Introduction to the Study of Talmud
by Rav Michael Siev
Sukka 18 - Daf 28b-29a
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Key words and phrases in Hebrew and Aramaic are marked in blue, and their translation/explanation can be seen by placing the cursor over them.
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Within the quoted texts, my explanations and additions are also noted in red.
The sugyot that we have learned so far this year have all been related to the mitzva of sukka. We have discussed who is obligated in this mitzva, what activities must be done in the sukka, and situations that exempt a person from the mitzva.
The mishna we will learn today is the concluding mishna regarding this topic. It focuses on an issue that merges the the technical details of the 'letter of the law' of sukka with the 'spirit of the law.' The second part of the mishna explains a situation in which the mitzva cannot be fulfilled at all. Our mishna can be found about two-thirds of the way down the page on 28b.
Mishna: All seven days a person makes his sukka permanent and his house temporary.
Rain fell, from when is it permitted to leave? From when the porridge spoils.
They made a parable: To what is the thing comparable - to a servant who comes to dilute a cup for his master, and he poured a jug on his face.
מתני' כל שבעת הימים אדם עושה סוכתו קבע וביתו עראי.
ירדו גשמים, מאימתי מותר לפנות? משתסרח המקפה.
משלו משל: למה הדבר דומה - לעבד שבא למזוג כוס לרבו, ושפך לו קיתון על פניו.
The first statement of the mishna says that one's permanent abode during Sukkot should be his sukka, and not his house. This has practical ramifications, as the gemara will describe. But in addition to the practical ramifications of what a person must do in order to properly fulfill the mitzva of sukka, our mishna describes the attitude that one should have toward the mitzva of sukka. The sukka is a man's primary home on Sukkot. It is true that one can technically fulfill one's obligations by making sure not to eat meals or sleep outside of the sukka, while still viewing the sukka as a place to visit in order to take care of certain functions. Therefore, our mishna finds it necessary to inform us that the appropriate perspective regarding the sukka is that one is really living there, i.e., that it is one's home, one's official place of dwelling.
The next part of the mishna details a case in which a person was in the sukka and it started to rain. When there is enough rain falling into the sukka that it would spoil a porridge - which Rashi defines as a cooked dish that has a consistency that is somewhere in between solid and a liquid - one is permitted to leave the sukka and enter one's home.
The mishna concludes with its view of the spiritual implications of a rainfall on Sukkot. It is comparable to a servant who comes to serve his master. In Talmudic times, wine was made very strong and had to be diluted with water. The servant comes to pour water into his master's cup of wine, and the master takes the jug of water from him and pours it back in his face. This obviously is a significant insult to the servant; the master has demonstrated in dramatic fashion that he is not interested in his service. Similarly, when it rains on Sukkot and we are unable to fulfill the mitzva of sukka, it is as though our Master, Hashem, is telling us that He is not interested in our service. Clearly, the servants (=the Jewish people) need to carefully consider how they can appease their Master and win back His favor.
Why did the mishna choose to teach us the law of rainfall at this point, at the very end of the chapter and of the discussion of the laws of living in the sukka? Wouldn't it have been more logical to include rain with other cases in which a person is exempt from sukka, such as one who is involved in a mitzva and one who is sick, cases that are discussed in the mishna back on 25a?
Firstly, there is an important difference between other exemptions that mishnayot in our chapter have taught and the exemption of rain. When it comes to the other exemptions, such as one involved in a mitzva and one who is sick, the situation is specific to the individual in question. And, indeed, life does bring with it all kinds of complex situations, some of which make it difficult for one to fulfill the mitzva of sukka properly. In our case, God has brought an event upon a whole region. Since the determining factor is external and objective, one gets the impression that God is just not interested in the service of His people. The case of rain thus has different implications than other exemptions have. Additionally, the nature of the exemption may be different from a halakhic perspective. According to some authorities, the case of rain is unique in that it is not the person who is exempt from the mitzva, but the sukka itself that has been disqualified from use; a home that does not protect its residents from the elements is not considered livable, and is not a "home" at all. That is why rain need not be included with the other cases. But why is it specifically here?
Perhaps the halakha regarding rain is placed at this juncture in order to teach us a lesson that is related to the beginning of our mishna and is a particularly appropriate way to conclude the section of our masekhta that addresses the mitzva of sukka. We should not perform the mitzva of sukka, or any other mitzva, in order to be done with it. As we discussed earlier, our mitzva of sukka shouldn't be the avoidance of violating our obligation by eating outside the sukka. We should be totally engaged in the mitzva and fulfill it as it was intended - we should actually live in the sukka. On another level, the end of our mishna emphasizes that fulfilling this mitzva of sukka is not only an obligation but a privilege. When we are unable to do so we should realize that this is not an occasion to breathe a sigh of relief but rather an impetus to introspection.
Gemara: The Rabbis taught:
All seven days a person makes his sukka permanent and his house temporary.
How? If he had nice utensils - he brings them up to the sukka,
nice linens - he brings them up to the sukka.
He eats and drinks and relaxes in the sukka.
גמ' ת"ר (=תנו רבנן):
כל שבעת הימים אדם עושה סוכתו קבע וביתו עראי.
כיצד? היו לו כלים נאים - מעלן לסוכה,
מצעות נאות - מעלן לסוכה.
אוכל ושותה ומטייל בסוכה.
The gemara here quotes a baraita that teaches the same halakha we learned in our mishna - that a person should make his sukka his real, full-time residence during Sukkot - and then details what this means on a practical level. On one level, it means that a person should bring his nice possessions, the ones he would actually use in his home, to the sukka. This is not merely a camp site to which one brings junky stuff that can get ruined - this is one's home! Additionally, this concept defines what a person should do in the sukka; simply put, one should do everything there, just as one does at home. This includes eating and drinking, and also relaxing.
"Relaxing" is not a sufficient translation of the word our mishna uses, which is "metayel." Metayel can have several implications, and that is the point; in our context it really means one should spend one's time in the sukka, especially leisure time.
The gemara now requests more background on this law that we have learned in the mishna and the baraita . . .
From where are these words (=what is the source)?
For the Rabbis taught (in a baraita): "you shall dwell" - like you live.
From here they said: all seven days a person makes his sukka permanent and his house temporary.
How? If he had nice utensils he brings them up to the sukka, nice linens he brings them up to the sukka,
he eats and drinks and relaxes in the sukka and learns in the sukka.
Is this really so?
But Rava said: Scripture and mishna in the sukka, analyzing (should be done) outside the sukka.
No difficulty: this - one who is reviewing, this - one who is analyzing.
Like that of Rava and Rami bar Chama,
when they stood before Rav Chisda, they would run through the gemara together and then analyze with logic.
מה"מ (=מנא הני מילי)?
דת"ר (=דתנו רבנן): "תשבו" - כעין תדורו.
מכאן אמרו: כל שבעת הימים עושה אדם סוכתו קבע וביתו עראי.
כיצד? היו לו כלים נאים - מעלן לסוכה, מצעות נאות - מעלן לסוכה,
אוכל ושותה ומטייל בסוכה, ומשנן בסוכה.
והאמר רבא: מקרא ומתנא במטללתא, ותנוי בר ממטללתא!
לא קשיא: הא - במגרס, הא - בעיוני.
כי הא (דרבה) [מסורת הש"ס: דרבא ורמי] בר חמא
כי הוו קיימי מקמיה דרב חסדא מרהטי בגמרא בהדי הדדי, והדר מעייני בסברא.
The gemara here questions what the source is of the halakha we previously saw in the mishna and baraita. The gemara answers by quoting yet another baraita, which is similar to the previous one but with this addition: the source for our halakha is a concept we have already become familiar with - teshvu ke-ein taduru. Since the pasuk says "teshvu ba-sukkot," we learn that one should "dwell" in sukkot, which means to really live there. As we have seen in the past, this concept defines who is obligated and who is exempt (one can leave the sukka and go to one's house in conditions in which one would leave one's house to go to a more comfortable environment), the character of the "living" that should be done there (nice dishes, linens, etc. - a real home-style life) and also the activities one should do in the sukka. Our baraita concludes by listing these activities.
The gemara questions the last example mentioned in this baraita. The baraita made a blanket statement that one should learn in the sukka - but Rava taught that it depends what type of learning one is engaged in. If one is learning Scripture or mishna, he should do so in the sukka. But if one is one is engaged in more intellectually rigorous halakhic analysis, one may do so outside the sukka! (Rashi explains that the reason for this leniency is that one must engage in intellectually rigorous study in the environment most conducive to such study; indeed, if one does not, one will pained by the lack of success in his study, and will be a mitzta'er. Thus, for example, if one finds the fresh air of the outdoors more conducive to intense intellectual study, he may study there!)
The gemara answers the apparent contradiction by noting that there are in fact different types of study. Our baraita was referring to one who was "reviewing." The implication of this word is that he was memorizing the exact wordings of the teachings, an activity that was particularly necessary and common in times before Torah she-be'al peh was written down. This should be done in the sukka. Rava meant to say that the analysis may be done outside the sukka.
In order to prove that there are in fact different stages of learning, the gemara mentions the precedent of Rava and Rami bar Chama, who would first quickly review the material that they had heard from Rav Chisda and then would analyze his teachings in order to better understand their reasoning and implications.
With regard to that last proof of the gemara, a quick point should be made regarding the text itself. Note that standard gemarot read "Rabba bar Chama." However, the word "Rabba" is in parentheses and has an asterisk. As we have mentioned in previous shiurim, the asterisk refers the reader to the inside margin of the page, where the Mesorat Ha-shas quotes another version of the text which reads "Rava and Rami" bar Chama, instead of "Rabba" bar Chama. This version is more consistent with the continuation of the text, which is in plural form.