The Talmud now notes that what R. Dosa says here contradicts what he said above, in the previous section. There R. Dosa agreed with R. Yose that one could use such mats for skhakh. This implies that they are not susceptible to impurity. But here he says that the mats are susceptible to corpse impurity.
The resolution is that mats that have a rim are susceptible to impurity, whereas mats that don’t have a rim are not. Again, the more formed something is, the more susceptible it is to impurity.
Yesterday’s section dealt with the types of mats that are susceptible to impurity. Today we continue with this subject (don’t worry, it’s almost done).
The Talmud now cites a baraita that seems to be a slightly different version of the baraita about the “hotzlot” that we saw in yesterday’s section. As we shall see, the Talmud will try to match this baraita with the other one.
The Talmud now explains that this baraita accords with the person who held that “hozlot” were bags filled with foliage. The question is what use can be made out of these mats besides sitting on them, so that they would possibly be susceptible to corpse impurity and not midras impurity (which is only applicable to things that are sat or lied upon). He can explain that the sacks made of bamboo reed grass, sackcloth and goat’s hair can also be used for basketlike purpose. But the one who defined “hozlot” as real mats has trouble understanding this baraita. Sackcloth and goat’s hair can be used as curtains or sieves, but what use can one make out of a bamboo or reed-grass mat besides sitting on them?
The Talmud finds an answer: they can be used to cover brewing vats. [I actually used to brew beer, but alas, I never tried a bamboo or reed-grass mat as a brewing cover. God willing, in the future].
This section is simply a mirror version of the previous section.
Today’s section is the last section in chapter one. It continues to deal with using mats as skhakh.
Don’t worry—the other chapters are shorter. And congratulations—we’ve now finished the first chapter of Daf Shevui!
The long sugya ends with a tradition that one can use a reed mat as skhakh, as long as it doesn’t have a rim. If it has a rim it is susceptible to impurity and cannot be used.
This tradition is about the specific mats found in Mahoza, a city in Babylonia. Basically, it teaches the same thing as we learned in the previous section.
This is how every chapter of Talmud concludes, with a wish that we should go back and learn it again, to commit it to memory. So please do continue with the next section, which begins the second chapter. But when you have some extra time, keep learning the first chapter. As I’ve always told my students, the best way to improve your ability to learn Talmud is to review the material you’ve already learned.
The first mishnah of chapter 2 teaches that a person who sleeps underneath a bed inside the sukkah has not fulfilled his obligation to dwell in the sukkah. This is because the bed, which is not valid skhakh acts as a barrier between him and the valid skhakh above.
We should note that in mishnaic and talmudic times it was clearly customary and obligatory to sleep inside the sukkah. The practice of not sleeping in the sukkah has its origins in cold medieval Europe where a person would truly suffer by sleeping in the sukkah.
The problem with sleeping under a bed inside a sukkah is that there is a covering which creates a barrier over the person so that the skhakh is not what is covering him.
Rabbi Judah holds that the bed does not serve as a barrier between him and the sukkah and hence one who sleeps under a bed has fulfilled his obligation. Interestingly, Rabbi Judah notes that this was actually their custom. It might be that students visiting their rabbis on Sukkot, which seems to have been a norm on festivals, found the sukkot quite crowded. Hence, some people would sleep under the beds, causing the question to arise: is this legitimate behavior?
Section three: Rabbi Shimon agrees with the sages in section one and he brings a story to illustrate his point. Rabban Gamaliel owned a famous slave named Tabi. In tractate Berakhot 2:7 that Rabban Gamaliel respected his slave, and that when Tabi died he even mourned for him. In this mishnah, Tabi exemplifies his knowledge of halakhah by sleeping under the bed in the sukkah. He knew that he was exempt from the sukkah, as are all slaves, so he did a demonstrative act to let others know that one who sleeps under the bed has not fulfilled his sukkah obligation.
The mishnah seems to say that sleeping under any sized bed means that one has not fulfilled the mitzvah of dwelling in the sukkah. But this is a problem—if the bed is less than ten handbreadths high then it is not large enough to be a sukkah. How then could it form a barrier to the skhakh of the sukkah.
Shmuel answers that this bed is indeed ten handbreadths high. If it was any lower, one could sleep under it in the sukkah without it forming a barrier.
Today’s section begins with a mishnah from Ohalot 3:7 that deals with the definition of a tent with regard to the issue of “overshadowing.” Overshadowing means that if a dead body or piece thereof is found in the same covered area as is an object susceptible to impurity, the object is defiled. There are also other ramifications within the realm of purity laws to something being considered a “tent.”
Any structure, no matter how it is made, can act as an ohel, a tent. Earlier in this mishnah from Ohalot it was taught that if there are spaces that are one handbreadth wide, long and tall between the different parts, then the part on top is treated separately from the part below.
Rabbi Judah says that only human-made structures can serve as an ohel.