Anyone who has owned a lulav set knows the difficulties in keeping the aravot fresh for the entire chag. The etrog, haddasim, and lulav generally survive with little maintenance, but the aravot invariably dry and disintegrate by at least the 5th day, leaving behind a messy trail of leaves. In fact, some people specifically purchase two sets of aravot and switch in the middle of the chag to avoid any halakhic problems of the aravot drying out on Sukkot.
However, for the rest of us who are either cheap or don’t want to grow our own there is that annual question of what is the best way for keeping aravot fresh for the whole chag?1 As you’d expect with Jews we’ve got several different theories. So far these seem to be the favorites I’ve heard:
- Water + plastic bag and refrigerate.
- Wet towels + tinfoil and refrigerate.
- Wet towels only and refrigerate. Quoth Yossi, “You gotta let ’em breathe.”
Question for the day: What’s your favorite method?
1. Cute and quickie devar torah: The aravot represent those who lack Torah and good deeds (Vayikra Rabbah 30:12). Just as the aravot demand extra effort to keep them fresh, so too we must put in the extra effort to keep those individuals in the community.
Cute dvar torah. I assume the analogy does not carry over to wrapping them in paper towels.
Speaking of paper towels, I don’t know why people do that. Everyone I see in shul unwrap their lulav from paper towels has mold on their lulav and a bunch of brown leaves stuck to the paper towel.
My method, which works very well, is to remove the hadasim and aravot from the lulav and return them to the plastic bag that the aravot came in (or the lulav bag). I sprinkle a few drops of water into the bag to retain the moisture, fold over the bag, and put it in the fridge. If you use the chinese-finger-torture-style lulav holder, don’t take the hadasim and aravot out of the holder – they rip off the leaves. Personally, I don’t use it, but rather tie three loops directly around the 3 minim. I buy an extra set of aravot, but usually don’t need them. In fact, the moisture in a bag method is so effective that one year (it may have been cold out) I kept everything fresh simply by putting the whoe thing back in the lulav bag and tossing it in the back seat of the car.
BTW – in terms of option 1, I’ve seen people put them in a lot of water, like you would with cut flowers. I don’t think this works as well as surrounding them with a bit off moisture, beucase this keeps all the leaves from drying out, rather than relying on the dead twig to feed the moisture up to the leaves.
I’ve been using 1″ diameter clear plastic tubes with rubber caps for several years with great success. One brand of hadassim is sold in these tubes (Malchus Hadassim, I believe) if you can’t find them any other way. Put one aravah in each tube and refridgerate them between uses. The tubes foster condensation which keeps the aravos fresh without causing them to mold or brown from direct moisture.
I think my father uses the wet paper towels + tinfoil method, so that’s what I use. You have to take the aravot out of the holder and put them in the fridge separately. If you do that, there’s no mold problem.
My roommate leaves them in a glass of water on the counter, like you would with flowers. The dead twig that Ben mentioned is no more dead than the dead leaves, and osmosis or whatever draws the water from the twig into the leaves is probably still working.
Interms of adding the little cups to the bottom of the aravot–could that be baal tosif, b/c you are adding to the agud? It occurs to me that adding another aravah would be baal tosif, but I’m not sure.
I refrigerate in paper towels and tinfoil, and regularly (1-2x/day) spritz the leaves with fresh water…
Yes, I am a bit obsessive, but I take a perverse pride in having nice aravos in my daled minim come hoshana rabba ;-)