The Talmud now brings another baraita as a difficulty on Rav. According to the baraita two sheets whose breadth is minimal can combine together to invalidate a sukkah. But two boards placed next to each other are considered individually. As long as each is not of the measure that disqualifies a sukkah, they are both valid. R. Meir disagrees and says that boards also combine. The Talmud here is concerned with R. Meir’s opinion.
Shmuel can easily interpret R. Meir’s opinion in this baraita. He would say that two boards can combine together to add up to a four handbreadth board, which all tannaim disallow.
Rav, on the other hand, cannot easily interpret the baraita. Rav holds that all tannaim allow boards that are less than four handbreadths. If the boards are each more than four handbreadths, then they are already invalid (according to R. Meir) and wouldn’t need to combine. But if they are less than four handbreadths, then clearly they are valid. They are considered nothing more than mere sticks.
The Talmud reinterprets the whole baraita. The planks are indeed four handbreadths and if in the middle of the sukkah, they would invalidate the whole sukkah according to R. Meir. The “combining” refers to a situation where they are at the side of the sukkah. Invalid skhakh at the sukkah’s side invalidates the entire sukkah only if they are four cubits wide (there are 6 handbreadths per cubit). So if there are several four handbreadth planks at the side of the sukkah, these planks would combine to invalidate the whole sukkah if there are four cubits worth of them.
Today’s section contains another difficulty from the Mishnah on Rav’s opinion that R. Meir and R. Judah dispute boards that are four handbreadths.
Shmuel can explain the baraita that said that two sheets or boards combine together to invalidate a sukkah as combining together on the side to invalidate a sukkah because there would be more than four cubits between the walls and the valid skhakh. This is the same explanation that Rav gave to this baraita above in yesterday’s section.
However, the baraita is a difficulty upon Rav who said that there is a dispute only about four handbreadth wood planks, less than that and the planks are valid. He can explain the baraita according to R. Meir who invalidates four handbreadth planks. R. Meir would say that the baraita refers to planks on the side (see above). They combine when they are on the side, but when they are in the middle, they invalidate.
But to R. Judah who allows any planks (according to Rav), why would the baraita say that they do not “combine?” After all, to R. Judah, planks are nothing more than mere sticks and can be used for skhakh. Obviously they don’t combine.
The answer is that the language in the first half of the baraita “two boards do not combine” is only there to disagree with R. Meir who says they “do combine.” To R. Judah they obviously don’t combine. Boards are always usable for skhakh (according to Rav’s interpretation of him). But R. Meir needed to say that they do combine so the baraita taught that according to R. Judah they do not. The attempt to preserve parallelism within a tannaitic source is very common.
Today’s section contains a baraita that agrees with Rav and one that agrees with Shmuel.
To remind ourselves: Rav holds that if the boards are four handbreadths, then R. Meir disallows and R. Judah allows. But both agree that smaller than four is valid.
Shmuel holds that they dispute about boards which are smaller than four handbreadths, but that if the boards are four or more, then all agree that they are invalid.
This baraita clearly agrees with Rav. The debate between R. Meir and R. Judah is specifically over planks/boards that are four handbreadths in width. We can deduce that they would both agree that smaller planks are valid.
You might ask what this time of danger is. There are several sources that mention the “time of danger.” Most scholars assume that if these sources are historically reliable (some believe that they are not) they refer to the Bar Kochva revolt. The problem with our source is that R. Judah lived well after this time period.
This version of the baraita agrees with Shmuel. The debate is only over planks that have a width of less than four handbreadths. If the plank is larger, everyone agrees that it is invalid.
There are two additional clauses to this baraita. R. Meir says that one may not cover his entire sukkah with planks. But he agrees that one can put planks up on top of the sukkah and leave space in between each plank for valid skhakh (called here by-product because it is the unusable portions of vegetation).
R. Judah’s clause is slightly harder to explain. In the first part of the baraita R. Judah says that one can’t use a plank that is four handbreadths wide. R. Meir also holds this position. So how can he say that the sukkah is valid? Rashi explains that he agrees that while one can place a four handbreadth wide plank on the side of a sukkah, where we can fictitiously consider it part of the wall, he agrees that one may not sleep under this plank.
Today’s section is about a person who tries to use planks for his skhakh but turns them on their side, such that the way they are placed is not by their width.
R. Huna says that planks that are four handbreadths wide are invalid as skhakh even if they have been placed on their side where they are thinner than four. R. Hisda and Rabbah son of R. Huna say that they are valid.
The Talmud now brings an interesting story related to the previous halakhah. R. Nahman, a sage from Nehardea, comes to Sura, where R. Hisda and Rabbah son of R. Huna are. They ask him his opinion on this issue, hoping that he will agree with them, that if he places the planks on their sides, the sukkah is valid. R. Nahman disagrees and says that they are invalid because they are like metal spits, which are always invalid for a sukkah.
R. Huna, who also holds that they are invalid, now rebukes them for not agreeing with his opinion. They shouldn’t have bothered asking R. Nahman, for R. Huna already told them that such a sukkah is invalid.
R. Hisda and Rabbah son of R. Huna respond that since R. Nahman explained his reasoning to them, they accepted his opinion. To this, R. Huna responds that had they asked him for his reasoning, he would have given it to them as well.
I think we can see from here that it is better to explain one’s reasoning than to simply state the halakhah. Had he explained his reasoning to R. Hisda and his son from the outset, maybe they would have accepted it.
The Talmud now tries to use a baraita to support R. Huna and R. Nahman who say that even if the planks are put on their sides, the sukkah is invalid. The baraita lists several sukkot that are invalid:
1) A sukkah that is not large enough to hold his head, most of his body and table.
2) A sukkah with a hole in the wall large enough for a goat to jump through.
3) Or if a four handbreadth plank has been put on it, even if he puts in only three handbreadths.
It seems that the third clause refers to a four handbreadth plank that has been placed on its side, which is only three handbreadths. This would mean that the baraita agrees with R. Huna and R. Nahman. A four handbreadth plank is always invalid, even if laid on its three handbreadths’ side.
The Talmud reinterprets the last clause from the baraita such that it no longer deals with the case of laying the planks down on their side. The baraita refers to a four handbreadth plank that was placed on the side of the sukkah (not on the plank’s side, on the sukkah’s side), with one handbreadth beyond the wall. The fact that one handbreadth was beyond the wall doesn’t mean that we consider it to be a three handbreadth plank for there is a principle that any skhakh protruding from the sukkah is judged as if it were part of the sukkah. This is a case of four handbreadths of plank being in the sukkah and therefore it is invalid.