Introduction to the Study of Talmud
by Rav Michael Siev
Sukka 19 - Daf 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 gemara we learned last week discussed the various activities that one should do in the sukka, in line with the basic principle that on Sukkot, the sukka serves the function that one's home serves the rest of the year. As a continuation of that discussion, the gemara relates to different items that one should or should not have in the sukka.
We begin with the gemara 3 lines from the top of 29a.
Rava said: utensils for drinking (should be) in the sukka,
utensils for eating - outside the sukka.
Buckets and pitchers - outside the sukka
and a candle inside the sukka, and some say outside the sukka.
And they don't argue: this in a big sukka, this in a small sukka.
אמר רבא: מאני משתיא במטללתא,
מאני מיכלא - בר ממטללתא.
חצבא ושחיל - בר ממטללתא
ושרגא במטללתא, ואמרי לה: בר ממטללתא.
ולא פליגי: הא - בסוכה גדולה, הא - בסוכה קטנה.
One application of the concept that a sukka is like one's home is that the accessories that a person brings to the sukka should be comparable to those one has at home. Thus, we learned in the baraita at the beginning of this piece of gemara (see last week's shiur) that one should bring one's nice furniture and linens to the sukka. As a parallel to that, Rava here teaches that items that one normally does not keep at home, or at least in one's living space, ought not to be kept in the sukka. Utensils used for drinking may be kept in the sukka. However, utensils used for eating may not be kept in the sukka after one has finished using them, as people do not normally keep dirty dishes in their living space. Similarly, buckets used for drawing water from the well should not be kept in the sukka.
With regard to candles, the gemara differentiates between a big sukka and a small one. Here, the question is presumably not whether it is respectable to have a candle in one's sukka; candles were commonly used in homes, and there can be no difference between big and small sukkot with regard to a question of respectability. Rather, the problem in a small sukka seems to be a pragmatic one; it is simply dangerous to have any source of fire in a minimum-size sukka (7 x 7 tefachim with a height of 10 tefachim; roughly, half a meter squared with a height of 3/4 of a meter). In a larger sukka, the safety problem is less acute. Alternatively, a candle that is lit will necessarily cut down on the usable space in the sukka, and one must have at least 7 x 7 tefachim of usable space in order for the sukka to be valid.
Moving on in the gemara
The mishna on 28b discussed two issues; making one's sukka like one's home over Sukkot, and the exemption from sukka in a case of rain. The gemara has concluded its discussion of the first issue, and now turns its attention to the issue of rain.
We are up to the colon toward the top of 29a.
It was taught (in a baraita): from when a porridge of beans is spoiled.
Abaye was sitting in front (in the presence) of Rav Yosef in the sukka.
A wind blew and twigs came (into the sukka).
Rav Yosef said to them: remove my utensils from here.
Abaye said to him: But the mishna says from when the porridge is spoiled!
He said to him: to me, since I am fastidious - it is to me as though the porridge has spoiled.
תנא: משתסרח המקפה של גריסין.
אביי הוה קא יתיב קמיה דרב יוסף במטללתא
נשב זיקא קא מייתי ציבותא.
אמר להו רב יוסף: פנו לי מאני מהכא.
אמר ליה אביי: והא תנן משתסרח המקפה!
אמר ליה: לדידי, כיון דאנינא דעתאי - כמי שתסרח המקפה דמי לי.
Our mishna taught that rain exempts one from the mitzva of sukka if it is falling hard enough to ruin a porridge. The gemara now further clarifies this condition and explains that the porridge we are dealing with is a porridge of beans. Rashi here adds that bean-porridge spoils quickly with even a small amount of rain.
The gemara then quotes a story related to our issue. Rav Yosef was in the sukka. It became windy, and the wind started to blow twigs and leaves from the sekhakh into the sukka. Rav Yosef prepared to leave the sukka and told his attendants to remove his utensils as well. Abaye questioned his hasty retreat based on our mishna; just as when it comes to rain one should not leave the sukka until enough rain is falling to ruin a bean-porridge, so too when it comes to falling twigs and leaves!
Rav Yosef answered that he was particularly fastidious and therefore the level of discomfort caused him by even a small amount of falling twigs was comparable to the level of discomfort experienced by average people when enough rain falls to ruin a bean-porridge.
This gemara has an important impact on the parameters of the mitzta'er exemption. Some commentators attempted to prove from Rav Yosef's behavior that any time that anyone is uncomfortable in the sukka, he is considered a mitzta'er and may go to his home. Others maintained that one is not a mitzta'er unless the situation is one that would cause most normal people discomfort. They interpret our gemara as adding a special category of "fastidious people." If a particular circumstance would not make average people uncomfortable but would likely cause discomfort to fastidious people, then one who is fastidious may consider himself a mitzta'er. This is the view that has been accepted with regard to practical halakha (Rama, Orach Chaim 640:4, Mishna Berura s"k 28-29).
Continuing on in the gemara
The rabbis taught: If he was eating in the sukka and rain fell and he went down (from the sukka),
we do not trouble him to go up (again to the sukka) until he finishes his meal.
He was sleeping under the sukka and rain fell and he went down - we do not trouble him to go up until it gets light.
It was asked of them: until he wakes up or until it gets light?
Come and listen: until it gets light and the morning star rises.
Both? Rather, say: until he wakes up and the morning star rises.
ת"ר (=תנו רבנן): היה אוכל בסוכה וירדו גשמים וירד
אין מטריחין אותו לעלות עד שיגמור סעודתו.
היה ישן תחת הסוכה וירדו גשמים וירד - אין מטריחין אותו לעלות עד שיאור.
איבעיא להו: עד שיעור, או עד שיאור?
תא שמע: עד שיאור, ויעלה עמוד השחר.
תרתי? אלא אימא: עד שיעור ויעלה עמוד השחר.
The gemara here quotes a baraita that takes the case of rain one step further. We learned in our mishna that if it rains into the sukka, one may (in fact, must) leave the sukka and return to the house. What if a person does so and begins or continues his meal in the house, and then it stops raining? The baraita teaches that he may conclude his meal in the house; he is not obligated to return to the sukka until he has finished his meal.
On a technical note, the baraita refers to leaving the sukka as 'going down' and to returning to the sukka as 'going up.' This is because the standard practice in Talmudic times was for people to build their sukkot on their roofs, which were flat.
The baraita gives another example of its principle: If one was sleeping in the sukka and it started to rain, and then he entered his home and went to sleep there, he need not return to the sukka before daybreak, even if it stops raining before then.
The gemara wonders what was the correct intention of the last line of the baraita - did it mean to say that he need not return to the sukka until it gets light, or until he wakes up? This question must be understood in light of the Hebrew words for these terms. The baraita said that he need not return "ad she-ye'or," until it gets light. However, the term "wake up" is also pronounced "ye'or," with a slightly different spelling (an ayin instead of an aleph) - a difference which is not heard in pronunciation, except in the Sephardic pronunciation of Hebrew. Given that tanna'itic teachings, such as our baraita, were passed down orally for many generations before being written down, and that both possible understandings of ye'or seem reasonable in context, there is considerable room to wonder as to the correct intention of our baraita.
The gemara attempts to clarify the baraita by quoting a different baraita that states the same ruling, and concludes "until "ye'or" and the morning star rises (i.e. until daybreak). The word ye'or as it is written here means until it gets light. If so, however, the baraita is repetitive. It sounds like there are two conditions that are both necessary, but if ye'or is to be translated as until it gets light, we have only one condition expressed in two different ways. The gemara therefore concludes that this baraita means to teach that one is exempt until one wakes up and the morning star rises. This interpretation has practical ramifications - if only one of the conditions is fulfilled, the obligation does not yet apply. Thus, if one awakens before it gets light one may go back to sleep in the house. Similarly, if it gets light before one wakes up, other people need not awaken the person so that he can go to the sukka.
What is the basis for the baraita's extension of one's ability to eat or sleep in the house? If the exemption from sukka in our case is because it's raining, shouldn't it apply only as long as it continues to rain?
There is one word in the baraita that is the key to understanding this issue. The baraita says that "ein matrichin oto la'alot," we do not trouble him to go up to the sukka. If one has moved back to the house and begun a meal, it is annoying to have to move himself, and all of his food and utensils, back to the sukka as soon as the rain stops. And it is certainly a trouble to have to get up in the middle of the night and move a bed out to the sukka in order to continue sleeping there. That having been said, why does the "trouble" allow one to continue eating or sleeping outside the sukka?
The commentators raise two possibilities regarding this issue. The more straightforward approach is to apply the petur of mitzta'er. Just as one is exempt if it is cold or raining, one is exempt if it is very troublesome to go to the sukka. This represents a significant expansion of the petur of mitzta'er; the discomfort is not with regard to eating or sleeping in the sukka per se but rather with regard to going out to the sukka. Nevertheless, most commentators explain that mitzta'er applies to anything having to do with fulfilling this mitzva, and it is therefore the operative principle in our sugya. (It goes without saying that this exemption does not apply if one simply did not take appropriate action before Sukkot to prepare a convenient sukka. One cannot, for example, claim exemption from the mitzva with the argument that it is troublesome to build a sukka to begin with!)
Some commentators reject the possibility that mitzta'er can apply when one is not actually in the sukka. They claim that since, as we have seen in the past, tesvhu ke-ein taduru defines the parameters of one's obligation in the mitzva of sukka, and people do not normally change locations in the middle of the night or in the middle of a meal, the obligation of sukka does not apply.
Regardless of which of these two approaches we accept, it is clear that this case is different from a regular case of mitzta'er, when one is uncomfortable while in the sukka itself. This leads to an important halakhic difference. When it comes to a regular case of mitzta'er, there is no reason to stay in the sukka. If one is really uncomfortable, being "stringent" is not a stringency - one does not fulfill the mitzva even if one stays! When it comes to our case, though, it's different. Since the discomfort revolves around getting to the sukka and not being in the sukka, if one actually decides to go to the sukka, one does fulfill the mitzva.