Introduction to the Study of Talmud
by Rav Michael Siev
Sukka 29 - Daf 31b-32a
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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It is highly recommended that you follow those instructions. I am working on a way to have your computer melt if you don't, but as of yet, the technical details are still beyond me.
Within the quoted texts, my explanations and additions are also noted in red.
We begin our shiur today with the gemara starting at the colon on the very bottom of 31b. As always, when there is a phrase surrounded by colons, it is a quote from the previous mishna (or, occasionally, from a baraita quoted previously in the gemara) that will now be discussed. Recall that the opening mishna in our chapter listed various factors that invalidate a lulav, and the gemara has analyzed each phrase independently. At this point, the gemara addresses the invalidation of a lulav whose tip has been clipped.
It's head was clipped:
Rav Huna said: we only learned it if it was clipped,
but split - valid.
And is split valid? But it says in a baraita:
A lulav that is bent, barbed,
split, crooked like a sickle - invalid.
If it has hardened - invalid. Similar to having hardened - valid.
Rav Papa said: (the baraita invalidates) when it is like a himnak.
אמר רב הונא: לא שנו אלא נקטם,
אבל נסדק - כשר.
ונסדק כשר? והתניא:
לולב כפוף, קווץ,
סדוק, עקום דומה למגל - פסול.
חרות - פסול. דומה לחרות - כשר.
אמר רב פפא: דעביד כהימנק.
Rav Huna qualifies the mishna's ruling. The tip of the lulav is critical only in that it must be attached; if the top has been cut off, the lulav is invalid. On the other hand, if the tips of its leaves are split, it remains acceptable.
The gemara challenges Rav Huna's ruling based on a baraita; the baraita mentions numerous disqualifications of a lulav and one of them is when the lulav is split! Rav Papa answers that the baraita meant to invalidate a lulav that is split to the point that it looks as though it has two totally separate heads - like a himnak, which was a forked metal tool (similar in shape to a pitchfork, or the letter Y). Rav Huna was speaking about a case in which the lulav as a whole remains in its natural form, but the tips of the leaves have split.
Let us momentarily define the other abnormalities mentioned in the baraita.
1) Bent - the top of the lulav is curled. We'll get back to this later.
2) Barbed - there are thorn-like protrusions from the spine of the lulav.
4) Crooked like a sickle - The gemara will shortly describe this problem.
5) Hardened - Rashi explains that over time, the leaves of the lulav fall off and its spine hardens into bark. If the hardening process has already finished, the lulav is invalid, but if it is in the middle of that process ("similar to having hardened") it remains valid.
Further iyun. The gemara treated the issue of niktam rosho - the top of the lulav was clipped - with a tangential comment: Only if it is clipped is there a problem, but not if the top of the lulav is cracked. Apparently, the gemara did not see the need to expound upon the definition of "niktam rosho." However, even if it is clear what "clipped" means, it is not entirely clear what "it's head" refers to. This is a subject of debate among the commentaries.
We have alluded to the fact that a lulav can be subdivided into two components: its "spine," which is the relatively thick part in the center, and the leaves, which are attached to the spine and continue upwards. Ra'avad argues that in order for a lulav to be considered "clipped," the top of its spine must be removed. Since the spine ends a bit below the tip of the highest leaves, this means that a considerable amount of lulav must be severed in order for it to be invalidated. Ra'avad backs up his claim by comparing this halakha to that of a hadas with a clipped head. Everyone agrees that with regard to a hadas, it is the branch that must be clipped in order to invalidate the hadas. If the top leaves are cut but the branch is intact, the hadas remains valid. The same should be true with regard to the lulav - it is the cutting of the branch (i.e. the spine), and not the leaves, that invalidates the lulav.
Most authorities disagree with the Ra'avad. In their view, there is an important distinction between a lulav and a hadas. With regard to a hadas, the leaves are not considered part of the branch itself, what we call the "hadas." When it comes to the lulav, this is not the case; the leaves, which are more substantive, are considered part of the branch, and clipping them invalidates the lulav. Thus, even if only the very top of the lulav has been clipped, it is invalid. The Shulchan Arukh (O.C. 645:6) rules in accordance with this view.
Back to the gemara
Let's continue on in the gemara - we are in the middle of the 3rd line of 32a.
Crooked like a sickle.
Rava said: it was not stated (that the lulav is invalid) except (if it was bent) forward, but backward - it is its natural form.
Rav Nachman said: to the sides is like forward.
And some say: like backward.
And Rava said: this lulav that grew with one (row) of leaves - it is blemished, and invalid.
עקום דומה למגל.
אמר רבא: לא אמרן אלא לפניו, אבל לאחריו - ברייתיה הוא.
אמר רב נחמן: לצדדין כלפניו דמי.
ואמרי לה: כלאחריו דמי.
ואמר רבא: האי לולבא דסליק בחד הוצא - בעל מום הוא, ופסול.
The gemara here selects one of the baraita's examples and analyzes it. We learned that a lulav that is "crooked like a sickle" is invalid. Rava adds that this is only the case if the lulav is bent forward. If, however, it is curved backward (toward the spine), it is unblemished and valid for use.
Rav Nachman adds an additional detail - if the lulav is curved to the side, it is invalid, just like if it is bent forward. However, an alternative version of Rav Nachman's statement claimed that he considers a lulav bent to the side to be like a lulav bent backward, in which case it is valid. Shulchan Arukh (O.C. 645:8) rules that a lulav bent to the side is invalid, in accordance with the first version of Rav Nachman quoted in our gemara.
Rava adds yet another detail that is similar though not directly related to this discussion; if the leaves of the lulav all come from one side of the spine, the imbalanced lulav is considered blemished and unfit for use.
Further iyun. The gemara chooses not to analyze another of the baraita's invalidations, the bent lulav, which sounds similar to the "crooked like a sickle" invalidation. Rashi explains that the bent lulav (lulav ha-kafuf) is one whose top is curled over, much like the curl of a fist (as opposed to "crooked like a sickle," which is a situation in which the entire lulav is bent, though not as sharply). The commentaries dispute the precise definition of the lulav ha-kafuf; which part of the lulav must be bent in order for it to be disqualified? The Ran writes that the criterion mirrors that of the clipped lulav. Even if only the very top of the lulav is bent, it is invalid. However, the Rosh disagrees. In his view, the lulav is not considered "bent" unless the spine is bent. He even goes one step further and writes that he personally preferred to use a lulav whose tip was curled, because the curl prevents the top leaf from separating (an issue we will soon discuss)!
The Shulchan Arukh (O.C. 645:9), following the lead of most rishonim, rules in accordance with the Rosh, that as long as the spine is not bent, the lulav is valid.
What inconsistency seems evident when comparing the Shulchan Arukh's rulings regarding a clipped lulav and a bent one?
Is it possible to resolve the apparent contradiction?
There seems to be a contradiction between our ruling in the case of a clipped lulav and our ruling the in the case of a bent lulav. With regard to a clipped lulav, we ruled that the lulav is invalid even if only the top leaves are cut and the spine remains intact. But we invalidate a bent lulav only if the spine is bent as well as the leaves!
The Rosh himself (who also rules that a clipped lulav is unacceptable even if the top is clipped while the spine remains intact) explains that there are two different issues at stake here. With regard to a clipped lulav, the lulav is pasul even if just the very top has been clipped. The disagreement is about what is considered the top of the lulav - the top of the spine or the top of the leaves. On that issue, we rule that the leaves are considered part of the branch, and therefore the top of the leaves constitute the top of the lulav. That being the case, the question regarding a bent lulav is not about the identity of the "lulav" but about the definition of "bent." The leaves are considered part of the lulav, but if just the very top of the lulav is curled, that is not enough to render the lulav bent. "Bent" means that even part of the spine is curled over.
Back to the gemara
We are up to the colon, 8 lines down on 32a.
Its leaves were torn, etc.:
Rav Papa said: "Torn" - that it was made like a broom,
"separated" - they were spread apart.
Rav Papa inquired: If the twin-leaf was separated, what is it?
Come and listen, for (R. Yochanan) said in the name of R. Yehoshua ben Levi: If the twin-leaf was removed, it is invalid.
Is it not - so too (if it was) separated?
No, removed is different, because it makes it deficient.
There are those who say, (R. Yochanan) says in the name of R. Yehoshua ben Levi:
if the twin-leaf is split, it is considered as though the twin-leaf was removed, and is invalid.
נפרצו עליו כו':
אמר רב פפא: נפרצו - דעביד כי חופיא,
נפרדו - דאיפרוד אפרודי.
בעי רב פפא: נחלקה התיומת מהו?
תא שמע, דאמר (*רבי יוחנן) אמר רבי יהושע בן לוי: ניטלה התיומת - פסול.
מאי לאו - הוא הדין נחלקה?
לא, ניטלה שאני, דהא חסר ליה.
איכא דאמרי, אמר (*רבי יוחנן) אמר רבי יהושע בן לוי:
נחלקה התיומת - נעשה כמי שניטלה התיומת, ופסול.
Just as at the beginning of our shiur, the gemara brings a quote from the mishna and proceeds to analyze it. The כו' in the heading of our gemara stands for כוליה, which means etcetera. This alerts us that the gemara will also address the part of the mishna that follows the direct quote mentioned in the heading.
Look back at our mishna - what case follows that of the torn lulav?
What is the halakha in each of these cases?
The first case our gemara addresses is that of a "torn" lulav. Rav Papa explains that "torn" means that the leaves have actually been severed from the spine, and tied back to it - much like an old fashioned broom, in which pieces of straw were tied to a stick. Such a lulav, the mishna says, is invalid. The following case in the mishna was the "separated" lulav, which remains valid. This is different from the "torn" lulav in that its leaves remain attached to the spine, although they are spread apart and do not remain close to the stem. Because they are still attached, the lulav is acceptable for use.
Rav Papa then asks a somewhat related question: what is the status of a lulav whose "tiyomet" has separated? The word tiyomet refers to the lulav leaves, which are all twins - they consist of two leaves that are stuck together. The commentaries suggest three possible definitions of what exactly Rav Papa was referring to in his question.
1) Most of the leaves have become separated and are no longer doubled over.
2) The middle leaf has become separated down to the spine.
3) The middle leaf has become separated even a little bit.
The gemara attempts to answer Rav Papa's query by comparing it to a ruling of R. Yehoshua ben Levi. He ruled that if the tiyomet (i.e. the middle leaf, or the double of each leaf) has been removed, the lulav is invalid. This shows that the tiyomet is critical to the validity of the lulav. Therefore, we should also invalidate a lulav whose tiyomet has become separated even if it has not been removed!
The gemara responds that this comparison can be rejected. If the tiyomet has been removed, the lulav is deficient; perhaps it is for this reason that the lulav is invalid. We cannot infer from there that if the tiyomet is separated the lulav is similarly invalid.
However, the gemara quotes an alternate version of R. Yehoshua ben Levi's statement, according to which he explicitly invalidates a lulav in which the tiyomet has become separated. This is how we rule la-halakha as well, though there is dispute about which definition of tiyomet to accept. Shulchan Arukh (O.C. 645:3) invalidates only a lulav in which most of the leaves have become separated. Rama adds that even if the middle leaf is separated down to the spine the lulav is unacceptable, and it is preferable (though not obligatory) to use a lulav in which the middle leaf remains entirely connected.
[One final technical point: note that the statement from R. Yehoshua ben Levi was quoted from R. Yochanan, whose name appears in parentheses and with an asterisk. In printed versions of the gemara, the asterisk always refers one to the inside margin, where the Mesorat ha-Shas notes that in Masekhet Bava Kama this same statement is quoted in the name of R. Matun rather than R. Yochanan. (In some new printings, the asterisk has been replaced by a small letter, which refers one to the top inside corner of the page.)]