If underneath the trees is considered a private domain for its partitions are real partitions, then why did R. Huna son of R. Joshua limit carrying there to an area of “two bet se’ah” which according to a book I have is about 1500 square yards.
The answer is that the people who wish to dwell under these trees don’t really want to be there just to spend their Shabbat under the tree. This is not a real “abode.” Rather, they are there on Shabbat because they are doing something outside, assumedly guarding fields. Whenever an abode is set up for something outside of it, such as a guard hut, one can carry within only if it is smaller than 1500 square yards.
This baraita says that an area that is raised ten handbreadths above the normal height of a field, or is ten handbreadths below ground level, or is surrounded by stalks that are ten handbreadths, one can count it as an enclosed area. One can walk through this entire area as if it were all four cubits in length and width. His “Shabbat border”—the distance he is allowed to leave his town on Shabbat—is reckoned from the end of the area. Had we not considered this his Shabbat area, he would be limited to 2000 cubits from the exact point at which he begins Shabbat.
Again, the point of bringing this baraita here is that we have another case where vegetation that sways to and fro can count as a partition—the stalks of grain.
And again, the Talmud resolves the difficulty by saying that he had plaited the stalks with shrubs and bay-trees to make a more solid partition.
This concludes our sugya about using considering swaying partitions to be halakhically valid. We should note that the tannaitic texts, the baraitot that the Talmud cites over and over, quite simply allow one to use such partitions even though they sway. The Talmud, the commentary and reaction to the Mishnah, rule more strictly. Formally speaking, however, the amoraim are not allowed to disagree with the Mishnah. But we can see here an excellent example of how the Talmud reacts when they do disagree with the Mishnah. They explain the Mishnah such that it accords with their opinion. Thus we might say that while formally, the authority lies with the earlier traditions, in reality, the later interpreters can do with these earlier traditions as they see fit.
This new daf begins with a new mishnah.
People who are busy performing a mitzvah and find it difficult to eat or sleep in a sukkah are exempt from the sukkah. This is due to the general rule that one who is engaged in one mitzvah is exempt from performing another mitzvah.
People who are sick enough so that being in the sukkah would be a discomfort for them, are not obligated for the laws of the sukkah. Being in the sukkah is not supposed to be painful and therefore, one who would be pained by being in the sukkah is exempt. Note, that the mishnah is not addressed to those who might “fake” being sick in order to get out of sleeping or eating in the sukkah. It is addressed to those who are so zealous about keeping the commandments that they would risk injury or at least illness to do so. The rabbis tell such a person to get out of the sukkah—the sukkah is not supposed to cause one pain.
Meals must be eaten in the sukkah. However, snacking may be done outside of the sukkah.
The Talmud now cites a baraita which provides scriptural support for why an agent on his way to perform a mitzvah is exempt from sitting in a sukkah. There is a general principle that whenever one is occupied with one mitzvah, he is exempt from performing another mitzvah. This is derived from the words from the Shema: “You shall speak about the words of Torah when you sit in your house and when you are going on the path.” “Sitting in the house” implies that you don’t have to study Torah when you are engaged in another mitzvah. “Going on the path” implies that a bridegroom is exempt from the Shema. How this midrash functions will be discussed below. After the midrash, the baraita appends a halakhah that states that when a man marries a virgin he is exempt from the recitation of the Shema, but when he marries a widow (or divorcee) he is liable. Below, the Talmud will discuss why there exists such a difference.
The Talmud asks how we can use the words “when you are going on the path” to exclude one who is going to perform a mitzvah from being obligated to read the Shema. R. Huna answers that going on a path, meaning a trip, is not a mitzvah—it is an optional act. From here we can deduce that one is obligated to recite the Shema only when one is performing an optional act, but when one is occupied with a mitzvah, he need not recite the Shema.
The Talmud presses the question. How do we know that the person referred to in the Shema as “walking on the path” was going to perform an optional act? Maybe he too was going to perform a mitzvah? The answer is that R. Huna derives this from the fact that the Torah says, “When you sit” or “when you walk.” The word you (expressed by the suffix kaf) implies that only when you are sitting or walking and occupied in something that is “for you” are you obligated to recite the Shema. If you are going on a religious errand, or occupied with a mitzvah, you are exempt.
In yesterday’s section we learned that anyone going to perform a mitzvah, is exempt from other mitzvot occurring at the same time. But the baraita quoted said that a man is exempt from the Shema only if he is marrying a virgin. If he is marrying a widow/divorcee he is obligated. Our section questions that distinction.
The answer is that one who marries a virgin has his mind quite preoccupied. I think the assumption is that usually this is also his first marriage. One can understand just how nervous he is, and in light of that, he can’t think about reciting the Shema. One who is marrying a woman with some experience will be less worried or preoccupied. Therefore, he is liable to recite the Shema.
The problem with the above solution is that it implies that anyone preoccupied with anything is exempt from the Shema. If this were really true, then even one standing on the shore watching his ship sink would be exempt from the Shema. But we know this is not true because a mourner is obligated for the Shema. He is only exempt from wearing tefillin because Ezekiel calls them “beautiful” (this is based on a midrash) and a mourner is not supposed to make himself look beautiful. But despite the fact that his thoughts are also occupied with other matters, he is liable to recite the Shema. So too in general anyone who is preoccupied with something is still obligated.
The answer is that there is an important distinction between being preoccupied with performing a mitzvah and being simply upset. If someone is preoccupied with performing a mitzvah such as marriage, he is exempt from the Shema. But if he is preoccupied with an optional activity, such as worrying about his ship, he is liable.
Note that it is a mitzvah to marry either a virgin or a widow. But if he marries a widow he is not preoccupied. Therefore, despite the fact that he is going to perform a mitzvah, he is liable for Shema.
Today’s section continues to discuss the concept that while one is performing a mitzvah he is exempt from performing another mitzvah.
The Talmud brings a baraita that can be used to teach that one who is occupied with a mitzvah is exempt from performing another mitzvah. Number 9:6 tells of some men who were impure and therefore couldn’t offer the Pesah sacrifice in its proper time. The rabbis, as they frequently do, wanted to identify these men. Who were they and why had they had contact with a dead body? Was this some special circumstance?
The first answer is that these are the men who were carrying Joseph’s coffin up from Egypt. The second answer is that these were Mishael and Eltzaphan who buried Nadav and Avihu (Leviticus 10:4). These answers are not related to the use of this baraita in this context. However, they are part of a general tendency among the rabbis to identify unnamed characters in the Bible with named characters from elsewhere.
R. Yitzchak says that if the impure men had been any of these characters they could have arranged it so that they would have become pure before Pesah. The people in this story obviously could not have become pure. Therefore, this person must have been person who had been occupied with what is known in rabbinic literature as a “met mitzvah.” This is the idea that if a person encounters a dead body that has no one to take care of its burial, one is obligated to provide the body with a proper burial. This is a mitzvah. R. Yitzchak implies that these people would have known that if they occupied themselves with the body, they would not have been able to offer the Pesah sacrifice, for their seventh day of purification would fall on the eve of Pesah, the day on which the Pesah is slaughtered. Nevertheless, they did not avoid one mitzvah (burying the dead body) in favor of another mitzvah (the pesah).
Our Talmud asks why we can’t use this source as proof for the general concept that one who is engaged in a mitzvah is exempt from performing another mitzvah.
We shall see the answer in tomorrow’s section.