Today brings us to the exciting conclusion of the debate concerning how much invalid skhakh disqualifies a sukkah when placed in the middle of the sukkah.
In this baraita R. Meir and R. Judah disagree about whether one can use planks that are four handbreadths wide. While both agree that one couldn’t use such planks as skhakh for the whole sukkah, R. Meir (and all the more so R. Judah) allows one to use some planks as skhakh, as long as one puts valid skhakh equal to the size of the invalid skhakh in between each plank.
Clearly, this baraita follows the opinion of the amoraim who hold that in the middle of the sukkah invalid skhakh needs to be four cubits to invalidate the whole sukkah. For if one plank of four handbreadths would invalidate the skhkah, how would putting valid skhakh between it and the next four handbreadth plank help matters?
R. Huna finds a scenario where four handbreadths of invalid skhakh do invalidate the sukkah, but there is still a valid sukkah created. The sukkah is exactly eight cubits in width. And he puts a plank on both sides and then works inward, alternating valid skhakh with invalid planks. In the middle there will be two sections of valid skhakh, each four handbreadths in width. This is sufficient to form a valid sukkah. The walls count because the invalid skhakh is only on the side. If the sukkah were any larger, then you wouldn’t have a valid patch in the middle and it would be invalid.
Although I don’t usually get in to halakhic matters in these pages, since you spent so long invested in learning this material, I will tell you that the halakhah follows the opinion that four handbreadths invalidates even in the middle of the sukkah. So be careful when you make your sukkah.
We continue to discuss how large a gap of air invalidates a sukkah.
Abaye holds that if one wants to diminish a gap in a sukkah there is a difference between a large and a small sukkah. A three handbreadth gap in a large sukkah can be diminished even with invalid skhakh because once he diminishes the gap, there will no longer be a three handbreadth gap of air.
However, if the sukkah is small he can diminish it with sticks, which are valid as skhakh. Since a less than three handbreadth gap is negligible (lavud), the sukkah is valid. However, if he does so with spits, which are not valid skhakh, the sukkah is not valid, even though there isn’t a minimum measure of air space or a minimum measure of invalid skhakh. Since of the seven handbreadths of the sukkah (the minimum measure of a sukkah) more than three aren’t valid (either air or spits) there isn’t sufficient skhakh to validate the sukkah.
The Talmud limits Abaye’s statement to a case of a gap on the side of the skhakh. If there is an air gap of less than three handbreadths on the side of the sukkah, the sukkah remains valid for we can invoke the rule of “lavud.” However, when it comes to such a gap in the middle of the sukkah, there is a dispute between two amoraim. One holds that the rule applies in the middle as well. The other holds that it does not.
The amora (we don’t know which one) who holds that the rule of lavud applies in the middle derives this from a baraita. The baraita is not discussing a sukkah but rather the beams laid across an entrance to an alleyway on Shabbat. These beams are part of the eruv system and allow one to carry from one courtyard to another on Shabbat. One thing that needs to be done is to lay a beam across the alleyway entrance. The baraita teaches that as long as there is not a gap of three handbreadths between the beam and the wall or between one beam and the other, the system works. This is even true if the gap is in the middle, one beam coming from one side and the other beam coming from the other side. Thus the rule of “lavud” can be applied even in the middle.
The amora who holds that the rule of lavud is not invoked in the middle rejects the proof from the baraita because all of the rules of eruvin, including the beam that allows one to carry from one alleyway to another, are only “derabanan”—of rabbinic origin.
In yesterday’s section we saw one amora who holds that we don’t invoke the principle of lavud when the gap is in the middle of the sukkah. The Talmud now attempts to find a source for this position.
The Talmud cites Ohalot 10:1 as proof that we don’t invoke the principle of lavud when the gap is in the middle. The mishnah discusses the formation of an “ohel” a tent. If there is a dead body or piece thereof in the tent the impurity spreads throughout the tent. Without getting into the details of this mishnah (see my commentary on that mishnah in Mishnah Yomit), clearly a one handbreadth hole is sufficient enough to let the impurity out, if the unclean object is directly underneath. Thus one handbreadth is not lavud when in the middle of the house.
The other position, which holds that there is “lavud” in the middle, responds by claiming that the laws of uncleanness are different because they have been learned in a special tradition. But this tradition is specific to the laws of uncleanness. And wouldn’t extend to the laws of sukkah.
R. Judah b. Ilai expounds a halakhah which he subsequently explains to match that in the mishnah. If one opens a hole in the roof of his house, he can put skhakh there and have a valid sukkah as long as it is not more than four cubits between the skhakh and the walls of the house.
This section is here only because the same rabbi is “expounding” and the same rabbi asks him to explain his words. Here he allows one to eat a small fish called the “abruma.” The problem with buying the abruma is that it is sold in bunches and sometimes one can’t tell if there are forbidden foods (perhaps crustaceans) mixed in with them. R. Judah b. Ilai explains that it depends on where it comes from. Some places sell the abruma mixed in with all sorts of forbidden foods and from those places it is forbidden. Tomorrow’s section will continue discussing this fish.
Today’s section connects with the end of yesterday’s section where R. Judah b. Ilai allowed one to eat the abruma fish under certain circumstances.
Abaye allows one to eat a certain fish called the tzahanta, another small fish, from a place in Babylonia called the “Bab Nahara” (which literally means the Gate River). The Talmud asks why it’s permitted.
The first possibility is that this river is so fast unclean fish that don’t have spinal cords (eels?) can’t live there. But this simply isn’t true. Eels and other spineless unkosher fish can live in fast rivers. So we need a new reason.
Again, just because this is a salty river (or maybe its near the sea?) doesn’t mean that unclean fish that don’t have scales can’t live there.
The Talmud finally answers that this river is muddy and evidently the Talmud doesn’t think that unclean fishes live in muddy waters. Since I’m not an ichthyologist I won’t comment.
Before you go run off to order a tzahanta in a restaurant, Ravina also said that nowadays, we can’t eat those little fishes anymore because the two rivers that flow into it have unclean fish. And since you can’t be sure that there are no unclean fishes mixed in, you can’t eat the tzahanta anymore. Go have some sardines instead.
Today’s section deals with a place in front of a Roman style building called the “exedra” (there is an entry for this on Wikipedia, you can look it up). Rashi explains that in courtyards that were surrounded by the houses, there was a covered open area called the exedra. Our sugya refers to a sukkah built in the open space not covered by the roof of the exedra. The skhakh is resting on the exedra roof. This was also referred to in the mishnah that began daf yod zayin.
Rashi explains that the sukkah built on top of the exedra is too far from the walls of the house for those walls to count. As we learned in the mishnah, if the walls are more than four cubits from the skhakh, the walls cannot count as part of the sukkah. However, if there are pillars that hold up the roof of the exedra and there are less than three handbreadths between each pillar, the sukkah is valid. In this case, the pillars can count as the wall and the sukkah is valid.
However, there is a debate between Abaye and Rava if there are no pillars. Abaye says it is still valid, whereas Rava declares it invalid. Each amora will now explain their position.