Abaye says that without the midrash we might have thought that despite sukkah being a positive time-bound commandment, women are still liable. One is supposed to dwell in the sukkah as one does at home. Since at home, husband and wife live in the same building, so too in the sukkah we might think that both a husband and wife should be there together. To combat this notion the midrash tells us that women are exempt.
Rava offers another reason why we might have thought that women are liable for the mitzvah of sukkah, despite it being a positive time-bound commandment. Women are liable for the mitzvot of Pesah, including the mitzvah to eat matzah. This is true even though this is a positive time-bound commandment. Sukkot and Pesah both begin on the fifteenth day of the month. So we might have thought that just as women are liable for the commandments applicable to Pesah, so too they are liable for the commandments applicable to Sukkot. Therefore the baraita had to teach that women are exempt from sukkah.
Above we saw that we don’t really need the midrash to teach us that women are excluded from sukkah. So, the Talmud now asks, why do we need the extra “heh” in front of the word “homeborn.” What does the “heh” teach? The answer is that it includes converts. Note that this is closer to the original context of the verse. The word “homeborn” probably originally was intended to exclude the resident alien (ger toshav). Only an Israelite, according to the verse, is liable for the mitzvah of sukkah. The rabbis, however, use the extra “heh” to say that the convert is liable, even though he wasn’t born into Judaism.
The word “homeborn” was used in the midrash alluded to above to teach that women are liable to “afflict themselves” (fast) on Yom Kippur. However, we don’t need a special midrash for that. It could have been derived from Rav Judah’s statement that women are liable for all negative commandments.
The answer is that without the midrash I might have thought that they are not obligated for the extra affliction, the hour or so we add on to the fast on Yom Kippur. This extra fasting is not punishable (although it is mandated). Since it is not punishable I might have thought that women are not liable for it—they are, after all, liable only for things that are punishable. The midrash comes to teach that they are liable even for this extra amount of fasting.
Today’s section deals with the obligation of a minor to sleep in the sukkah.
Above we saw a baraita (a tannaitic source not from the Mishnah) which used the word “every” as in “every homeborn” to teach that even minors are obligated to dwell in the sukkah. This is a direct contradiction to the mishnah which exempts minors from dwelling in the sukkah.
The Talmud resolves the difficulty by saying that the first baraita refers to a minor who is old enough to be educated. Such a minor must dwell in the Sukkah. Below we shall see the definition of this age.
A minor who is too young to be educated is not obligated at all to sit in the sukkah.
Above, the baraita used the word “every” to include a minor in the obligation for sukkah. This implies that the Torah mandates minors to dwell in the sukkah. But there is a principle that until the age of bar mitzvah, children are never obligated to observe the commandments. The Talmud resolves that the verse is just a support—the source of the ruling is rabbinic.
There are two definitions for a child who does not need his mother any more, two definitions that I think are still applicable today. The first is that the child can relieve himself without help. As a father of four, I can safely say that passing this hurdle remains one of the signposts of having reached maturity.
The second is that when the child wakes up, he doesn’t call “Mommy, mommy” until she rescues him from his bed. A child that wakes up and calls “Mommy” once is already somewhat independent.
We should note also that both of these are related to the sukkah. Women were exempt from the sukkah, so a child sleeping in the sukkah would be without his mother. He would also have to be responsible for taking care of his own needs. A child who still needs to be wiped and can’t make it through the night without his mother would be better off sleeping in the house.
In the mishnah it looks like Shammai just disagrees with the other sages. He holds that even new-born infants are liable to sleep in the sukkah, so when his daughter-in-law gives birth, he opens up a sukkah over her bed.
However, the Talmud at times wants to harmonize variant opinions. It is bothered by the fact there is a story that disagrees with the opinion preceding it. The Talmud resolves this by saying that Shammai doesn’t disagree on principle—he agrees that a new-born need not sleep in the sukkah. He just rules strictly.
Today’s section starts with a new mishnah. The Talmud deals first with the opening clause, which teaches that one must make the sukkah into a permanent dwelling place. The second clause is the topic of next week’s daf.
This baraita illustrates how one makes the sukkah his “permanent dwelling” during Sukkot. A person’s permanent dwelling place is defined in several ways. First of all, we keep our nice stuff there, not just our temporary stuff our “good” stuff. I realize that this is pretty difficult now, and I doubt you find many people today who bring their couches out into the sukkah. It’s just not practical in a time when our houses are generally large and contain many possessions. But at the least it would seem we could follow this halakhah by bringing out nice dishes, tablecloths, chairs, and other such items. These give the sukkah a more permanent feel.
Second, one spends most of one’s time in the sukkah. Where we live is defined by where we eat and where we relax, as well as where we sleep. I realize again that this is not easy. Our homes are very comfortable and I love lying down on my couch as much as the next person. Still, we should make an effort to turn the sukkah into the place we dwell, not just the place we eat a few meals and then go back into the house.
Most of this section is a repeat of the previous baraita. There are two additions. First of all, the Biblical source of the halakhah is provided. The midrash on the word “you shall dwell” is again cited. Dwelling in the sukkah should be like dwelling in your home—bring in your real stuff.
Most of the rest of the baraita is simply a repeat of the above. The only addition is the last line. The baraita claims that one should study in the sukkah. The remainder of the passage will explore this topic.
The above baraita stated that one should “recite” in the sukkah. This is a synonym for learning oral Torah, which was recited and not read. The Talmud now brings a contradictory source according to which Rava would recite outside the sukkah. The three part division that Rava makes is noteworthy. Scripture is the easiest thing to learn because it is written. The “Mishnah” probably refers to short halakhot which were easy to memorize. However, there is a type of learning that Rava would do outside the sukkah. I have translated this as “reciting” although the Mishnah was also studied through reciting.
In any case, the Talmud resolves that easier forms of “reciting” can be done in the sukkah. Rashi explains this to be reviewing material that one has already learned. More difficult form of study, analyzing material, learning new material, and other such endeavors, should be done outside the sukkah. This seems to be because the sukkah would be hot and perhaps a bit distracting. It’s just harder to learn there, so one should go inside.