This is a continuation of yesterday’s section 6 where we learned that when one sukkah is placed on top of another, there are different variations as to which is valid.
In this case, since the upper sukkah lets in more sun than shade it doesn’t count as a sukkah. Furthermore, this sukkah is within twenty cubits of the ground, so it is valid to join with the skhakh of the bottom sukkah. Altogether, this allows the bottom sukkah to be valid. The top sukkah is invalid because it doesn’t have sufficient skhakh.
If both of them create more shade than the sun they allow in, and both are within 20 cubits of the ground, then the bottom one is prevented from being valid because it is a sukkah underneath another valid sukkah. The top sukkah is valid, because it within 20 cubits of the ground.
The Talmud asks—isn’t this obvious! Rashi explains that it would be obvious that if the skhakh allows more sun in than shade that it doesn’t count as a sukkah, so we wouldn’t have a case of one sukkah underneath another one.
The answer is that if R. Jeremiah had not made this statement we might have disqualified even the lower sukkah even when the top one was within 20 cubits from the ground, lest one think that one could join the top skhakh with the bottom one even when it is above 20 cubits from the ground. R. Jeremiah issued his ruling to teach that we don’t rule stringently. As long as the top one is within 20 cubits of the ground, the bottom one is valid (when the top one lets in more sun than shade).
Today’s section continues to discuss the mishnah concerning one sukkah above another sukkah.
The Talmud asks how much space there needs to be between the upper skhakh and the lower skhakh for the lower sukkah to be invalidated. We shall see several answers to this question.
The first answer is provided by R. Huna, who derives his answer from the laws of impurity. R. Huna says that if there is even a handbreadth of space between the two sukkot, the lower one is invalid. This is because a one handbreadth space is significant when it comes to the laws of overshadowing (ohel). If there is an empty space of one cubed handbreadth then impurity is conveyed by overshadowing. What this means is that if there is an impure thing in the space, such as a human bone, it will defile the clean things that are also in the space. It will also block the impurity from spreading above. But if the space is less than one handbreadth it neither conveys the impurity nor blocks it.
R. Hisda and Rabbah son of R. Huna say that there must be a space of four handbreadths between the two sukkot for the bottom one to be invalid, because four handbreadths is generally considered an important space. For instance, if one carries something for a distance of four handbreadths on Shabbat, he is considered as having transgressed.
Shmuel says that the bottom sukkah is invalid only if there is a gap of ten handbreadths between the top one and the bottom one. This is the same measure of a valid sukkah—it must be ten handbreadths high. It’s as if Shmuel is saying that for the top sukkah to invalidate the bottom one, the top one must be a real sukkah.
The Talmud now raises a difficulty on Shmuel by using our very mishnah. R. Judah says that if there are no occupants in the top mishnah, then the bottom one is valid. But this can’t be taken literally—why should it matter if there are actual occupants. Therefore, the interpretation must be that R. Judah says that if the top sukkah is too small to live in because it is not ten handbreadths high, the bottom one is valid.
The first opinion in the mishnah was more stringent than R. Judah’s opinion. So that opinion must hold that even if the top sukkah is unsuitable for living, the bottom one is still invalid. This contradicts Shmuel who held that if the top sukkah is less than ten handbreadths high, the bottom sukkah is valid. [It can be assumed that Shmuel does not rule like R. Judah, who is a minority opinion.]
We now get another opinion as to the interpretation of the Mishnah. R. Dimi cites a tradition from the “west” (the land of Israel, which is to the west of Bablyonia) that if the roof of the bottom one is strong enough to hold bolsters and cushions that would be used on the floor of the upper one, the bottom sukkah is valid. In other words, if the skhakh is not strong enough to be used as a floor, then it doesn’t count and we don’t have one sukkah on top of another.
Again we need to understand the first opinion in the mishnah in light of our interpretation of R. Judah. The first opinion would have to be slightly stricter and rule that even if the floor couldn’t hold bolsters and cushions, the bottom sukkah would still be invalid. But why should this be so? If this skhakh is unusable as a floor for the top sukkah then we don’t really have one sukkah on top of another. We just have one sukkah!
The Talmud therefore resolves that R. Judah says that if this skhakh can bear the weight of bolsters and cushions with great difficulty the bottom sukkah remains valid. The first opinion would invalidate such as sukkah because the skhakh can hold the bolsters and cushions. But all of the rabbis agree that if the bottom one can hold bolsters and cushions without great difficulty, it is invalid. And all would agree that if it can’t hold them at all, the bottom sukkah is valid.
We begin a new section of the mishnah.
If he spread a sheet on top of the sukkah to keep out the sun, or a sheet underneath the skhakh to keep out the falling leaves, the sheet invalidates the sukkah. This is because a sheet cannot be used for skhakh, so in essence he is using invalid skhakh to form his sukkah.
Similarly, if he spreads a sheet over a four-post bed, the sheet invalidates his skhakh, because the sheet forms a roof. However, the sheet does not invalidate the skhakh if it was spread over a two-post bed. This is because the sheet forms a tent-like structure, one that slopes to the sides and is not considered a roof. Since there is no roof made of a sheet, the only roof is the skhakh and the sukkah is valid.
R. Hisda limits the applicability of the mishnah. The sheet put under the skhakh invalidates the skhakh only if it was put there to stop the leaves from falling into the sukkah. But if it was put there just as decoration then the sukkah remains valid.
The Talmud raises the difficulty that R. Hisda’s statement is obvious. After all, the mishnah itself states that if one puts the sheet there because of “falling leaves” the sukkah is invalid. This implies that if one puts it there for another reason, the sukkah remains valid. So why would R. Hisda have needed to state what was already obvious?
The answer is that without R. Hisda’s statement we might have thought that the words “because of falling leaves” were taught in the mishnah because that is common reason to put a sheet under the skhakh. It is not there to teach that if one puts the skhakh under the sukkah for other reasons it is valid. To combat this interpretation R. Hisda says that the sukkah is invalid only if the sheet is put there to stop falling leaves, but if it is to beautify the sukkah, it is valid.
The Talmud now tries to bring support for R. Hisda from a baraita (a tannaitic source). The source teaches that one can hang various fruits and food items from one’s sukkah and the sukkah remains valid. These were clearly here for decoration, which means that this baraita supports R. Hisda.