Introduction to the Study of Talmud
by Rav Michael Siev
Sukka 13 - Daf 27a-b
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Within the quoted texts, my explanations and additions are also noted in red.
Last week, we discussed the gemara on 27a that taught that there is an absolute obligation to eat in the sukka on the first night of Sukkot. The source of this obligation is a g'zeira shava between the first night of Sukkot and the first night of Pesach. The g'zeira shava teaches that just as on the first night of Pesach the mitzva of matza is obligatory, so too on the first night of Sukkot the mitzva of sukka is obligatory.
At the end of last week's shiur, we raised two possible ways to understand this comparison. One could understand that the actual mitzvot of the first nights of Pesach and Sukkot are completely unrelated: One mitzva is to eat matza, the other mitzvah is to live in a sukka. The only comparison is with regard to the extent of the obligation; there is an absolute obligation to perform the mitzva of the first night of each holiday, while after that the mitzva is not obligatory in the same way. Alternatively, one can understand that the two mitzvot are actually more closely related. The obligation of the first night of Sukkot is not the regular mitzva of living in the sukka but rather a special mitzva to eat in the sukka. If so, the two mitzvot are actually quite similar, as both are mitzvot to eat - in one case to eat matza, in the other case to eat in the sukka.
There are several practical differences that stem from these two approaches. Whenever we have a mitzva to eat, the amount required is a ke-zayit. That is the case when it comes to matza, for example. On the other hand, since the mitzva of sukka is normally defined as living in the sukka, one is not required to eat in the sukka unless one is eating the larger amount of a ke-beitza. This larger amount of food makes the snack into more of a meal, the type of meal that one tends to eat specifically in one's home. Authorities debate what one's obligation is on the first night of Sukkot - does one have to eat a ke-beitza, or is a ke-zayit enough? Seemingly, the issue hinges on which of our two explanations is accepted.
An even more important difference between the two understandings is with regard to the issue of mitzta'er. We have discussed the fact that if one is significantly uncomfortable in the sukka - because it is raining, cold, or any other objective reason - one is exempt from the obligation to eat or sleep in the sukka. This is based on the concept of teshvu k'ein taduru, that one lives is one's sukka the way one lives in one's home. Since people don't live in a place where they are uncomfortable, one need not stay in one's sukka under such conditions. Some poskim hold, however, that this exemption does not apply on the first night of Sukkot (at least until one has eaten a ke-zayit in the sukka). Why should there be a difference between the first night and any other time? The opinion makes sense for our second explanation of the mitzva on the first night of Sukkot. If the obligation is not living in the sukka but rather eating in the sukka, the mitzva should not be defined by the way people normally live in their homes.
On a practical level, the accepted procedure in a case of rain on the first night of Sukkot is to satisfy all opinions. We try to wait out the rain but if that is not possible, we make kiddush and eat at least a ke-zayit of bread in the sukka, fulfilling the mitzva according to those who hold rain does not exempt one from the obligation to eat in the sukka on the first night. We then eat the rest of the meal in the house. If it stops raining, we go out and eat again in the sukka (preferably a ke-beitza). The reason for this is that if the halacha is in accordance with those who hold that rain exempts even on the first night, then one also does not fulfill the mitzva if one actually eats in the sukka while it is raining. In order to fulfill the mitzva according to those opinions, we go out and eat there again.
Moving on in the gemara
Let's continue in the gemara - we are 13 lines from the end of 27a.
The custodian of King Agripas's (estate) asked R. Eliezer:
(Someone) like me, that I am accustomed to eat but one meal a day,
what is it (=is it permitted) that I should eat one meal and be exempt?
He said to him: Each day you continue to have several delicacies for you own honor,
and now you cannot have one delicacy for the honor of your Creator?
שאל אפוטרופוס של אגריפס המלך את רבי אליעזר:
כגון אני, שאיני רגיל לאכול אלא סעודה אחת ביום,
מהו שאוכל סעודה אחת ואפטר?
אמר לו: בכל יום ויום אתה ממשיך כמה פרפראות לכבוד עצמך,
ועכשיו אי אתה ממשיך פרפרת אחת לכבוד קונך?
This exchange between the custodian of King Agripas's estate and R. Eliezer is based on the opinion of R. Eliezer quoted in the mishna at the top of 27a. There, R. Eliezer ruled that one must eat 14 meals in the sukka over the course of Sukkot, one each day and one each night of the holiday. The Sages disagreed and held that one must eat a meal in the sukka on the first night of Sukkot, but after that there is no obligation to do so. One may not eat a meal outside the sukka, but one is theoretically permitted to not eat any meals at all. The gemara added that R. Eliezer later retracted his opinion and agreed to the ruling of the Sages. The conversation reported in the piece of gemara we have just seen must have taken place before R. Eliezer changed his mind, when he still held that one must eat two meals a day in the sukka.
The custodian of King Agripas's estate asked R. Eliezer if he, too, is obligated to eat two meals a day in the sukka. Recall that R. Eliezer's opinion in the mishna was based on his understanding of the concept of teshvu k'ein taduru. Since people generally eat two meals a day in their homes, they must eat two meals a day in their temporary homes - their sukkot. This particular individual, however, was not accustomed to eating two meals a day in his home. He generally ate one meal a day. Therefore, it stands to reason that for him, living in his sukka the way he lived in his home should mean eating one meal a day!
R. Eliezer did not accept the custodian's reasoning. He said to him: Every day you have several delicacies as appetizers before your meal, for your own honor, in order that you should enjoy your meal more. If it is difficult for you to eat another meal over the course of the day, is it impossible for you to eat one appetizer for God's honor, so that you will have the appetite to eat another meal and fulfill your obligation of sukka?
Why doesn't R. Eliezer accept the custodian's reasoning? Doesn't he seem to have a reasonable argument based on teshvu k'ein taduru? Think back to what we have learned regarding the basis of the machloket between R. Eliezer and the Sages!
Remember that the Sages who argued with R. Eliezer also based their opinion on the concept of teshvu k'ein taduru. The difference between R. Eliezer and the Sages was regarding how this concept should be applied. The Sages held that just as one is never obligated to eat in one's home, one is not obligated to eat in one's sukka. R. Eliezer argued that since one generally eats two meals a day in one's home, one must eat two meals a day in one's sukka. In other words, according to R. Eliezer, one's actual experience in the sukka is not identical to the experience of living at home in that one does not get to decide what to do. Teshvu k'ein taduru means that one's actions in the sukka must mimic the lifestyle a person normally lives at home.
Once we have said this, it is just one small step to argue that the lifestyle one must mimic is not necessarily one's own actual lifestyle, but rather the lifestyle that most normal people live. After all, the experience in the sukka is not totally one's own - one is essentially putting on a show of living in the sukka, rather than actually freely living in the sukka. If so, it makes sense that one must put on a show of living what is considered to be a "normal" lifestyle in the sukka, which means eating two meals each day, even if one tends to skip a meal every day.
Back to the gemara
We are 6 lines from the end of 27a.
And he also asked him: (Someone) like me, that I have two wives, one in Tiberias and one in Zippori,
and I have two sukkot, one in Tiberias and one in Zippori,
what is it (=is it permitted) that I should go out from sukka to sukka and be exempt?
He said to him: No, for I say anyone who goes out from sukka to sukka has nullified the mitzva of the first one.
ועוד שאלו: כגון אני שיש לי שתי נשים אחת בטבריא ואחת בציפורי,
ויש לי שתי סוכות אחת בטבריא ואחת בציפורי,
מהו שאצא מסוכה לסוכה ואפטר?
אמר לו: לא, שאני אומר: כל היוצא מסוכה לסוכה בטל מצותה של ראשונה.
The gemara here presents another conversation between the custodian of King Agripas's estate and R. Eliezer. The custodian apparently maintained two homes in different cities and split his time between the two. The fact that he considered each to be a real residence of his is reflected by the fact that he actually had a wife who lived full time in each home. His question to R. Eliezer was if he could continue this practice on Sukkot. Could he spend part of the holiday at his Tiberias residence and part at his Zippori residence?
R. Eliezer answered in the negative. In his opinion, if one switches sukkot over the course of Sukkot, one does not fulfill the mitzva of sukka. This holds true not only for the time spent in the second sukka - the fact that he switched sukkot retroactively nullifies the mitzva that he fulfilled in the first sukka as well. What is the reason for this ruling? Let's go on further in the gemara and we'll find out!
We learned in a baraita:
R. Eliezer says we do not go out from sukka to sukka and we do not construct a sukka on chol hamo'ed.
And the Sages say we (may) go out from sukka to sukka and we (may) construct a sukka on chol hamo'ed.
And they are the same (=in agreement) in that if it fell - that he may return and build on chol hamo'ed.
What is the reason of R. Eliezer? The verse states "The festival of Sukkot you shall make for yourself for seven days" - make a sukka that is fit for seven.
And the Rabbis: This is what the Merciful One said: Make a sukka on the holiday.
And they are the same in that if it fell he may build it again on chol hamo'ed:
It is obvious!
You might have said: this is a different one and it is not for seven. We learn.
רבי אליעזר אומר: אין יוצאין מסוכה לסוכה, ואין עושין סוכה בחולו של מועד.
וחכמים אומרים: יוצאין מסוכה לסוכה ועושין סוכה בחולו של מועד.
ושוין, שאם נפלה - שחוזר ובונה בחולו של מועד.
מאי טעמא דרבי אליעזר? אמר קרא (דברים טז) חג הסכת תעשה לך שבעת ימים - עשה סוכה הראויה לשבעה.
ורבנן: הכי קאמר רחמנא: עשה סוכה בחג.
ושוין שאם נפלה שחוזר ובונה אותה בחולו של מועד:
מהו דתימא: האי - אחריתי היא, ואינה לשבעה. קמשמע לן.
This baraita clearly presents the issue at stake in the conversation we saw previously. R. Eliezer holds one may not switch sukkot on Sukkot, nor may one construct a sukka on chol hamo'ed. His one leniency is that if one built a sukka properly before Sukkot and it subsequently fell down during the holiday, one may rebuild it on chol hamo'ed. The Sages disagree with R. Eliezer's basic premise and allow one to construct a sukka on chol hamo'ed or to switch sukkot in the middle of the holiday.
The gemara explains the reasons for the two sides of the machloket. The debate hinges on one pasuk: "The festival of Sukkot you shall make for yourself for seven days." The wording of this pasuk is unique - how does one "make," or construct, a holiday? The assumption therefore is that the verse refers not just to celebrating the holiday but also to constructing the sukkot. R. Eliezer understands that there is a close connection between the actual sukka itself and the time period of seven days. The time period actually defines the nature of the mitzva to live in the specific sukka under discussion; one must live in one sukka for the entire seven days.
The Rabbis have a different understanding of this verse. In their view, the time period of seven days is not related one's ability to fulfill the mitzva in a particular sukka. It is simply a marking of time, a description of when it is that one is supposed to fulfill this mitzva of sukka.
The gemara concludes by explaining the last line of the baraita. R. Eliezer and the Sages agree that if one built a sukka before yom tov and it subsequently fell, one may rebuild it on chol hamo'ed. The significance of this ruling, the gemara adds, is how it pertains to the opinion of R. Eliezer. One might have argued that the newly constructed sukka is not the same sukka as the old one, and according to R. Eliezer it is impossible for one who lived in the first sukka at the beginning of the holiday to fulfill his mitzva since he cannot sit in one sukka for seven days. The baraita therefore tells us that the repaired sukka does not lose its previous identity, and one who lived in the sukka before it fell can live in the repaired sukka and fulfill his mitzva even according to R. Eliezer.
We can now understand the conversation between the custodian and R. Eliezer. The custodian had apparently heard that according to R. Eliezer one must have a single sukka residence on Sukkot. He assumed that this was because a place one stops in for a very short period of time is not considered a real residence. He therefore argued that in his case, since he really lived in two places, each location should be considered a place of residence. R. Eliezer responded that, based on the pasuk, one is absolutely required to have one sukka that serves as one's home for the entire holiday.
On a practical level, we follow the Sages and not R. Eliezer. It is no problem to have a sukka that one dwells in for only part of the holiday.