This daf begins with a new mishnah.
Rabbi Judah relates here the opinions of Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel. Bet Shammai holds that in order to make this roof valid he must do two things. First of all, he must pick up every plank, loosen it and only then put it back down in its place. This seems to be a demonstrative act to show that this is a sukkah and not a house. He must also remove every other plank so that it also looks like a sukkah and not a house. Bet Hillel is more lenient and allows one to do one or the other—he either loosens the planks by picking them up or he removes one from between each two. He need not do both acts.
Rabbi Meir rules differently. According to Rabbi Meir, the symbolic act of loosening the planks is not necessary nor does it help. Rather, he must remove one out of every two planks so that the sukkah does not look like a house. This is in line and somewhat modifies what Rabbi Meir said in the previous mishnah—wooden planks may not be used. Here we see that they can be used, but they must not be placed right next to each other. Rather there must be gaps equal to their thickness. Assumedly, he will fill in these gaps with other types of skhakh that clearly can be used.
The Talmud now tries to examine the reasoning of Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai. Bet Hillel’s opinion is understandable. They hold that one must actively make a sukkah. If the sukkah is already covered by a wood ceiling there would be two ways by which to “make” a sukkah—either to pick up each plank and then put it down again. Or one could remove one out of every other plank.
But Bet Shammai’s opinion is more puzzling. If they too hold that one must “make” a sukkah, then either act (picking up or removing) should be sufficient. And if they hold that one can’t use a wooden roof because it looks too much like an ordinary roof, one that has plaster on it, then he shouldn’t have to do both acts. It should be enough to remove one out of every two.
The Talmud answer the question by emending Bet Shammai’s statement. Instead of saying that one needs to perform both loosening and removing, one really needs to remove one out of every two. They disallow a wooden roof lest one come to allow an ordinary roof in a sukkah, one that has plaster.
If one reads that according to the first clause of the mishnah Bet Shammai holds that one must remove one of every two, and that loosening is not sufficient, then what is the difference between Bet Shammai and R. Meir from the end of the mishnah.
The Talmud now re-explains the end of the mishnah. R. Meir doesn’t offer a different opinion. He just says that Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai don’t actually disagree about this matter. Both say that one must remove one out of every two in order to make the wooden roof valid.
Today’s section is a direct continuation of yesterday’s section. It relates back to the mishnah, where R. Judah said that Bet Hillel allowed one to either loosen or remove one plank out of every two from a wooden roof and thereby make a valid sukkah. R. Meir said one had to remove one out of every two. Loosening wasn’t sufficient.
In essence, this mishnah relates that R. Judah does not worry lest one’s skhakh looks like an ordinary roof. That is why he allows one to simply loosen and put back every plank. R. Meir is concerned lest the skhakh look like an ordinary roof and therefore makes him remove one out of every two. But this is the same debate that we had in the previous mishnah. R. Judah allows one to use planks and R. Meir does not. So why would we need another mishnah to teach the exact same thing.
R. Hiyya b. Abba says that only our mishnah actually talks about the use of regular planks. The previous mishnah had nothing to do with regular planks that might look like a ceiling. Rather, the planks being referred to there have already been planed. These may not be used because they look too much like vessels, which are susceptible to impurity and therefore may never be used.
The Talmud now says that R. Hiyya’s statement could be used as a difficulty on R. Judah’s statement from a few pages ago. R. Judah said one can use plain arrowshafts as skhakh because these shafts are not susceptible to impurity. He doesn’t disallow plain shafts lest one come to use bored shafts that have a receptacle, which are susceptible to impurity. Anything susceptible to impurity is never valid as skhakh.
So if R. Hiyya says that one may not use something that even looks like a vessel lest someone use something that is a vessel, why would R. Judah allow one to do so.
Yesterday’s section ended with a difficulty—if we interpret the previous mishnah to be dealing with planed planks and Rabbi Meir doesn’t allows them lest one come to use a regular ceiling, then why doesn’t he forbid one from using regular arrow shafts lest one come to use bored arrow shafts.
This returns us to our original difficulty—does the mishnah about a non-plastered ceiling teach the same thing as the previous mishnah about the planks?
Both mishnayot, the previous mishnah in which Rabbi Judah and Rabbi Meir argued over whether one can use planks as skhakh and this mishnah, where Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Judah argue over whether Bet Hillel allows one to merely loosen the planks of an already existent sukkah, are over the same issue: do we disallow planks lest one come to use regular roofing including plaster? If this same dispute occurs in both mishnayot, then why did it need to be taught twice?
The answer is that the second mishnah is in a sense a continuation of the conversation between the two that began in the first. Rabbi Judah who allows these planks tells Rabbi Meir that his opinion matches that of Bet Shammai. Since we know that the halakhah is like Bet Hillel (or so the Talmud assumes) Rabbi Meir must be wrong.
Rabbi Meir then responds that the two houses do not disagree upon this matter. Both agree that if the ceiling already exists, what he must do is remove one out of every two planks. That is not Bet Shammai’s opinion—that is everyone’s opinion.
This section continues to discuss the dispute between R. Meir and R. Judah in this mishnah about a wooden roof that has no plastering. Why does R. Meir make one remove one out of every two planks while R. Judah says it is sufficient to merely loosen the boards?
Rav says that R. Meir and R. Judah disagree concerning planks that are four handbreadths wide. He can interpret both mishnayot as being about whether we prohibit using planks lest one come to use ordinary roofing, as we did at the end of yesterday’s section.
But Shmuel holds that the dispute is about smaller planks, and such planks are not generally used to make a ceiling. If so, what then is the dispute in the second mishnah?
The sugya ends with a different interpretation of the second mishnah, about the roof with no plaster. Rashi explains that Shmuel could hold that if one was coming to make new skhakh even R. Judah would agree that he couldn’t use planks that are four handbreadths wide, because he decrees lest one sit under ordinary roofing. But the second mishnah deals with a roof that’s already built, and the question is how does one annul it from becoming a roof. According to R. Judah, if one loosens the planks, it shows that he knows that he is using them for his sukkah and that is sufficient to make the sukkah valid, at least according to Bet Hillel. Such a person knows that he can’t sit under ordinary roofing, so there is no reason to be strict. R. Meir disagrees and holds that even if he demonstrates that he is using them for a sukkah, it is still not valid until he removes one out of every two.
Our sugya begins with a new mishnah.
Neither iron spits nor bedposts can be used as skhakh because they are both made of metal. However, they can be put on top of the sukkah as long as there is valid skhakh between the posts or spits and the valid skakhah is of at least equal quantity to the metal.
In the second clause of the mishnah a person does not make a sukkah but rather the sukkah is made by his hollowing out a hole in a haystack. The Talmud will discuss why such a sukkah is invalid.
The Talmud tries to use our mishnah as a difficulty upon R. Huna son of R. Joshua. R. Huna implies that if the breach, the non-covered part, of the skhakh is equal to the part that is existent, the sukkah is invalid. The mishnah says that if there is valid skhakh in between the invalid metal poles equal to the metal poles, then the sukkah is valid. Thus as long as the valid skhakh is equal to the invalid part (poles or nothing) the sukkah is valid.
We should note that R. Huna and R. Papa were really arguing about walls that determine a domain for Shabbat. The Gemara is applying their dispute to a different case, that of skhakh.
R. Huna could answer that when the mishnah says “equals” it doesn’t mean that the space of the valid skhakh is exactly equivalent to the poles. What it really means is that the valid skhakh of an equivalent size to the invalid poles can easily pass through the spaces left in between the poles. This would mean that there was more space for valid skhakh then for the invalid stuff.