Introduction to the Study of Talmud
by Rav Michael Siev
Sukka 30 - Daf 32b, 33b
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.
From time to time, the shiur will include instructions to stop reading and do some task on your own. This will be marked by a
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.
This is our last shiur of the VBM year, and in honor of the occasion we will depart from our regular format. Instead of continuing on in the gemara, we will skip a bit to a topic that I think is of particular value to our study, due to the important concepts that it introduces. In order to understand it fully, we will learn the mishna on 32b, followed by a piece of the gemara on 33b.
Without further ado, the mishna on 32b.
Mishna A hadas that is stolen or dried out - invalid.
Of an ashera or of a subverted city - invalid.
Its head was clipped, its leaves torn,
or its berries were more numerous than its leaves - invalid.
And if he decreased them - valid. And we do not decrease on yom tov.
מתני' הדס הגזול והיבש – פסול.
של אשרה ושל עיר הנדחת - פסול.
נקטם ראשו, נפרצו עליו,
או שהיו ענביו מרובות מעליו - פסול.
ואם מיעטן - כשר. ואין ממעטין ביום טוב.
As we have discussed before, the theme of this chapter is the four species. The first part of the chapter dwells on each of the species individually, while the latter half of the chapter teaches other guidelines for fulfilling the mitzva. The first mishna, on 29b, opened with the laws of a valid lulav. Our mishna teaches the rules of a valid hadas (myrtle). If you compare the two mishnayot, you will note that they are quite similar. The majority of the guidelines are the same, and we have therefore discussed, in the context of lulav, most of the disqualifications mentioned in our mishna. As such, we will not dwell on them here, but will move on to the last issue mentioned in our mishna, which is unique to hadas - the issue of berries.
The hadas has berries that at times grow on its branches. Our mishna teaches that if the hadas branch has more berries than leaves, the hadas is invalid. The gemara (33b) explains that this is only if the berries are red or black, but not if the berries are green. The clear indication is that the multi-colored appearance ruins the hadar ("beautiful" - see previous shiurim) status of the hadas; as such, the hadas would only be disqualified on the first day, which is the only day when hadar is an absolute necessity.
If one's hadas does have too many colored berries, all is not lost - one can simply remove the berries, which would make the hadas usable for the mitzva. However, one must plan in advance - if it is already yom tov, one may not remove the berries.
The gemara on 33b analyzes this issue further. Let's see it, starting a bit more than halfway down the page.
The Rabbis taught:
We do not decrease them on yom tov.
Because of (=in the name of) R. Eliezer son of R. Shimon, they said: we decrease.
But he is fixing an object on yom tov!
Rav Ashi said: like if he picked them to eat,
and R. Eliezer son of R. Shimon held like his father,
who said: something that one did not intend (davar she'eino mitkaven) is permissible.
But Abaye and Rava both said: R. Shimon admits in a case where it will certainly happen (pesik reishei ve-la yemut)!
Here what are we dealing with - that he has another hadas.
ת"ר (=תנו רבנן):
אין ממעטין ביום טוב.
משום רבי אליעזר ברבי שמעון אמרו: ממעטין.
והא קא מתקן מנא ביום טוב!
אמר רב אשי: כגון שלקטן לאכילה,
ורבי אליעזר ברבי שמעון סבר לה כאבוה,
דאמר: דבר שאין מתכוין מותר.
והא אביי ורבא דאמרי תרוייהו: מודה רבי שמעון בפסיק רישיה ולא ימות!
הכא במאי עסקינן דאית ליה הושענא אחריתי.
The gemara opens
by quoting a baraita, which informs us that
the mishna's final ruling is not unanimous.
challenges R. Eliezer - how can he allow removal of
the berries? A person who does so violates the prohibition of fixing things on
From the gemara's
question we learn the reason for the prohibition according to our mishna and the tanna
The gemara responds with a reference to one of the general rules regarding the 39 melakhot. If one does an action that is not itself a melakha, but may or may not result in the completion of a melakha, that is called a davar she'eino mitkaven (lit. "something which he did not intend"). The classic example of this is as follows: One of the 39 melakhot is plowing, which includes making any holes or indentations in the ground. If someone were to drag a bench across his backyard, which may possibly cause an indentation in the ground, that would be a davar she'eino mitkaven; he does not intend to cause an indentation (but rather to move the bench from one place to another), and it is not clear in advance that his action will actually cause the indentation. According to R. Shimon, it is permissible to do a davar she'eino mitkaven. The gemara here explains that R. Eliezer son of R. Shimon agrees with his father's position on this issue. Thus, if one removes the berries in order to eat them and not for the purpose of validating the hadas, the berry removal should be permitted on the basis of davar she'eino mitkvaven, despite the fact that a tikkun may occur.
Based on our presentation, the flaw in this defense of R. Eliezer is obvious - davar she'eino mitkaven is when a person does not intend to do a melakha, but does a different action that may or may not lead to that result. But in our case, the tikkun of the hadas will definitely occur! Picking the berries does not occasionally also cause the hadas to become acceptable; it is itself the very action that validates the hadas!
The gemara itself asks this question in halakhic terminology: Even R. Shimon forbids the action in a case of pesik reishei ve-la yemut! The phrase pesik reishei ve-la yemut literally means "will you sever its head and it will not die?" The classic case, which crosses the border from acceptable davar she'eino mitkaven to unacceptable melakha, is one in which one severs the head of a chicken for some purpose other than killing the chicken. Killing a living being is a melakha, and severing a head always leads to that result. Thus, one cannot claim that it is permissible to remove the head of a chicken due to davar she'eino mitkaven if one did not do so in order to kill the chicken. Severing the head is killing the chicken. There is no such thing as one without the other, and davar she'eino mitkaven therefore does not apply.
The gemara explains that the case here is one in which the person does not actually need to use this hadas for the mitzva; he has another one in his possession.
It is not immediately clear how this answers the question; after all, this does not change the fact that picking the berries effects a tikkun in the hadas by making it usable for the mitzva. Whether he actually intends to use the hadas or not should be irrelevant! The commentators suggest several interpretations of the gemara's answer:
1) Pesik reishei is only forbidden when it is "nicha lei," meaning that the melakha is a desirable result for the one doing the action. In our case, even though picking the berries definitely results in a tikkun, since the person does not care about the validation of his hadas, it is still permitted to pick the berries, like a regular case of davar she'eino mitkaven.
Why should it make a difference if the pesik reishei is to the benefit of the one performing the melakha? R. Elchanan Wasserman explained that this may depend on why pesik reishei is forbidden to begin with. There are essentially two ways to understand this prohibition:
a) Since the action will definitely result in a melakha, one cannot claim that he did not intend to perform the melakha. Thus, it is not a davar she'eino mitkaven.
b) Since the action will definitely result in a melakha, we do not view the action and the melakha as two separate things at all. The person is directly doing an action that is a melakha.
According to the first explanation, the main issue at stake here is the intention of the actor. In a case of pesik reishei, he cannot claim that he did not intend to do the melakha. If that is the case, there is room to say that this only applies when the melakha that occurs is to his benefit. If the melakha has negative consequences for him, or perhaps even if it simply is of no interest to him whatsoever, he can legitimately claim that his intention was not to do the melakha. According to the second explanation, however, the person actually directly performed a melakha; this is prohibited even if he did it for an ulterior motive.
This answer that a pesik reishei that is not nicha lei is permitted would easily solve our gemara; since the person does not need this hadas, he does not care that it becomes usable, and the prohibition of pesik reishei does not apply. There are those who adopt this approach, which is championed by the Arukh (R. Natan bar Yechiel, 11th century Italian scholar). However, the view of most rishonim is that pesik reishei is always forbidden, even when it is not nicha lei. This stringent position has been accepted as normative halakha.
2) Rashi on our sugya offers a different explanation of our gemara. Let's take a look at the third long line of Rashi on 33b. Note from the introductory phrase, which is always a quote from the gemara which Rashi intends to explain, that his gemara must have had a slightly different wording than ours does.
No, it is necessary, for he has a different hadas - and he does not need this one; therefore there is no "fixing an object," for he does not need it to be validated. And it is not similar to a "severing of its head," for there, there is removal of life no matter what, and here there is not "fixing an object." But if he did not have another, he would be making it into an object, for he needs this, and even if he did not intend for it, it is forbidden, for it is a case of pesik reishei ve-la yemut.
According to Rashi, the fact that he does not need the hadas for the mitzva does not make it permissible to do the melakha for a different reason; it means that he is not performing the melakha at all.
Why should this be? At the end of the day, his action does validate the hadas for use in the mitzva. Shouldn't this mean that a melakha has been performed?
In general, as long as a particular action has been performed, one has done the melakha. But here, Rashi claims, the facts of the case are of integral importance in determining whether a melakha has been performed to begin with. This may be a result of two possible factors:
a) The melakha of tikkun is not an objective, physical act but rather any action that leads to a particular result. Thus, the result, namely that the object has become usable, is of paramount importance.
b) The tikkun involved here is not on a physical level, like most cases of tikkun, but is rather a halakhic tikkun. Removing the berries has no significance except for the fact that the hadas becomes usable for the mitzva.
Because of the combination of these two factors, the fact that the result is of central significance and that the improvement is less concrete than usual, removing the berries is not considered a tikkun unless the hadas is in line to be used for the mitzva. If that is the case, however, then we have a melakha on our hands, and the act is forbidden even if it was done for an ulterior motive, such as eating the berries.
This concludes our shiur for this week. It is highly advisable to review the gemarot and shiurim that we have learned this year, both in order to remember the material and because growth in gemara skills comes only through repeated practice reading and re-reading gemarot. I hope that you have an enjoyable "vacation," and don't forget to continue your VBM learning after the summer!