Mishnah Kelim 25:9 teaches that once a thought or action has rendered a vessel susceptible to impurity, it remains susceptible until an action is taken to annul its susceptibility (for an interpretation see there). What this means in our case is that if one harvested the grain to use it for food the handles are susceptible to impurity and remain that way even if he changes his mind and decides to use it as skhakh.
And if you will say that this refers only to vessels which are of importance but that ‘handles’ which are needed only as aids for the eating of the food, are made [susceptible to uncleanness] by intention and are also unmade by intention [it may be objected].
You might have thought that the rule from that mishnah applies only to vessels which are of importance. But maybe, you might think, it would not apply to handles of food that are not so important. Since they are of less importance and making something a handle is only a matter of intent (your intent to use it to hold food) they can become unsusceptible to impurity merely by thought.
The Talmud now continues the difficulty. It cites a mishnah that seems to say that once one has threshed grain on the threshing floor the handles are no longer susceptible to impurity because he has shown that he is not interested in having the grain attached to the handles.
There are two interpretations to this mishnah. According to the first “threshing” means that he loosened the sheaves. Thus once one loosens the sheaves they are no longer susceptible to impurity. This would help us explain the rabbis in the original baraita who (according to the Talmudic interpretation) hold that if one first harvested the grain for food and then decided to use the grain for skhakh the handles are no longer susceptible to impurity. These rabbis would say that loosening the sheaves is not a real action, it is just an intent—he intends to thresh the grain. The “handles” would lose their impurity when he intends to use them for skhakh. Thus deciding to use the grain for skhakh would also cause it to lose its susceptibility.
But what would we say if “threshing” meant that they actually had to be threshed. This would imply that the handles maintain their susceptibility until something is really done to them—they are threshed. Similarly, simply intending to use the grain for skhakh would not be enough to prevent the handles from being susceptible to impurity.
The Talmud now offers another interpretation for that earlier baraita. The rabbis say that the handles are not susceptible to impurity only if he first threshed them, and then intended to use the straw and handles as skhkakh.
Now that we’ve made the rabbis’ opinion reasonable, we have the same problem with the “others” who held that the handles are susceptible to impurity. If he threshed them why should they be susceptible to impurity?
The “others” hold that threshing is not sufficient of an action to cause the handles to be susceptible to impurity. They remain susceptible in any case.
This sugya will continue on the next page, so stay tuned!
At the end of the last daf we saw a dispute between the sages and R. Yose concerning one who threshes grain—according to the rabbis the handles are no longer susceptible to impurity because he no longer needs them. The Talmud had compared the situation in that mishnah—threshing grain at the threshing floor, with the other baraita, harvesting grain to use it for skhakh. This page begins by questioning this comparison.
The Talmud uses an explanation from R. Shimon ben Lakish found later in this sugya to explain R. Yose’s opinion from that Mishnah. R. Yose holds that even after the grain has been threshed the handles are susceptible to impurity because a person might want the handles to remain attached to the grain to make it easier to turn it over with a pitchfork.
But, the Talmud asks, if he wants cuts down the grain to use it for skhakh what use to the “handles” have once the grain has been crushed. Why should these handles remain susceptible to impurity?
The handles (stalks) still have use so that he can hold onto the grain when he takes the sukkah apart. Since the handles still have some use, the “others” in the original baraita say that the handles are susceptible to impurity.
The Talmud now returns to discuss the mishnah in which the rabbis and R. Yose debate whether the handles of foodstuffs are susceptible to impurity after they have been threshed.
Above we saw that R. Yohanan says that “threshing” is to be taken literally, whereas R. Elazar interprets it to mean that the bundles of sheaves were untied.
It’s easy to understand why R. Elazar interprets “threshing” to mean that he untied the bundles. This allows us to better understand why R. Yose holds that the handles remain susceptible to impurity. R. Elazar would say that if he really threshed the grain, the handles would no longer be susceptible to impurity because he no longer needs to use them to hold the food part.
But for R. Yohanan who interprets the word used for “threshing” to mean actual threshing, how can R. Yose say the handles remain susceptible to impurity?
We saw the answer already at the top of this daf—he still might want the handles to be attached so that it would be easier to turn them over with a pitchfork.
Since we just had a statement about a pitchfork, the Talmud cites a completely unrelated statement concerning the pitchfork. In Genesis 25:21 Isaac “entreats” the Lord on behalf of his barren wife. The word for entreat is ויעתר which has the same root as the word for pitchfork, עתר. R. Elazar says that prayer is compared to a pitchfork because prayer has the ability to overturn God’s harsh judgments.
Today’s section begins to explain the next mishnah.
Rabbi Judah holds that one can use wooden planks as skhakh whereas Rabbi Meir holds that wooden planks cannot be used.
The second part of the mishnah goes according to Rabbi Meir who forbids using wooden planks. Rabbi Meir admits that one wooden plank, even if it were wide, would not invalidate the entire sukkah, just the area that it actually covers. Therefore, he shouldn’t sleep (or eat) underneath this plank, but he may utilize other areas of the sukkah.
Rav says that R. Meir and R. Judah disagree only with regard to planks that are four handbreadths wide or broader. R. Meir prohibits these broad planks from being used lest one think that one can sit under an ordinary roof, which is certainly invalid.
R. Judah allows such planks. But all of the tannaim, even R. Meir, agree that planks that are thinner than four handbreadths wide can be used as skhkakh. No one would think that since three handbreadth planks can be used, an ordinary roof would also be okay.
Shmuel, an amora who was a contemporary of Rav, disagrees with Rav (this is common). He holds that if the planks are less than four handbreadths wide there is a dispute in the mishnah—R. Judah allows and R. Meir disallows. But if they are broader than four handbreadths, even R. Judah disallows their use.
In sum, there is a dispute in the Mishnah and there is a dispute in the Talmud concerning the parameters of the mishnaic dispute.
The Talmud raises a difficulty on Shmuel’s position. When he said there is a dispute if the planks are less than four handbreadths wide, did that mean that even if they are less than three handbreadths wide? Less than three handbreadths is just a stick, so why shouldn’t one use it as skhakh according to R. Meir?
R. Papa explains Shmuel more thoroughly. If they are greater than four, then everyone holds that the sukkah is invalid. If they are less than three, then everyone agrees that the planks may be used. The dispute is when they are between 3 and 4 handbreadths wide. R. Judah holds that they are valid because anything less than four handbreadths is not a “place.” “Place” refers to the rules of a domain—for something to be considered a “domain” it must be at least four handbreadths in each direction. R. Meir says that as long as it is broader than three handbreadths, it invalidates the sukkah because three handbreadths is the minimum size to be out of the category called “lavud.” “Lavud” means that something is so small it is as if it doesn’t exist. Since the planks are not so small that we consider them “lavud”—they disqualify the sukkah.
Today’s section continues yesterday’s section in which Rav and Shmuel argued over the parameters of the dispute between R. Meir and R. Judah in the Mishnah.
The Talmud raises the second half of the mishnah as a difficulty against Rav. Shmuel can interpret the end of the mishnah, which clearly disqualifies a sukkah with a four handbreadth plank, as representing both R. Judah and R. Meir. Both disqualify a plank that is four handbreadths or wider.
However, according to Rav, R. Judah allows planks even if they are wider than four handbreadths. So how could R. Judah not allow one to sleep under such a plank?
The Talmud basically accepts this difficulty. The second half of the mishnah accords only with R. Meir, at least according to Rav’s explanation of the mishnah.