The Story of the Der'i Lulav
by Binyomin Rabinowitz
All those bnei Torah who are halachically meticulous about the arba haminim today, especially the young ones, are not aware of the difficulties which their counterparts encountered thirty and forty years ago in obtaining a mehudar lulav according to the specifications of the Rema, without a kora, a closed and sealed to the top point, or an excellent, handsome looking esrog of impeccable lineage etc. And if today, the process of selection is not quite easy, in former times it was a real challenge. The same applies to finding perfect triplicate and fine hadassim.
All this has changed immeasurably for the good, thanks to those special Jews who toiled over many years, and with great effort, discovered these unique species. Year after year, they sought out the good groves and monitored their special care so that Jews at large, in Israel and abroad, could satisfy their desire for halachically deluxe arbaas haminim, A-1, Mehudar Alef Alef, which is a genuine description of taking this mitzvah to its ultimate state of perfection.
One of those extraordinary people who undertook this quest was Rav Shabsai Cobin zt"l from Tzfas, a young talmid chochom who was nurtured in the greenhouse of the beis medrash and kollel established by HaRav Shmuel Avigdor Feivelson. His outstanding beis medrash produced such fine trees, i.e., stalwart Torah scholars who were totally immersed in Torah at all times but who particularly delved into the subject of the arbaas haminim and its intricacies, from basic kashrus to fine line hiddurim.
When we sought to explore some of the inner secrets of top grade lulavim, we spoke with Rav Boruch Moshe, Cobin's eldest son, who revealed to us an inkling of what transpired and is still going on behind the scenes. First, however, we asked to hear how all this began.
It took us back 33 years when his late father entered the thick of the subject upon seeing the stumbling blocks in the path of those who truly wished to acquire prime lulavim according to the Rema, whose guidelines followed those of the Rishonim. They put the uppermost point of the lulav on par with the high standard set for the esrog. This is the source of the meticulous requirement that the middle leaf, the tiyomes, be completely closed to the very tip.
Those who wished to be perfect in this requirement had to search for many days throughout many arba minim markets, under scorching sun, until they finally found one single lulav meeting their standard, from a selection of hundreds of other lulavim.
The main branch of a lulav is divided according to its source of growth and according to its specie. In the past, the market offered lulavim from El Arish, from the Beit She'an valley, from Yericho and other places.
"My father plunged into this area, searching long and hard until he found that a lulav is connected to the specie of date it produces. Each different kind of date has its individual type of lulav. Today, for example, only 7 or 8 species are grown in Israel. The popular Majhal specie is fleshy, but its branches are very large and not pleasant looking, that is, not quite suited to be bound with the other minim. Only one decent lulav can be obtained from the tree's offshoots. Each palm tree with its particular features."
One type of lulav which was very prevalent in those days was the 'Der'i' species (its name is taken from the Arabic). Many other species have become extinct and disappeared because they were too troublesome or not economic to cultivate.
The Der'i fruit, while sweet and juicy, are small, without much 'meat' on them. [My father] searched for and found plantations in the Beit She'an valley of this species whose leaves grew in a manner best conforming to the Halacha according to the Rema. Here we must give an honorable mention to Mr. Moshe Zakkai, the then manager of the date production of Kibbutz Tirat Tzvi. Over the years, this became one of the major date growers in the country and whose produce is mainly geared for export to countries where dates are a major staple. He shared his immense know-how with us very generously.
"After discovering the secret of this species and its high quality lulav branches, he asked Zakkai to pick 200 lulavim for him, which he then took to the Lederman beis medrash in Bnei Brak. Whoever was there at the time remembers that these lulavim were snatched up immediately. People simply made a grab for them, standing on benches and tables to get one. Father went back and brought many more batches and since then, the name 'Der'i Lulavim' has become a trademark for the bnei Torah public."
to see our longer article written 21 years ago.