Daf 31a-31b

  • Rav Michael Siev


Introduction to the Study of Talmud
by Rav Michael Siev

Sukka 27 - Daf 31a-31b

A scan of the classic printed daf can be found at:


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.

Last week, we began to examine R. Yehuda's ruling that a dried out lulav is valid for the mitzva of the four species, in contrast to the ruling of our mishna. The gemara earlier had made it clear that the reason the mishna disqualifies dried out minim is that they do not fulfill the requirement of hadar, that the four species should be beautiful. This requirement is derived from the pasuk regarding etrog and extended to the other species as well. Thus, there are two possible ways to explain R. Yehuda's dissenting opinion:

1) He denies the principle of hadar altogether.

2) He admits that an etrog must be hadar but denies that the principle is extended to the other minim.

The gemara quoted Rava, who took the second approach. R. Yehuda, in his view, requires that the etrog be hadar, but does not make this demand with regard to the other minim. Thus, whereas a dried out lulav is acceptable, a dried out etrog would be invalid. We concluded last week's shiur with the gemara's two challenges to R. Yehuda from rulings he himself issued that seemed to indicate that he requires hadar even for lulav. The gemara rejected those challenges, and will now move on to challenge Rava's claim that R. Yehuda distinguishes between etrog and lulav.

We are up to the gemara on 31a, six lines from the end of the page.

And for etrog does R. Yehuda require 'beauty'?

But we learned (in a baraita): The four species of the lulav, just as we do not subtract from them - so we do not add to them.

If he did not find an etrog, he should not bring a quince or a pomegranate or anything else.

Withered - valid, dry - invalid.

R. Yehuda says: even dry.

And R. Yehuda said: There was an incident with the city dwellers that they would pass on their lulavim to their sons' sons.

They said to him: from there a proof?

A time of pressing need is not a proof.

We learned, though, R. Yehuda says even dry are valid.

Is it not referring to etrog?

No, to lulav.

ובאתרוג מי בעי רבי יהודה הדר?

והתניא: ארבעת מינין שבלולב, כשם שאין פוחתין מהן - כך אין מוסיפין עליהן.

לא מצא אתרוג לא יביא לא פריש ולא רמון ולא דבר אחר.

כמושין - כשרין, יבשין - פסולין.

רבי יהודה אומר: אף יבשין.

ואמר רבי יהודה: מעשה בבני כרכין שהיו מורישין את לולביהן לבני בניהן.

אמרו (להם) [לו] משם ראיה?

אין שעת הדחק ראיה.

קתני מיהת, רבי יהודה אומר: אף יבשין כשרין.

מאי לאו - אאתרוג?

לא, אלולב.

The gemara here challenges Rava's assertion by quoting a baraita that seemingly indicates that R. Yehuda dispenses with the hadar requirement even with regard to the etrog (like the first possible explanation of R. Yehuda that we mentioned above). The baraita mentions two halakhot and then a dispute about a third halakha. Firstly, one may not add a fifth species to the four mandated by halakha, just as one may not take only three species and leave out the fourth. As we briefly mentioned last week, this is due to the prohibitions of bal tosif (adding to mitzvot) and bal tigra (subtracting from mitzvot). Additionally, one may not replace one of the species with a different one, even if one cannot find the appropriate min. Thus, if there are no etrogim available, one may not replace it with a quince, pomegranate, or any other fruit.

The third halakha is that dried out minim are invalid. This only applies if it is totally dried out. If it is withered but still a little bit moist, it remains valid. R. Yehuda disagrees with this halakha and argues that the dried out min is still acceptable. R. Yehuda attempts to prove his point by citing as precedent the practice of certain city-dwellers who were unable to obtain lulavim on a yearly basis. The residents would pass on their old lulavim from generation to generation. Clearly, by the time grandsons would use the lulavim that they had inherited from their grandfathers, the lulavim were completely dry. This shows that even a dried out lulav is acceptable. The Sages reject this proof; those city-dwellers only used dried out lulavim in a time of pressing need, when they could not obtain a good lulav. We thus have no proof that dried out lulavim are valid in normal situations (we'll get back to this point soon).

Having concluded the baraita, the gemara attempts to disprove Rava's thesis. The baraita quotes R. Yehuda's ruling that a dry min is valid; does that ruling not apply to an etrog? The gemara answers that R. Yehuda stated his ruling with regard to lulav. Thus, we have no proof that he would be similarly lenient with regard to etrog.

What is the meaning of the gemara's question and answer? Why did the gemara think that this baraita shows that R. Yehuda applied his ruling even to an etrog? And how does the gemara reject that assumption?

(Look carefully at the whole baraita!)

Previously, R. Yehuda's opinion allowing dried out minim was quoted without reference to any of the four species in particular, giving rise to doubts about his intention. In the baraita here, though, the disagreement between the Sages and R. Yehuda was quoted immediately following a ruling about etrog. The seamless transition to a discussion of a dried out min implies that the machloket applies even to the subject of the previous statement, namely the etrog. This would disprove Rava's interpretation of R. Yehuda

The gemara answers that even in the context of our baraita the disagreement can be interpreted as applying only to lulav (and possibly hadasim and aravot) but not to etrog. After all, the example that R. Yehdua quotes to support his opinion is a story about dried out lulavim. Thus, Rava's contention still stands.

Times of pressing need (sha'at ha-dechak).

In support of his ruling, R. Yehuda cited a surprising story in which people passed on their lulavim to their grandsons. The Sages responded that one cannot prove anything from times of pressing need. They may have used the dried out lulavim then, but that does not imply that one can use such lulavim in normal times. How are we to understand this response? Presumably, dried out lulavim are either valid or invalid; why should it depend on the availability of other lulavim?

There are two basic approaches to this issue in the commentators:

1) Ra'avad argues that the rules do not change based on the availability of nice looking lulavim. According to the Sages, dried out lulavim are invalid even in times of pressing need. One cannot bring a proof from a time of pressing need because in such times people do things even if they will not fulfill the mitzva. Since valid lulavim were totally unavailable, it was impossible to fulfill the mitzva of the four species. Unfortunately, this situation continued for quite some time. There was a fear that the mitzva of the four species could be completely forgotten if successive generations of Jews were unable to fulfill the mitzva. Therefore, they took dried out lulavim, together with the other three species, as a commemoration of the mitzva. Even in those times, however, they would not make a berakha on the mitzva, as the lulavim were invalid.

2) Tosafot (31a s.v. lo) and the majority of other commentators argue that dried out minim, which are normally unfit for the mitzva, are actually valid during times of pressing need. This seems to be a closer reading of the baraita; R. Yehuda clearly understood that the city dwellers fulfilled the mitzva of the four species via dried out lulavim. Also, from the Sages response - "a time of pressing need is not a proof" - it sounds as though they disagree only with his interpretation that dried out minim are always valid. If they had a different understanding of the historical precedent he quoted, a more accurate response would have been to point out that even those grandsons did not fulfill the mitzva.

However, Ra'avad has a solid logical proof for his reading - how can it be that a dried out lulav is sometimes valid and sometimes invalid, depending on the external factor of the availability of good lulavim? An interesting solution to this problem is offered by the Rosh (as explained by later commentators). Hadar is always required, but the definition of hadar is subjective. Hadar means "beautiful." Beautiful is defined as the class of lulavim that is most attractive. In general, a dried out lulav does not meet this requirement. However, if the only lulavim available in the entire region are dried out, this class of lulavim is now the most attractive type of lulav available, and it obtains the status of being hadar.

Back to the gemara

The gemara now briefly analyzes the baraita we previously quoted. We are up to the fifth line of 31b.  

Master said: "Just as we do not subtract from them, so we do not add to them."


You might have said: since R. Yehuda said lulav requires binding,

and if one brings a different species - this stands alone and this stands alone.

It teaches us.

Master said: "If he did not find an etrog, he should not bring a pomegranate and not a quince and not anything else."


You might have said: bring, so that the law of etrog should not be forgotten.

It teaches us (that this is not the case); at times harm might come from it, that they will get into the habit.

אמר מר: כשם שאין פוחתין מהן כך אין מוסיפין עליהן.


מהו דתימא: הואיל ואמר רבי יהודה לולב צריך אגד,

ואי מייתי מינא אחרינא - האי לחודיה קאי והאי לחודיה קאי

קא משמע לן.

אמר מר: לא מצא אתרוג לא יביא לא רמון ולא פריש ולא דבר אחר


מהו דתימא: לייתי, כי היכי שלא תשכח תורת אתרוג

קא משמע לן זימנין דנפיק חורבא מיניה, דאתי למסרך

The reason we quoted the baraita was because of its third (and main) section, which addressed the issue of dried out minim. Having quoted it, though, the gemara now questions the necessity of the baraita's first two rulings.

In its first ruling, the baraita taught that one may not add a fifth species or attempt to fulfill the mitzva with only three. Why is this teaching necessary? It is obvious that doing so entails violations of bal tosif or bal tigra, adding to or subtracting from mitzvot!

The answer hinges upon an issue we have briefly touched on before. According to R. Yehuda, the four species (with the exception of etrog) must be bound together. The Sages disagree and assert that this binding is a preferred enhancement of the mitzva, but is not obligatory. Based on R. Yehuda's opinion, one may have concluded that if one picks up a fifth min but does not bind it to the others, one does not violate bal tosif. One only violates the prohibition when one adds to the actual mitzva itself, and the fact that the additional species has not been added to the bundle makes it stand apart.

This mistaken impression would only be possible according to R. Yehuda; in the view of the Sages, since the binding is not necessary, the bundle does not take on added significance as a single integrated object with which one must perform the mitzva. There are still four disconnected minim that one picks up at the same time. Picking up a fifth min would certainly constitute bal tosif. Within R. Yehuda's opinion there is room to say that the fifth min does not become part of the object with which one performs the mitzva, and thus cannot be considered adding to it. The baraita therefore found it necessary to teach that even R. Yehuda would agree that adding a fifth min is in fact a violation of bal tosif.

The baraita's second ruling was that one should not substitute any other fruit for the etrog. This too seems obvious! If the Torah says to take an etrog, why would anyone believe that the mitzva could also be fulfilled by taking a pomegranate? The gemara answers that no one would have thought you can fulfill the mitzva with a different min. But, one may have thought that if etrogim are totally unavailable and it is impossible to fulfill the mitzva anyway, that one should take the rest of the minim along with a pomegranate or other fruit so that the mitzva not be forgotten. The baraita therefore teaches that this is unacceptable. The practice may lead to considerably more harm than good, as people may get used to the idea that a pomegranate or quince can be taken with the lulav, and will think that they can be used to fulfill the mitzva itself.

Back to the gemara

Let us see one more line from the gemara, which brings a second attempted proof against Rava.

Come and listen:

An old etrog is invalid, and R. Yehuda validates.

A refutation of Rava, a refutation.

תא שמע:

אתרוג הישן פסול, ורבי יהודה מכשיר.

תיובתא דרבא, תיובתא.

This baraita teaches that the Sages invalidate an old etrog but R. Yehuda validates it. In this instance, the disqualification seems to again be based on problem of hadar, and R. Yehuda is nevertheless lenient even with regard to etrog! Rava's opinion is thus refuted. R. Yehuda does not distinguish between etrog and the other minim, and denies the entire principle of hadar.

Like Rava's interpretation of R. Yehuda, this new conclusion - that R. Yehuda denies the requirement of hadar entirely - will be questioned by the gemara. We will return to those questions, with God's help, next week.