The first mishna in the third chapter of masechet Sucka teaches us that a stolen Lulav is invalid for the mitzvah of “Arba Minim” (Four Species). The same halacha applies to the rest of the minim. The gemara explains that this halacha is learned from the verse in Parashat Emor: “You shall take for yourselves…” which is referring to the ‘Arba Minim’. The pasuk states that the minim must be for “yourselves” and not someone else’s.
The Tosfot on the spot (28B) asks an interesting question. Why does the gemara need a special pasuk as s source for this halcha if we already have a well established general ruling that any mitzvah which is done by means of an avera doesn’t count. This ruling is known as “mitzvah habaa bavera” and is used through out all of the Talmud. Why should the mitzvah of “Arba Minin” be any different than the rest of the mitzvoth that must be fulfilled using only the purest of means?
The Tosfot gives a learned answer to this quandery, but I would like to share with you an idea based on the answer given by the Chasidic Rov: the “Shem Meshmuel”, who was my Rosh Yeshiva’s grandfather. He explains that the mitzvah of “Arba Minin” does indeed need a special pasuk to disqualify a stolen set, and this is in order to show us the moral behind the mitzvah.
There is a famous midrash that compares the “Arba Minin” to the four different types of Jews. The Etrog which has taste and smell is compared to the Tzadikim who have Torah and good deeds. The Hadas (willow) which has smell but no taste is like those of us who do good deeds and but have no Torah. The Lulav has taste (dates) but no smell and is like those who think they are Tzadikim, because they have Torah, but when it comes down to reality they actually have no good deeds. And The Arava (myrtle) that has no smell and no taste is compared to those poor Jews who have no Torah and no good deeds. When we perform the mitzvah we hold all four minim together. The Halcha states that it isn’t enough just to hold them together but one must physically tie them to each other into one unit (In halchic terms this is called “egged” and it is why we use the “koisheclach”). The whole purpose of the mitzvah is to symbolize the importance of the unity of the people of Israel. Someone who goes ands steals “Arba Minin” is defying the very essence of the mitzvah. Hashem means to bring us together, yet he is causing more separation. That is what the Torah is trying to teach us by giving a special pasuk for the invalidation of a stolen arba minim.
That same famous midrash goes on to give another explanation to account for the four different minim. Each ‘min’ represents a different part of the human body. The Etrog is like the heart, the Lulav the spine, the Hadas the eye and the Arava like the mouth.
If we were to tie these two parables that the Midrash teaches us into one, we could understand the reason why unity is so important. Every Jew has a mission and responsibility which only he can fulfill, just like the different organs in our body. Only together in unity can we strive to accomplish our mutual goals and carry out the duties given to us as one nation chosen by Hashem.