Ask the Rov: Do I need to check the hadasim I buy in a package?
By Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin – Rov of Anash in Petach Tikva
The posuk refers to the hadasim as “avos,” braided. Chazal explain that it is only “braided” if the leaves grow symmetrically in groups of three at the same level around the stem (meshulash). If one of the leaves emerges above or below the other two, it is considered deviant (shoteh) and not kosher.1
The minimum height of the stem—not including protruding leaves on top—is three tefachim (approx. 9.5 inches).2 Poskim are unsure whether the empty stem at the bottom counts, or it only starts from the first set of leaves.3 The leaves must be long enough to cover the stem. Some hold the majority is sufficient, while others require it to be totally covered.4
The geonim hold that the three tefachim must be completely meshulash and even one set of leaves that aren’t invalidates the hadas. The poskim, however, rule it is kosher as long as the majority are meshulash.5 (Some opinions require an apparent majority—around two thirds—but the Alter Rebbe implies that a slight majority is sufficient.) Yet, it is preferable to get hadasim that are completely meshulash.6
In calculating the majority, poskim debate whether it is the majority of the length (5 out of 9.5 inches) or of the number of leave clusters (e.g. 11 out of the 20 clusters in 9.5 inches). The Alter Rebbe rules that it depends on the clusters.7 This usually turns out to be a leniency, as there are more clusters on the upper part of the hadas and those near the top tend to be more meshulash.
Poskim discuss whether meshulash requires the three leaves to be perfectly aligned or is it enough for the stems to be partially aligned.8 Some are even more lenient and consider it meshulash if it has that appearance.9
Even if a package has a hechsher, it is sometimes not mehudar and sometimes questionable. It’s therefore advisable for each person to check their hadasim themselves.
If the hadas is larger than the minimum size and the lower part is problematic, one should shorten the hadas at the bottom to remove as much the part that isn’t meshulash, while keeping the minimum shiur.10
See Sources (open PDF)