Middle leaf split – how much is an issue?

The Shulchan Aruch describes the lulav as a branch with many double leaves, which are all attached – like twins. He then follows the Rishonim who rule that the halachos of the tiyomes is a reference to all – or most – of the twin leaves of the lulav. According to this understanding, there are no rules and regulations that apply specifically to the middle leaf, that we call tiyomes. However, the Rama quotes the opinion of others, who explain that theses halachos apply specifically to the middle leaf, known as the tiyomes.

Nechlika hatiyomes, the middle leaf being split, is definitely one of the most common issues that are found in a lulav. As mentioned, the Rama follows the Rishonim who explain that this is referring to the middle leaf.

There are many opinions as to how much of a split is a problem. The Rama (645:3) rules that it is only a problem if it is completely open all the way down to the shedra. The Gra adds that this is indeed the halacha, but the same will be true even if it is split just more than 50%, based on the halachic principle of rubo kikulo – most is akin to the whole thing. The Chazon Ish (145:1), however, writes that in extenuating circumstances, one can definitely use such a lulav, and possibly even lichatchila – and he even allows reciting a brocha.

The Rama adds that it is preferable to have a lulav that is completely closed, since there are those that hold that even a small split is a problem. How much of a split is he referring to?

The Taz posits that he doesn’t mean any tiny amount; he is only discussing a significant amount, which would be a tefach. Less than a tefach is a non-issue, and is still considered entirely closed according to all. The Chayei Adam takes issue with the Taz and rules that the Rama means that it should preferably be totally closed. He explains that the reason for these Rishonim is because once it is open a little it will definitely open more and it already has the halachic status of a completely open lulav.

Use of glue

There is an interesting question in the poskim if one can glue the lulav closed. Although one cannot glue a pitum that fell off, or the like, this may be better. According to the Chayei Adam, it is not split per se; it is just a concern that the split will grow. That being the case, why should one not be allowed to use glue, which is just to ensure that it doesn’t become split. Indeed, Rav Yisroel Yaakov Fisher, in his haskama to the sefer “Arba Minim Hashaleim,” as well as Rav Shlomo Zalman, allows the use of glue. Rav Shlomo Zalman proves this from the halacha of a shofar, where one can make use of glue to put together the broken pieces.

However, Rav Shneibalg, in his sefer Toras Daled Minim, quotes Rav Elyashiv, who points out that this is only true for a private person who wishes to solve the issue with glue. However, a seller cannot just put glue, without telling the potential buyer, because perhaps the buyer wants a lulav that is closed entirely, as some opinions hold that it must be. In addition, as mentioned, there are many cases that one cannot use glue, so it is not recommended for the sellers to start fixing lulavim with glue.

In summary, a lulav that has a middle leaf that is split is a problem and there are different opinions as to how much of a split is an issue. In addition, in some situations, one can use glue to keep the lulav from splitting more.

By Rabbi Nachum Scheiner

Rabbi Nachum Scheiner of Bais Medrash Ohr Chaim has been raising the bar of Torah learning with great success throughout the Monsey community. Rabbi Scheiner heads the Kollel Boker, the Evening Kollel, the Sunday morning Halacha Chabura, Yeshivas Bein Hazmanim, Yarchei Kallahs on legal Holidays, and the Friday morning Shovavim Learning.