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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Hiddur Mitzva

Rav Zevin Zt"l writes in his book "Ishim VeShitot" a story about Rav Chaim Brisker Zt"l:

Rav Chaim acquired 2 etrogim for Sukkot. One was from Eretz Israel, kosher, but not mehudar. The second was from Korpo, it was mehudar, but there was a safek as to whether it was murkav or not. Rav Chaim pondered which to use for the mitzva and tested his students using his dilemma. At first it seems that we should take the vadai kosher etrog from Eretz Israel and only then take the mehudar etrog since the hidur is secondary to the mitzva itself. Rav Chaim said the opposite in the name of his father. You should first take the mehudar one and then the definitely kosher one. If the first etrog is kosher, then he fulfilled the mitzva with hiddur and if the first one is pasul, then he still fulfilled the mitzva with the second etrog. If he first takes the kosher etrog then he will definitely not fulfill the mitzva with hiddur. Once he fulfilled the mitzva with the first etrog, he can not fulfill it again.

There is a general question among the rishonim, as to whether the din of hiddur in an etrog is its own command or is it a component of the mitzva of arba minim. It seems from this story that Rav Chaim held that hiddur is a component of the mitzva, otherwise you can still fulfill the mitzva of hiddur after you have fulfilled the obligation of arba minim.

Hiddur mitzva actually applies to all of the commandments. It teaches us that it is not enough to perform the mitzvas in a technical fashion, but we must make the mitzvas a vehicle for an intimate relationship with Hashem. We must do the mitzvas in such a way that shows we appreciate them. We must show Hashem that we are grateful for the opportunity to be agents of His Will and that we want nothing more than to be faithful and loving servants.