As Sukkos rapidly approaches, Rabbanim in Chicago have released a letter calling on the community to be vigilant in checking that the hadassim purchased for the mitzvah of arbaah minim conform to the standards of kashrus advertized on the packages.
The initiative is largely the result of efforts made by Rabbi Yosef Posner of Chabad Lubavitch of the Chicago suburb of Skokie. Last year he was inspecting sets of arbaah minim that had been returned to his shul after Yom Tov and realized that among them were many hadassim that did not meet the minimum standards of halachah.
“When I saw so many that were substandard, I started to look at leftover packages and realized that a lot of what was being sold was not up to par,” he told Hamodia.
Rabbi Posner brought the issue to the attention of several of the community’s Rabbanim. After verifying the problem, a letter was written and signed by Harav Shmuel Fuerst, Dayan, Agudath Israel, and Harav Yonah Reiss, Av Beis Din of the Chicago Rabbinical Council, publicizing the issue.
“I think that this year will be much better,” said Rabbi Posner. “Last year a lot of the hadassim did not come from Eretz Yisrael, but from Spain and Morocco, where I tend to think they are not watched as closely. Most importantly, since the letter was released, sellers have let their distributers know that people will be checking more carefully and that they should be careful to send us acceptable hadassim.”
He said that his research showed that many of the hadassim that claimed to be “kasher l’vrachah,” the lowest level of kashrus on the market, were passul (unfit) by all halachic standards, and that many higher-grade packages were on a lower level than advertizing claimed.
“People buy packages and they assume that they’re good, but it’s a shame to pay so much for an esrog and not have kosher hadassim; all the minim are me’akev [necessary for the fulfillment of the mitzvah],” said Rabbi Posner. “It all comes from overseas and is shipped through New York. The problems exist in other places as well and we hope to create a ripple effect around the country.”
The three hadassim, myrtle branches, that must be taken together with the esrog, lulav, and aravos, are required to be “meshulash,” meaning that the small green leaves that cover the branch should grow in sets of three. The tripled rings of leaves should ideally cover the entire branch, but must minimally be on the majority of the hadas. The length of the branch must be at least 3 tefachim, which is between 9.6 and 12 inches, depending on what opinion is followed.
Rabbi Reiss told Hamodia that he and other Rabbanim in the community have been working to raise awareness of the appropriate standards of kashrus for hadassim and to encourage the community to carefully inspect what they buy.
“Everyone needs to do their part in seeing that Yidden are able to perform the mitzvah of daled minim properly, and the mochrim [sellers] deserve a great deal of credit for their work to see that distributors send appropriate products,” he said.