Introduction to the Study of Talmud
by Rav Michael Siev
Sukka 28 - Daf 31b
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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.
Over the last two shiurim, we examined R. Yehuda's opinion that a dried out lulav is acceptable for use on Sukkot. The Sages, whose view is presented by the mishna at the beginning of our chapter, invalidate a dried out lulav because it does not satisfy the requirement of hadar, that the four species be beautiful. Rava suggested that R. Yehuda argued with the Sages because he held that the requirement of hadar applies only to etrog, which is the context in which the requirement appears in the Torah. However, the gemara proved that R. Yehuda in fact denies the requirement of hadar altogether, even with regard to etrog.
The gemara now challenges that conclusion. We are up to the last word on the line, halfway down the page on 31b.
And does he not require beauty?
But we learned in a mishna: that which is green like a leek, R. Meir validates and R. Yehuda invalidates.
Is it not because he requires beauty?
No, because the fruit is not finished (=has not reached maturity).
Come and listen: the minimum size for an etrog;
R. Meir says: like a nut, R. Yehuda says: like an egg.
Is it not because he requires beauty?
No, because the fruit is not finished.
ולא בעי הדר?
והא אנן תנן: הירוק ככרתי, רבי מאיר מכשיר, ורבי יהודה פוסל.
לאו משום דבעי הדר?
לא, משום דלא גמר פירא.
תא שמע: שיעור אתרוג קטן,
רבי מאיר אומר: כאגוז, רבי יהודה אומר: כביצה.
לאו משום דבעי הדר?
לא, משום דלא גמר פירא.
The first challenge to our new and improved understanding of R. Yehuda's ruling comes from the mishna on 34b, which states that R. Meir validates an etrog that is green like a leek, while R. Yehuda disqualifies it. The gemara assumes that the reason for R. Yehuda's strict ruling must be because the etrog is not hadar. This would directly contradict the gemara's prior conclusion that R. Yehuda does not require hadar even for etrog. The gemara answers that we should not view the mishna on 34b as a proof that R. Yehuda does not mandate hadar at all. His invalidation of the leek-green etrog may be for a different reason; if its color has not lightened, it is not considered completely grown. The Torah says that we should take a "peri etz hadar," and that implies that it must be a fully mature "peri."
The gemara then attempts to bring a second proof that R. Yehuda does in fact require that an etrog meet the hadar standard. While R. Meir allows use of an etrog as long as it is at least the size of a nut, R. Yehuda requires that it be at least the size of an egg. Is not this extra size requirement due to R. Yehuda's understanding of the hadar requirement? The gemara again answers that the reason for R. Yehuda's strict ruling is not because of hadar but because of how he defines a completely grown fruit. If the etrog is not as big as an egg, R. Yehuda maintains that it is not fully grown.
Whenever the gemara has a hava amina - an initial assumption - which the gemara subsequently rejects, it is important to consider whether or not the underlying basis for the hava amina has been completely discarded. In our context, the gemara clearly understood that a leek-green etrog or an etrog smaller than the size of an egg, is not hadar, and therefore challenged the assumption that R. Yehuda does not require hadar. In the end, we concluded that R. Yehuda disqualifies these etrogim for a different reason - they are not fully grown. At this point, what is the status of our initial assumption? Is leek-green a color that really is considered hadar? Or perhaps leek-green does not satisfy the hadar requirement (for the Sages, who require hadar)? This question, it should be reminded, is irrelevant for R. Yehuda, who does not require that the etrog meet such a requirement.
The question has practical ramifications due to the fact that we accept the view of the Sages who require that an etrog be hadar. Very often, especially nowadays, green etrogim eventually turn yellow, even if they were picked while still leek-green. If one has a good indication that the etrog will change colors, or if it has already begun to turn, we may be able to view that as proof that the etrog is fully ripe. However, if the leek-green color is a problem of hadar, then we have an additional hurdle to overcome. Even if the etrog is fully ripe, visual blemishes render it invalid. Thus, the etrog would be invalid until the color of the majority of the etrog changes color (in accordance with the halakhot of chazazit).
On a practical level, most authorities rule that a leek-green etrog is invalid only because it is not fully ripe. Therefore, once it starts to change color it is valid. Many go even further and assert that if all etrogim from a particular tree or area change color after they have been picked, one may assume that to be the case across the board, and one may use an etrog whose color has not yet begun to change. However, there is a minority opinion that holds that leek-green is a color that lacks hadar, and the etrog should not be used until it completely changes color. Mishna Berura (648:65) rules leniently, but recommends waiting until the etrog at least begins to change color.
It is important to note that this discussion pertains only to an etrog that is "green like a leek," meaning that it is a darker green, like the color of grass. Lighter greens, which are also common for etrogim, do not render the etrog unfit for use, and some authorities actually prefer that color.
Let's get back to the gemara's conclusion of the sugya.
Come and listen: And for a big one so that he holds two in one hand, the words of R. Yehuda.
R. Yosi says: even one in his two hands.
What is the reason - not because he requires beauty?
No, since Rabbah said: the lulav in the right and the etrog in the left.
There (may be) times when they are switched, and he will come to reverse them, and they will come to be invalidated.
But to R. Yehuda, it says hadar!
That (means the fruit) which dwells on its tree from year to year.
תא שמע: ובגדול כדי שיאחוז שנים בידו אחת, דברי רבי יהודה.
רבי יוסי אומר: אפילו אחד בשתי ידיו.
מאי טעמא - לאו משום דבעי הדר?
לא, כיון דאמר רבה: לולב בימין ואתרוג בשמאל,
זימנין דמחלפי ליה, ואתי לאפוכינהו, ואתי לאיפסולי.
ואלא לרבי יהודה הא כתיב הדר!
ההוא הדר באילנו משנה לשנה.
The gemara's third attempted proof that R. Yehuda does admit to the hadar requirement is the inverse of the last case we quoted. Just as there is a minimum size requirement for an etrog, there is also a maximum size allowed. R. Yehuda holds that the etrog must not be so big that one would be unable to hold two such etrogim in one hand. R. Yosi argues that the etrog is valid as long as it can be held, even if one needs both hands to hold it. Again, the gemara argues that R. Yehuda's opinion must be based on a requirement of hadar. The gemara responds that there may be a different reason for R. Yehuda's ruling. Since one should hold the lulav in one's right hand and the etrog in one's left hand, it may be risky to have an etrog that is too big. If one were to inadvertently lift the minim in the wrong hands, one would want to switch them. If the etrog were too large it would be cumbersome, and the person may drop the etrog in his attempt to switch hands. That can often result in the etrog's invalidation (at least on the first day), particularly if the pitom falls off. Therefore, R. Yehuda declared that one should not take an etrog so large that one would be unable to hold two of them in one hand.
The gemara has successfully fended off three challenges to its conclusion that R. Yehuda denies the very concept of hadar with regard to the four species. The gemara's final question is its most fundamental; the Torah actually says hadar with regard to etrog! How are we to understand the pasuk if "peri etz hadar" does not actually have to be beautiful? The gemara explains that according to R. Yehuda, this word comes to teach us something else. The intention of the pasuk is not that the etrog has to be beautiful but that the fruit is one "that dwells (ha-dar) on its tree from year to year." This is the Torah's way of referring to the etrog, which holds its fruit for a long time.
Back to the gemara
Having dealt exhaustively with the mishna's rulings that invalidate a stolen lulav or one that is dried out, the gemara now briefly analyzes the next line of the mishna that opened our third chapter of Masekhet Sukka. We are up to the colon 5 lines from the end of 31b.
Of an ashera or a subverted city:
And is (a lulav) of ashera invalid?
But Rava said: A lulav of idolatry he shall not take, and if he took - valid!
Here we are dealing with an ashera of Moshe,
whose size is crushed.
Infer also from that which it teaches, similar to a subverted city.
Hear from it.
של אשרה ושל עיר הנדחת:
ושל אשרה פסול?
והאמר רבא: לולב של ע"ז (=עבודה זרה) לא יטול, ואם נטל - כשר!
הכא באשרה דמשה עסקינן,
דכתותי מיכתת שיעוריה.
דיקא נמי דקתני דומיא דעיר הנדחת.
A few words of background are in order here. An ashera is a tree that has been worshipped by idolaters. A subverted city (ir ha-nidachat) is a Jewish city in which most of the inhabitants have become idol worshippers. The Torah (Devarim -17) commands that the inhabitants of such a city be killed and all of their possessions burned.
The gemara challenges the disqualification of a lulav from an ashera tree based on a ruling presented by Rava - one ought not take a lulav used for idolatry, but if one did so, one has fulfilled the mitzva. Seemingly, a lulav of ashera and a lulav used for idolatry are identical, and yet Rava rules that although it is not the preferred method for fulfilling the mitzva, it is fundamentally fit for use!
The gemara answers by differentiating between a lulav of avoda zara and an "ashera of Moshe," to which our mishna refers. What is the difference between these two categories?
There are numerous explanations of this line of gemara. On a simple level, Rashi explains as follows: the "lulav of idolatry" Rava referred to is one that was used in the service of an idol, whether as a broom to sweep in front of the idol or as a prop in an idolatrous practice. Such a lulav is considered repulsive and should not be used for Divine service. Nevertheless, it is not actually unfit for use, and if one does use it one fulfills the mitzva.
An ashera, on the other hand, is a tree that was itself actually worshipped. The Torah decreed (Devarim 12:3) that when the Jewish people entered Eretz Yisrael they were to burn all of the ashera trees therein (hence the term "ashera of Moshe," referring to Moshe Rabbenu - Moses). That being the case, the lulav is already considered now as though it were burned and turned to ashes. The lulav slated for destruction is considered insignificant and therefore does not have a legal measurement. Since a lulav must be at least four tefachim long, a lulav slated for destruction is technically unfit for use.
The gemara concludes with a proof that the ashera to which our mishna refers is invalid due to the requirement to burn it. It is grouped together with a lulav from an ir ha-nidachat, which must also be burned. Apparently, the grouping of just these two types of lulav together indicates that the basis of their disqualifications is similar. We must conclude that they are invalid because they are already legally considered to have met their destiny.