Filling In The Blanks
‘Esrog Similar To a Tree in Three Ways…’
Our Daf notes that an esrog is considered like [other] fruits that grow on a tree in three respects: orlah – it, too, is forbidden for the first three years following its planting; reva’i – when harvested in the fourth year, it must be eaten (or redeemed) within the confines of Jerusalem by its owners; and shevi’is – if it buds in the seventh year of the shemitta cycle, it is subject to the laws of shevi’is. Yet in other ways it is similar to a vegetable, for it is tithed according to when it is harvested.
The Mishna (Sukkah 39a) states: “If one purchases a lulav from his fellow (who is ignorant) during the seventh (i.e., the shemitta) year, he must be given the esrog (along with the lulav) as a gift since he is not permitted to purchase it in the sabbatical year.”
The Shemitta Determinant
The Gemara (Sukkah 39b, 40a) explains why only the esrog – but not the lulav – is subject to the laws of shemitta. The shemitta status of a lulav is determined by the year in which it begins to bud. Therefore, a lulav purchased before Sukkos during the seventh year of the shemitta cycle is not subject to the laws of shemitta since it sprouted and grew before (i.e., during the sixth year of the cycle). In contrast, the shemitta status of an esrog (according to the Tanna of our Mishna) is determined by the year in which it was harvested.
Thus, an esrog that was picked and sold during the shemitta year is subject to the laws of shemitta even though it sprouted and grew during the sixth year.
What the Mishna Did Not Say
The Chasam Sofer (Novellae on Sukkah 39b) asks why the Mishna does not explain that the halacha is reversed when buying a lulav and an esrog in the year following the shemitta (i.e., in the eighth year). In that case, the lulav would be subject to shemitta laws since it grew during the seventh year, whereas the esrog, which was picked after the shemitta year, is exempt from the laws of shemitta. Consequently, the Mishna should have stated that in the year following the shemitta, one should pay only for the esrog and accept the lulav as a gift.
A Novel Interpretation
The answer in Mishmeres Mo’ed (Sukkah ad loc.) is that although the lulav must be given as a gift in the year following the shemitta, the recommendation to pay more for the non-shemitta item while accepting the shemitta item as a gift is a greater chiddush (novelty) in the Mishna’s case.
The Mishna teaches that even though an esrog is generally much more expensive than a lulav, one is permitted to employ this procedure and include the (relatively higher) cost of the esrog in the purchase price of the lulav and consider the esrog as a gift. Once the Mishna teaches this halacha, it follows that in the eighth year, when the lulav is subject to shemitta restrictions, one can include the (relatively minimal) cost of the lulav in the price of the esrog.
It Is Inedible
Even though the Gemara (40a) initially assumes that a lulav (that sprouted during the seventh year) is subject to shemitta laws, many authorities (e.g., Rambam in his Perush HaMishnayos to Sukkah) conclude that a lulav is exempt from shemitta laws (since it is not edible).