Introduction to the Study of Talmud
by Rav Michael Siev
Sukka 12 - Daf 27a
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Last week, we learned the mishna on 27a, which details the machloket between R. Eliezer and the Sages regarding the number of meals one is required to eat in the sukka over the course of Sukkot. R. Eliezer holds that one must eat 14 full meals in the sukka over the course of the holiday. The Sages argue that one must eat a meal in the sukka only on the first night of the holiday; after that, if one wants to eat an achilat keva one must do so in the sukka, but there is no obligation to do so.
We now pick up with the gemara, which explains the reasons behind the different opinions.
What is the reason of R. Eliezer?
"Dwell as you live," just as (in one's) dwelling - one (meal) by day and one by night, so in the sukka - one by day and one by night.
And the rabbis: "as you live," just as (in one's) dwelling - if one wants, one eats, and if one wants one doesn't eat, so too in the sukka - if one wants one eats and if one wants one does not eat.
If so, even the first night of yom tov also!
R. Yochanan said in the name of R. Shimon ben Yehotzadak: it says here "fifteen" and it says "fifteen" by Passover,
just as there - the first night is obligatory, after that is optional, so here - the first night is obligatory, after that is optional.
And there from where do we know? The verse states "in the evening eat matzot" - Scripture has established it as obligatory.
מאי טעמא דרבי אליעזר?
תשבו כעין תדורו, מה דירה - אחת ביום ואחת בלילה, אף סוכה - אחת ביום ואחת בלילה.
ורבנן: כדירה, מה דירה - אי בעי אכיל אי בעי לא אכיל, אף סוכה נמי - אי בעי אכיל אי בעי לא אכיל.
אי הכי, אפילו לילי יום טוב ראשון נמי!
אמר רבי יוחנן משום רבי שמעון בן יהוצדק: נאמר כאן חמשה עשר ונאמר חמשה עשר בחג המצות,
מה להלן - לילה הראשון חובה, מכאן ואילך רשות, אף כאן - לילה הראשון חובה, מכאן ואילך רשות.
והתם מנלן? אמר קרא (שמות יב) בערב תאכלו מצת - הכתוב קבעו חובה.
Interestingly, both sides of this debate cite the same principle as the foundation of their opinion; the question is simply the correct interpretation of that principle. The principle in question is one we have seen before - teshvu k'ein taduru, one must live in one's sukka the way one lives in one's house. We have already seen that this principle can determine when one is obligated or exempt from the mitzva, as well as the types of activities that must be performed in the sukka. We already know, for example, that achilat keva - eating anything other than a snack (see last week's shiur for precise definitions on what is considered achilat keva as opposed to achilat arai) - must be done in the sukka. We now apply the principle of teshvu k'ein taduru to determine the extent to which one must eat achilot keva in the sukka during Sukkot.
R. Eliezer explains that since it was common for people to eat two meals a day in their homes - one by day and one by night - one's behavior in the sukka must echo that regular pattern of eating. Thus, one should eat 14 meals in the sukka, one every day and one every night of the holiday.
The rabbis counter that one does not ever have to eat in one's home. If a person wants to eat, he does so. Similarly, in the sukka - if one wants to eat, one does so, but there is no absolute requirement to have a certain number of meals.
Apparently, R. Eliezer and the rabbis argue about the application of teshvu k'ein taduru to determining one's lifestyle in the sukka. R. Eliezer demands that one mimic his regular lifestyle, put on a show, as it were, of living regularly in the sukka. This requires eating the regular number of meals, regardless of whether a person wants to or not. The rabbis hold that the experience of living in the sukka should replicate the experience of living in one's home. Just as in one's home a person is free to do as he pleases, so too in the sukka.
The gemara points out the apparent internal flaw in the opinion of the rabbis. They too admit that on the first night of Sukkot, one is obligated to eat in the sukka. Why do we not apply the principle of teshvu k'ein taduru as explained by the rabbis themselves, and hold that even on the first night one is not absolutely obligated to eat in the sukka, just as one is never absolutely obligated to eat in one's house?
The gemara answers that we have a special source that indicates that one is obligated to eat in the sukka on the first night of Sukkot. The source of this obligation is a g'zera shava. A g'zera shava is one of the 13 hermeneutical principles given to Moshe Rabbenu by which we can better understand the Torah. The principle states that in certain specific cases, when the Torah uses an identical word or phrase in two different places, we are meant to equate certain aspects of the halakhot that govern the two cases.
In our sugya, the gemara employs a g'zera shava to compare the holidays of Pesach and Sukkot, holidays which the Torah states are to be celebrated on the "fifteenth" of the month. The gemara establishes that this g'zera shava teaches us to equate the two holidays with regard to the absolute obligation of fulfilling a particular mitzva. On Pesach, there is an obligation to eat matza on the first night of the holiday (the fifteenth of Nissan). After that, although one may eat matza, there is no obligation to do so. So too with Sukkot - one must eat in the sukka on the first night of the holiday (the fifteenth of Tishrei), but after that there is no absolute obligation to do so.
The gemara questions the source of our halakha. We are learning about one's obligation in the mitzva of sukka based on one's obligation in the mitzva of matza on Pesach. But how do we know in the first place that matza is obligatory on the first night of Pesach? In answer, the gemara quotes the verse (Shemot ) that states that one should eat matza on the 14th of Nissan "in the evening." This is understood as requiring that one eat matza at this time, the end of the 14th of Nissan, which is the night of the 15th.
It should be noted that even according to the rabbis, there is an important difference between the way the mitzva of matza applies on Pesach and the way the mitzva of sukka applies on Sukkot. On Sukkot, although there is no obligation to eat meals in the sukka after the first night, everyone agrees that if one chooses to do so, one fulfills a mitzva. The mitzva of sukka clearly applies all 7 days of Sukkot. On the other hand, most commentators hold that eating matza is a mitzva only on the first night of Pesach. One who eats matza after that does not fulfill any mitzva at all.
Back to the gemara
And R. Eliezer also said:
But R. Eliezer said: one must eat 14 meals in the sukka, one by day and one by night!
Bira said in the name of R. Ami: R. Eliezer went back on it (his opinion).
Make it up with what?
If you say with bread - the meal of the day he is eating!
Rather, what is "make it up" - make it up with types of dessert. It is also said in a b'raita this way: If he made it up with types of dessert - he has fulfilled his obligation.
ועוד א"ר (=אמר רבי) אליעזר:
והא א"ר אליעזר: ארבע עשרה סעודות חייב אדם לאכול בסוכה, אחת ביום ואחת בלילה!
אמר בירא אמר רב אמי: חזר בו רבי אליעזר.
אילימא בריפתא - סעודה דיומיה קא אכיל!
אלא, מאי ישלים - ישלים במיני תרגימא. תניא נמי הכי: אם השלים במיני תרגימא - יצא.
The gemara here
analyzes the second opinion of R. Eliezer mentioned
in our mishna - but one has to be
on one's toes in order to catch it. We have pointed out that when the gemara has a short phrase
sandwiched between sets of colons, it is generally a quote from the mishna which the gemara
now intends to discuss. In our case, we just have the phrase, "And R. Eliezer also said." Since this is the introduction to R.
Eliezer's second statement in the mishna, it is clear that we are about to
analyze that statement. The gemara
does so by contrasting it with R. Eliezer's first
statement and arguing that the two statements cannot coexist. How can R. Eliezer hold that if one missed the opportunity to eat in
the sukka on the first night of Sukkot,
one can make it up on the last night (i.e. Shemini
Atzeret)? After all, R. Eliezer's
main opinion is that one must eat 14 meals in the sukka;
but, any meal one eats on Shemini Atzeret (in
The gemara answers that R. Eliezer retracted his opinion. However, since we have just quoted two statements of R. Eliezer, it is not clear which of his two statements has been retracted. Let's see Rashi's explanation of our gemara (s.v. chazar bo, about halfway down the page on 27a):
R. Eliezer went back on it - toward the Sages, to say that there is no set limit and if he wants to fast, he may fast, except for the first nights of yom tov. And about this he disagrees with them, that he holds that it has a make-up, like there is making up for the sacrifices of the first day even on the last yom tov.
Rashi explains that R. Eliezer's second statement still stands - it was his first statement that was reversed. Even R. Eliezer agrees that one need not eat 14 meals in the sukka over the course of Sukkot. One must eat a meal on the first night, and after that it's optional. R. Eliezer is actually more lenient than the Sages in that even if one missed this obligation to eat a meal on the first night, R. Eliezer argues that one may make up the obligation by eating a meal on Shemini Atzeret. He has precedent for this ruling - certain types of personal sacrifices that should be offered on Sukkot may be offered even on Shemini Atzeret. The same is true with regard to the obligation to eat on the first night of Sukkot.
Got it? I hope not...
I have presented Rashi's explanation of our gemara. The problem is that it is not immediately clear how the gemara's answer (as explained by Rashi) responds to the gemara's question (as explained by Rashi). Our question was that it seems impossible to make up an obligation to eat meals in the sukka by eating a meal outside the sukka. But even if we have changed R. Eliezer's opinion so that he too requires only one meal in the sukka, we still have not solved our problem - it is that very meal that one must eat in the sukka that R. Eliezer proposes making up for by eating a meal in one's home on Shemini Atzeret! The question still stands - how can one make up for not having eaten a meal in the sukka by eating a meal outside the sukka?
This relates to the very nature of the comparison between the first night of Pesach and the first night of Sukkot. There are two ways to understand this comparison:
1) Just as the "mitzva of the day" of Pesach - namely, matza - is obligatory only on the first night of the holiday, so too the "mitzva of the day" of Sukkot, namely the mitzva of sukka is obligatory only on the first night of the holiday. According to this understanding, the mitzva on the first night of Sukkot is the regular mitzva of sukka, though it is obligatory.
2) Just as there is a mitzva of eating on the first night of Pesach - namely, eating matza - so too, there is a mitzva of eating on the first night of Sukkot - namely, eating in the sukka. According to this formulation, the mitzva is not the regular, standard mitzva of sukka, but rather an independent mitzva of eating that applies to the first night of Sukkot and happens to involve the sukka.
It may well be that the gemara debates which of these two approaches is preferable. The gemara challenges the assumption that one can make up the mitzva of eating in the sukka after Sukkot is over by eating outside the sukka. This challenge is accepted, and the gemara explains that R. Eliezer retracted his original opinion in which he had required eating 14 meals in the sukka. This change may indicate a change from explanation #1 that we gave above to explanation #2. As long as R. Eliezer stood by his opinion that there was no difference between the first night of Sukkot and any other night (or day) of the holiday, it was obvious that the obligation on the first night was the regular mitzva of sukka. Once R. Eliezer agreed to the Sages that the first night has a unique obligation, it is possible to say that the mitzva is less inherently connected to the mitzva of sukka. Instead, it can be understood to be essentially a mitzva of eat on the 15th of Tishrei. If so, it is easier to claim that the mitzva can be made up after Sukkot, in one's home.
Back to explaining the gemara
Let's just finish up that last piece of gemara we quoted. Having ascertained that R. Eliezer still holds that one can make up the mitzva of eating on the first night of Sukkot by eating on Shemini Atzeret, the gemara questions what one must do in order to make up the lost meal. If one eats a meal, why does that make up for the meal he missed earlier? The meal he is eating now should count as his festive meal of Shemini Atzeret, not as a make-up meal from Sukkot! The gemara answers that a full meal is not necessary. One may even add some extra dessert to one's regular Shemini Atzeret meal, and that suffices to make up for the lost meal.
On a practical level, we do not pasken like R. Eliezer. Thus, one is absolutely obligated to eat a meal in the sukka on the first night of Sukkot. If one misses that meal, there is no making up for it.