is that Chanuka candles has an action element and thus requires a valid shelichut, whereas anyone may attach tefillin to your arm and head (see Har Tzvi, OC I, 23).)

A different formulation is found in Minchat Asher (Weiss), Bereishit 15. Rav Weiss distinguishes between a mitzva whose main purpose is the action, in which case a person must do it himself, and a mitzva whose main point is arriving at a result, in which case someone else can help him arrive at the result. (See there for further insight and distinctions, including treatment of “complex” mitzvot that include both elements).

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