Daf Kaf Vav continues to discuss those who are exempt from performing one mitzvah because they are occupied with another mitzvah.
This baraita deals with the ritual prayer obligations of those involved in the wedding party. These people are exempt from prayer (the Amidah) because prayer requires a lot of intention—kavanah, and it is difficult for people celebrating to have the proper intention for prayer. They are exempt from tefillin because people may be getting drunk and one should not wear tefillin when drunk. We should note that in talmudic times people probably wore tefillin all day long. It was only in a later period when the norm began to be to wear them only during prayer. But they are obligated to recite the Shema, because the Shema is shorter and requires less kavanah (intention). Also, the Shema is a biblical passage that is probably easier to remember than the Amidah which had not yet been written down and whose precise wording had not yet been fully determined.
R. Shila says that the bridegroom is exempt from the Shema because he is worried about his wedding. But the other members of the wedding party are obligated because they are not so worried.
We should note that this baraita disagrees with the principle we learned above, that anyone occupied with the performance of a commandment is exempt from performing another commandment.
This baraita is even more expansive in who is exempt from performing any mitzvah because they are occupied in the performance of another mitzvah. Even people who are preparing objects to be used in the performance of a mitzvah, scribes and sellers of religious objects, are exempt from performing another mitzvah at the same time.
In my opinion these statements should be understood more as value statements than as halakhic prescriptions. What I mean is that when one is doing something important, performing one mitzvah, s/he shouldn’t turn away from that mitzvah in order to do something better. One should stay involved in the mitzvah that one is already performing. In reality, scribes and sellers can do both, and throughout history, to this day, that is what people do. I have been to many evening weddings in which we stop to daven maariv. But still, the principle remains true, and personally I think that there are some important life lessons here. One shouldn’t always be chasing after the “better” thing to do. One should be satisfied with the importance of the here and now.
This baraita deals with the difficulty travelers have in performing the mitzvah of dwelling in the sukkah. Those who are traveling are exempt from the mitzvah, but only while they are actually traveling. When they are resting, they are obligated to sleep and eat in a sukkah. However, one who is on his way to perform a mitzvah is exempt even when he is not traveling. Again, I read this as a value statement. Traveling for work or pleasure is important and one is allowed to do so during hol hamoed, but it only takes priority when one is actually traveling. Traveling in order to perform a mitzvah is of greater significance and therefore one is exempt even during the time of day he is not traveling.
R. Hisda and Rabbah son of R. Huna go to visit the exilarch (the political leader in talmudic Babylonia) on the Shabbat of Sukkot. While they probably could have just as easily slept in the sukkah of the exilarch, they do not do so, choosing to camp out on the banks of the river. They do so to teach that one who is in the process of performing a mitzvah is exempt from simultaneously performing another mitzvah. In this case, the mitzvah that they are performing is to greet their rabbi on the festival, something we see many rabbis doing in the Talmud.
This sugya deals with watchmen and whether they are exempt from the mitzvah of the sukkah.
People who are guarding the city generally can go home when they are not working. Therefore, when they are out at the gates or walls watching the city, they are exempt. But when they are home, they must sleep and eat in the sukkah. In contrast, people watching gardens and orchards are outside of the city and don’t come home every day. Therefore, they are exempt all of the time, day and night. In essence, they are always on the job.
The Talmud asks why the orchard or garden watchmen can’t just make a sukkah out in a field and dwell there. Abaye explains that there is a midrash on the word “dwell” in the context of Sukkot. The word “dwell” implies that your “dwelling” in the Sukkah should be like your “dwelling” in a house. In talmudic times used to take out their furniture from the house, the bed, the mattress, and put it in the sukkah and make it like their homes. Since the watchman can’t do this when he is out in the field, he is exempt from the sukkah altogether.
Rava offers a different reason for why the watchman is exempt from the sukkah—it will impede his job performance. If he goes into a sukkah, a place with walls, the thief will see that he is not guarding the orchard and will take the opportunity to steal the produce.
As often happens, the Talmud asks why give two reasons for one halakhah? What is the practical difference between the reason offered by Abaye and that offered by Rava? The difference is expressed in a case where the watchman is out in the field but his only duty is to watch a pile of produce. In such a case he can build the sukkah and still guard the produce, so Rava would say that he is liable to dwell in the sukkah. Abaye would say that since he still can’t bring his stuff out there to the fields, he can’t “dwell” as he normally does, so he is exempt.
This section goes on to discuss the next clause of the Mishnah, which exempted sick people from dwelling in the sukkah.
This baraita teaches that one who is sick and would be discomforted by sleeping in the sukkah is exempt from the mitzvah. Even if this pain is minor, he is exempt.
We should note that the psychology here is not of people looking for excuses to “get out” of being in the sukkah, but rather the rabbis instructing people not to fulfill the mitzvah of sukkah if it causes them discomfort. The rabbis seem to be worried that people will do so even if it is painful for them; they do not seem to be concerned that people will use these halakhot as an excuse to get out of sleeping in the sukkah.
The Talmud now cites two stories in which rabbis gave permission to other rabbis to not fulfill the mitzvah of sukkah because of the discomfort there. R. Aha Bardela sleeps under a canopied bed which is not allowed (if it has four posts—it forms a barrier to the skhakh) in the sukkah. Rav allows him to do so because the canopy protects him from the gnats whose presence makes the sukkah intolerable. R. Aha b. Ada’s sukkah is smelly, so Rava allows him to sleep outside the sukkah altogether.
Rava’s permission to sleep outside the sukkah because of the stench is a result of his broader belief—anyone who is in discomfort by being in the sukkah need not remain there!
However, the Talmud now thinks that Rava has gone a bit too far. The Mishnah exempted those who are sick, not anyone with any discomfort.
The resolution is that there is a difference between the sick and those merely in discomfort. If someone is truly sick, then he might need attendants with him. In such a case the attendants are also exempt from being in the sukkah. But if someone merely feels discomfort, he is exempt if the sukkah increases his discomfort. But even if he has attendants, they are not exempt. As long as they do not feel discomfort in the sukkah, they are obligated to dwell there.
Today’s section discusses what types of eating are allowed outside of the sukkah and what types of eating can be done only in the sukkah.
The Talmud defines “casual” eating as a certain volume and not as a manner (i.e. eating while standing up is casual, but sitting or reclining is formal). This leads to the question of how much food can still be considered “casual eating.”
R. Joseph says that the volume of 2-3 eggs is considered casual eating. This would seem to me the equivalent of a handful of pretzels, a piece of fruit, or something like that.
Abaye seems to have a smaller appetite. Two-three eggs might be enough for an entire meal (not a super-sized meal, that’s for sure). So how can it be considered casual eating?
Therefore Abaye rules that casual eating is as much as a young student eats before he goes into the learning session. This is evidently less than 2-3 eggs. In my opinion, Abaye may be referring not just to the amount, but to the manner in which the food is eaten. Eating a small amount while running into class is “casual.”
The main acts a person is supposed to perform in the sukkah are eating and sleeping. But while casual eating is allowed outside the sukkah, casual sleeping is not. Why not? R. Ashi explains that if one is allowed to “casually sleep”—i.e. nap—he might fall fast asleep. In other words, we can protect ourselves against allowing “casual” eating to turn into “set” eating (at least we think we can stop ourselves from eating), but with sleep, we cannot because we are asleep.
One is not allowed to sleep a deep sleep in one’s tefillin. This is because tefillin require a “clean body” and one cannot keep one’s body clean while sleeping (one is not supposed to flatulate while wearing tefillin). Nevertheless, one is allowed to casually sleep while wearing tefillin. So, Abaye asks, if we allow casual sleeping with tefillin and we are not concerned that he fall deeply asleep, why not say the same with regard to sleeping outside of the sukkah.
R. Joseph b. Ilai says that this baraita refers to one who tells someone to wake him up if he falls to fast asleep. In that way he can be assured that he won’t fall too deeply asleep. If he sets up an “alarm clock” he can sleep in his tefillin.
R. Mesharshaya says that even one person watching over you to make sure you don’t fall fast asleep is not enough. What if that person falls asleep as well!
Therefore R. Yohanan offers another interpretation to casual sleep. Casual sleep is not an amount of time, it is a position. If one just puts one’s head between one’s knees, sort of like putting one’s head down on a table, the sleep is casual. People don’t generally fall really fast asleep in such a position. So one can sleep that way with his tefillin on (and maybe outside of the sukkah as well).
Rava has an entirely different answer. He holds we are never concerned about someone falling fast asleep. One can sleep casually in one’s tefillin without concern that he will fall into a deep sleep. But when it comes to the sukkah, sleep is sleep. There is no “set” amount for sleep—any sleep might be sufficient for a person. Therefore, one isn’t even allowed to nap outside of the sukkah.
Since yesterday’s section discussed sleeping with one’s tefillin on, today’s section continues to deal with this topic. We should remember that in talmudic times rabbis probably wore their tefillin all day. This explains why the sugya has to deal with certain actions that may be undertaken while wearing tefillin. Today, when most people do not wear tefillin all day long, these problems should not arise.
There are three baraitot in this section discussing whether one can sleep in tefillin. One says yes, one says no, and one says only casual sleep, a nap.
The baraita that forbids one from sleeping while wearing tefillin refers to a case where he is holding them in his hands. He is not allowed to sleep lest he drop them on the floor. The baraita that allows only napping refers to a regular case where he simply has them on his head. He is not allowed to sleep deeply lest he pass gas with them on. Finally, the baraita that disallows sleeping with tefillin refers to a case where he wrapped them up in a cloth and put them next to his head.
Here we learn that “casual sleep” is a really short time. As long as it takes to walk only 100 cubits, about 50 meters. Personally I wouldn’t even consider this a nap. Seems like they’re saying that while theoretically, you can sleep in your tefillin, you really cannot.