I have an interesting lefty situation regarding the performance of ritual that involves the right hand. 

The situation arises from the fact that I eat and write as a lefty (fine motor skills), but throw and bat, open doors, play the drums and perform strength activities as a righty. 

I grew up calling myself a lefty, but as a young adult realized that I am something in between. I posed my question as it regarded tefillin to two of the biggest poskim in Yerushalayim some 25 years ago and they suggested I re-lay the tefillin briefly as a righty at the end of davening.

I read through Rav Moshe Feinstien’s teshuvah regarding my exact situation. He explains that while he is aware that many poskim suggest laying the tefillin a second time each day, he opposes burdening people with this stringency. He then launches in to a lengthy discussion on the subject. But, to my dismay, leaves open the possibility that one who eats as well as writes with the left hand is unique. Had I been in America at the time I might have consulted his son, but I was in Jerusalem.

This all takes on new significance when other halachos are considered. Namely, for this post, the mitzvah of holding a lulav. The halachah proscribes that the Lulav be taken in the right hand. For a lefty, minhag Aschkenaz considers his left hand as the “right hand”. But, for an enigma like me there is more to it.

The poskim cite the Shvus Yaakov (vol. 3) who maintains that a lefty is not determined by his writing hand in mitzvahs outside of tefillin. Thus, I would be holding the lulav like the rest of the shul.

Here is where I would suggest an alternative position. The Maharil, whose recorded minhagim are a source for much minhag Aschkenaz, cites the following: 

“A lefty should take the lulav in his left hand…and keep this rule in mind: You should picture it as if the Tefillin and the Lulav are constantly running away from each other, and can never be united.”

The Maharil is using an analogy that seems to be spilling into the rule itself. It seems from his wording that the use of tefillin and lulav always negate and therefore preclude each other. Now, before we engage in further speculation, I should point out that later the Maharil is noted (his student wrote the whole book, so all of his rulings are quotes) as having the custom to roll back the tefillin from his fingers before taking the Lulav and Esrog. Unlike the common practice today of removing the tefillin before hallel and lulav, the Maharil seemingly had the tefillin on for the taking of the lulav. IF so, this would make the analogy above even more striking. MEaning, since the tefillin are actually worn at the time of the lulav ritual, care should be taken to separate the lulav and the tefillin.

Nevertheless, the lulav is clearly directed to the hand other than the tefillin hand, and, so, unlike the Shvus Yaakov, the rule of thumb for tefillin (I.e. defining the “right” hand as the writing hand) applies to lulav. The argument could be made though, that he only applied this rule when actually wearing tefillin. I would suggest though, that this is not the case- since the taking of the lulav in the right hand is assumedly  based on the gemara’s reason for mentioning the lulav in the bracha- due to its importance (it contains 3 species) and height. 

Now for some drash (hermeneutics). Why are the Lulav and tefillin antithetical?

Perhaps because the tefillin is the sign of the JEw striving towards perfection. He unites his mind and his actions to his heart. The Lulav, though, contains three species that do not have perfection. They have a good smell or a good appearance, or neither- but not both. They are perfected by theor association with the esrog. Therefore, the esrog can be held in the tefillin hand- since it is a fitting example of a tefillin Jew. The Lulav is not.

Or, try this on for size: The common minhag today is to remove the tefillin before the lulav is taken. The reason as given in the TaZ (O.Ch 25;31) is because the tefillin is an “Os” a sign of a covenant between G-d and His people. The Lulav and other mitzvoth of Yom Tov are likewise an “Os”. As we know, we do not wear tefillin on Shabbos, because Shabbos is an “Os” and we cannot double-up on the “Osos”. Some refrain from tefillin on Chol Hamoed altogether because of this. We remove our tefillin before Lulav because of this. We can suggest, that although the Mharil kept his tefillin on for lulav taking, he would not allow the main part of the Lulav “Os” to be in the same hand as the tefillin for this reason.

 

OR maybe it was all just a mnemonic analogy…Good Yom Tov.

 

Sukkos. A Lefty’s Quandary and the Maharil.

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