YESHIVAT HAR ETZION
Introduction to the Study of Talmud
Rav Michael Siev
Sukka 05 - daf 25b
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The focus of the Gemara's discussion until this point in our study has been on the concept of ha-osek be-mitzva patur min ha-mitzva, that a person who is involved in one mitzva is exempted from all others. During the course of examining this petur (exemption), the Gemara addresses the possibility that mental preoccupation can exempt one from mitzvot, and proves that it does not, based on the fact that a mourner (avel) is obligated to fulfill mitzvot despite being in a state of sorrow. Now that the Gemara has concluded its main treatment of the subject of ha-osek be-mitzva patur min ha-mitzva, it returns to discuss the case of the mourner. Previously this halakha was mentioned as an aside; once our main issue has been concluded, the Gemara goes back to discuss (briefly) the avel independently.
We begin the Gemara on the 13th line of 25b. (As always, we provide here a literal translation with minor additions; a more explanatory commentary will follow.)
Rabbi Abba bar Zavda said in the name of Rav: "A mourner is obligated in all mitzvot stated in the Torah,
except for tefillin, for it says of them 'glory.' From the fact that the Merciful One said to Yechezkel (Yechezkel 24:17) 'Your glory bind to you,' etc: you are the one who is obligated; but the whole world is exempt.
And these words (=this applies) on the first day, as it says (Amos 8:10) 'And its end like a bitter day.'"
אמר רבי אבא בר זבדא אמר רב: אבל חייב בכל מצות האמורות בתורה,
חוץ מתפילין, שהרי נאמר בהן פאר.
מדאמר ליה רחמנא ליחזקאל (יחזקאל כד) פארך חבוש עליך וגו' - את הוא דמיחייבת, אבל כולי עלמא - פטירי.
והני מילי ביום ראשון דכתיב (עמוס ח) ואחריתה כיום מר.
The Gemara, as stated, discusses a statement previously mentioned as an aside. It therefore employs the term "gufa," "this itself:" we cited this law earlier in a different context; now, let us discuss it in and of itself.
Previously, the Gemara had quoted only the first half of Rav's statement, namely that the avel is obligated in all mitzvot except for tefillin. That was all that was relevant to the discussion, the very fact that an avel is generally obligated in mitzvot. Now that we are discussing this halakha for itself, the Gemara adds two important details: 1) the source that the avel is exempt from tefillin; 2) a limitation to this exemption.
We start with the source. The Gemara identifies a verse in Yechezkel as the source for the exemption from tefillin. A few words of background are necessary. The prophet relates that Hashem decides to warn the Jewish people about the impending destruction by using the prophet himself, Yechezkel, as an example. Hashem tells Yechezkel that He will take what is precious in Yechezkel's eyes, but that he is not to mourn. That night his wife dies, and Yechezkel does not display outward signs of mourning (aveilut). Upon the people's questioning, he warns that this is a sign of what will befall the nation as a whole: they will lose what is most precious in their eyes; the Beit Ha-mikdash will be destroyed and their children murdered. They will not even be able to mourn, either because of fear of their captors or because the destruction will be so complete that everyone will be mourning, and there is no active mourning in the absence of comforters (as explained by Rashi ibid.).
When Hashem tells Yechezkel not to display outward signs of mourning, He mentions several examples: "Your glory bind to you, and your shoes place on your feet," etc. (Yechezkel 24:17). We infer from here that most mourners do not bind their "glory" to themselves or place shoes on their feet; this is, in fact, the source that a mourner is prohibited to wear leather shoes. The Gemara understands "glory" in this verse as a reference to the tefillin. Thus, since it was necessary to command Yechezkel to wear tefillin, it is clear that mourners generally do not do so.
The Gemara continues by qualifying this rule. This applies only on the first day of mourning (the day of the burial). The Gemara cites a verse in Amos (8:10) that refers to a "bitter day." The implication is that the most intense experience of bitterness lasts for only one day. Since the first day of aveilut is the one that is most intensely bitter, the exemption from tefillin applies specifically to that day.
(We will take a moment to consider some practical issues regarding this halakha. Some authorities maintain that the avel should not don tefillin until after sunrise on the second day of aveilut, which can have practical ramifications regarding early minyanim in a house of mourning, especially during the winter. On the other hand, some authorities claim that the petur from tefillin only applies if the day of burial is on the day of death. If not, the avel is obligated in tefillin, which would mean that after the burial, even if it is late in the day, he should don his tefillin. However, most posekim assume that the dispensation applies to the first day of mourning even if it is not the day of death. Based on this approach, even if the burial is done at night, the mourner should not wear tefillin the next morning, as it is still the first halakhic day of aveilut.)
Now that we have explained the Gemara clearly, take another close look at what we have seen today. Is there any ambiguity in the Gemara regarding the real source for an avel's exemption from tefillin?
The astute reader will note that there does seem to be some ambiguity regarding the source of this exemption. The Gemara first states that the mourner is patur because tefillin are called "glory," the implication being that it is unbefitting for a mourner to wear something glorious. The Gemara then goes on to explain that Hashem told Yechezkel to put on tefillin, which teaches us that normal mourners are not to wear tefillin. Which is the real reason: the fact that tefillin are glorious and inherently unbefitting a mourner or the fact that Hashem told Yechezkel, and Yechezkel only, to wear tefillin?
Tosafot (25a s.v. She-harei) address this question. They explain that the real source of the exemption is the fact that Hashem told Yechezkel to wear tefillin. The Gemara emphasizes that tefillin are called "glory" in order to make it clear that we do not extend this exemption to other mitzvot. The mitzva of tefillin is unique because it is especially incongruous with aveilut.
Tosafot elsewhere (Berakhot 11a s.v. She-ne'emar) add another explanation that is similar to what they say here: the source is the fact that Hashem told Yechezkel to wear tefillin, and we learn from the fact that tefillin are called "glory" that the exemption is limited to the first day of aveilut, which is the most bitter period and the time at which it is most inappropriate for an avel to wear tefillin.
Take a moment to look back at the Gemara and read it based on Tosafot's explanation.
The Gemara quotes Rav as saying: "A mourner is obligated in all mitzvot stated in the Torah except for tefillin, for it says of them 'glory.' From the fact that the Merciful One said to Yechezkel (Yechezkel 24:17) 'Your glory bind to you,' etc: you are the one who is commanded; but the whole world is exempt." In other words, the source for the exemption is the command to Yechezkel, but the Gemara understands that Hashem specifically refers to tefillin as "glory," an unusual term, in order to emphasize that this is the reason for the exemption. Once this is the case, it is clear that the petur cannot be extended to other mitzvot, and it is reasonable for the Gemara to limit the exemption to the first day, the time that is most antithetical to "glory."
There is yet another ramification of the fact that an avel is exempt from tefillin because mourning and glory do not go together. Rashi (26a end of s.v. Mi-de'amar) writes: "Tefillin are forbidden for a mourner." Since tefillin are glorious, it would be a negation of his mourning if the avel were to wear tefillin (and possibly disrespectful to the tefillin as well). The mourner is not only exempt from the standard obligation to put on tefillin, it is actually forbidden for him to do so.
Let us move on in the gemara. We are up to "ואמר רבי אבא," second word on the line, about halfway down 25b:
And Rabbi Abba bar Zavda said in the name of Rav:
"A mourner is obligated in sukka."
One might have said: Since Rabbi Abba bar Zavda said in the name of Rav: "One who is in discomfort is exempt from sukka," this one is also in discomfort.
It comes to teach us: these words, discomfort that comes on its own:
but here, he is making himself uncomfortable—
he must calm himself.
ואמר רבי אבא בר זבדא אמר רב:
אבל חייב בסוכה.
מהו דתימא: הואיל ואמר רבי אבא בר זבדא אמר רב: מצטער פטור מן הסוכה - האי נמי מצטער הוא,
קמשמע לן: הני מילי - צערא דממילא,
אבל הכא - איהו הוא דקא מצטער נפשיה,
איבעי ליה ליתובי דעתיה.
The Gemara here quotes another statement of Rabbi Abba bar Zavda in the name of Rav, which again addresses this issue of a mourner's obligation in mitzvot. This statement rules that the mourner is obligated in the mitzva of sukka. The Gemara objects that this is obvious, as we already know that an avel is obligated in all mitzvot (except for tefillin on the first day of mourning). Why was it necessary for Rav to specifically teach us that the mourner is obligated in sukka?
The Gemara answers that one might have thought to apply yet another ruling that Rabbi Abba bar Zavda taught in the name of Rav - that a mitzta'er, one who is uncomfortable, is patur from sukka. Rav had to teach us that this does not apply to the avel, despite his emotional discomfort. The exemption of mitzta'er only applies when the discomfort (tza'ar) is objective and external. In the case of the mourner, Rav asserts that it is he who causes his own discomfort. Since it is under his control, he must calm himself in order to properly fulfill the mitzva.
Regarding the general issue of the halakhic status of a mourner's emotional experience of sorrow, please refer to our shiur from two weeks ago. For the purposes of this shiur, we will assume that when the Gemara speaks of the mourner being the source of his own sorrow, it means that he should not be so steeped in his sorrow that he cannot perform mitzvot. With this assumption, we will concentrate on a different aspect of the Gemara's discussion: the issue of mitzta'er.
The petur of mitzta'er is a theme that comes up elsewhere in our Gemara and (unfortunately) is often practically relevant. One who is cold or hot in the sukka, bothered by insects, the wind, etc., is not obligated to remain in the sukka; he may eat or sleep in his house. However, it may not be quite so simple to apply the petur of mitzta'er to the case of the mourner.
How can one distinguish between the cases we have just mentioned and the possibility of exempting the mourner from the mitzva of sukka on the grounds that he is a mitzta'er?
The common denominator between all the cases in which we do exempt a person from sukka based on mitzta'er is that sitting in the sukka is the cause of his discomfort. When he leaves the sukka and enters his home, he will no longer be cold or hot or bothered by bugs. In fact, this seems to be the entire basis of the exemption. We treat our sukka as we normally treat our home. If we would be very uncomfortable in our homes, we would leave them for a more comfortable environment; we can similarly leave the sukka if we are uncomfortable. In the case of the mourner, though, it is not the sukka that causes his discomfort, and moving to his house will not alleviate his sorrow. In such an instance, there does not seem to be any reason to allow him to leave his temporary "home," the sukka. Why does the Gemara think that we would have exempted the mourner based on mitzta'er? And to make matters worse, the Gemara does not say that the reason we do not apply mitzta'er is because he will not feel any better at home, but rather that this does not meet the standard for "discomfort." How are we to understand this Gemara?
The Rosh (Rabbeinu Asher, 13th c.) explains that this case really does fit into our normal categories of mitzta'er. The avel wants to wallow in his sorrow. The confines of his home are more conducive to this than the (generally) light and airy sukka. Therefore, the mourner's presence in the sukka actually does cause him discomfort. According to this explanation, it is not the avel's sorrow per se that would have possibly exempted him from the mitzva of sukka, but the extra frustration he experiences due to the fact that he must mourn in his sukka rather than in his house.
Some authorities question the applicability of mitzta'er to the mourner even when we take the Rosh's explanation into account. Can it really be said that one is mitzta'er because he cannot fully experience some other tza'ar that he wants to experience? If one rejects the Rosh's explanation, one must argue that a mitzta'er is automatically patur, regardless of whether or not he will be more comfortable if he leaves the sukka. If that were to be the case, we would understand why the avel might be considered a mitzta'er (due to his general state of sadness) and also why the Gemara's exclusion of him from the category of mitzta'er does not focus on the fact that he will be sad in his house as well. We will discuss this possibility more fully in a couple of weeks when we reach the Gemara's in-depth treatment of the issue of mitzta'er.