This is an example of how the amoraim (the sages of the talmudic period) would learn. First of all, we should note that they don’t sit, they stand. The teacher or rosh yeshiva, R. Hisda, is the one who is sitting. His students stand. Second, they open their learning by “running” through it. This seems to refer to simple recitation—they would just say which tanna of the mishnah or baraita said what. After having gone over the tradition, they would investigate its meaning—why each opinion holds the way it does.
I should mention that this seems to be an excellent compromise between the two essential elements of learning—memorization and comprehension. The educational process begins with memorizing content. But it doesn’t end there—it continues with comprehensive analysis. This latter, more difficult stage can be done outside the sukkah.
The final part of the sugya discusses what vessels may be kept in the sukkah and which must be brought in when they are done being used.
Drinking vessels can be left in the sukkah because they don’t get so dirty. But eating vessels (plates, maybe large knives, they didn’t have forks) should be brought in because they get really dirty.
Large vessels used for drawing water should be kept outside of the sukkah. This doesn’t seem to be so much because they are dirty. Rather, there is simply little need to keep these vessels in the sukkah. To save space they should be kept outside of the sukkah.
Finally, a lamp can be kept in a large sukkah where the danger of starting a fire is low. But it should not be kept in a small sukkah where the smoke might bother people’s eyes and it may cause a fire.
To be honest, I think that the rule of thumb is to use common sense. If the vessel will be troublesome in the sukkah, take it out. But if it’s not a problem, feel free to leave it in.
The final daf of this chapter deals with the end of the last mishnah which stated that one may leave the sukkah if the rain is strong enough to ruin one’s porridge.
A baraita related to the mishnah teaches that the porridge referred to in the mishnah was made of beans. According to Rashi such a dish spoils quickly in the rain, quicker than a grain porridge.
This is followed by a story of Abaye hanging out in the sukkah with his teacher, R. Yosef. The wind begins to howl and blows some twigs into the food. Thereupon R. Yosef orders his servants to clear his stuff from the sukkah—he’s going inside. Abaye asks him how he can justify this—after all the mishnah says that one can only go in once the soup has been ruined, and evidently it hasn’t gotten that bad yet.
Interestingly R. Yosef answers that he is particularly delicate and he can’t stand being in the sukkah when the wind is blowing this hard. This seems to imply that there is some personal standards in being able to tolerate being in the sukkah during bad weather. While there are general standards at which point anyone is allowed to leave the sukkah, it really depends on what the individual can tolerate.
Today’s section continues to deal with rain coming down while one is eating or sleeping in the sukkah.
Basically the principle is simple—if you’re engaging in one of the main sukkah activities, eating or sleeping, and you have to leave the sukkah due to rain, you don’t have to come right back to the sukkah as soon as it stops raining. Rather, you can finish your meal inside, or finish the night’s sleep inside. Only then must you go back into the sukkah, if it’s not raining of course.
We should note that as usual the Talmud refers to leaving a sukkah as “going down.” This is because their sukkot were usually on roofs.
The end of the baraita above said that he need not go back to the sukkah until שיאור. This word if written with an “aleph” means until it gets light outside. But if this word written with an “ayin,” שיעור, then it means until he wakes up. The words sound almost the same, even though their roots are different. So the Talmud asks which is it—if he wakes up and it’s still dark, does he have to go back to the sukkah? Alternatively, if it gets light and he’s still sleeping should someone wake him up and send him back to the sukkah?
The answer comes, paradoxically, from a baraita that seems to say שיאור, until it gets light outside. It would seem to mean that as soon as it’s light outside, he must go back to the sukkah. However, this baraita also says “until it is dawn.” The baraita shouldn’t need to say both—they are superfluous. Therefore, the Talmud reads the baraita as שיעור with an ayin. He only has to go back to the sukkah once he wakes up and it is light outside.
Today’s section interprets the parable found in the mishnah: “They made a parable. To what can this be compared? To a slave who comes to fill the cup for his master, and he poured a pitcher over his face.”
The first section begins with a question about the parable in the mishnah—who spills on whom? Does God spill the rain on the people dwelling in the sukkah? This seems to be the obvious meaning of the parallel, and indeed this seems to be the interpretation that the Talmud will provide. The alternative meaning is that the servant, Israel, spills on God by acting in an improper manner. The advantage to this meaning is that there is now a quid pro quo. Israel behaves improperly, and as a response, God causes it to rain in the sukkah. In the next passage we will see that there is this sense throughout the Talmud. On the one hand, rain is a good sign, absolutely essential for the land and for welfare. But there is also the problem of raining in the sukkah which could be interpreted as God saying to Israel—I don’t want your service.
This second baraita strengthens the same idea found in the first baraita, but applies it to another heavenly sign. The eclipse of the sun must have been exceedingly frightening in the ancient world. The baraita understands it as God saying to the world, “I provided you with this light. If I get angry, I can take it away whenever I want.” The message would seem to be—act well, for if you don’t, it won’t always be here.
Today’s section continues to discuss heavenly signs as omens for the future.
This is a sad baraita. Israel (the “enemies of Israel is a euphemism for Israel) is presented as the abused school child, fearful of every bad sign for he is used to being beaten. Rabbi Meir points out that it is only natural for Israel to assume that a heavenly sign is a bad omen for them and not for the rest of the world, for Israel is the suffering child of God.
We should also perhaps note that this baraita is particularistic—heavenly signs are directed at Israel and not at the whole world. Nature acts on behalf of Israel, albeit as a sign of punishment. Throughout this sugya we would do well to keep track of when heavenly signs are directed against particular nations and when they are directed against all of humanity.
This baraita notes that Israel is a “moon” people—we reckon our calendar based on the moon. The rest of the world reckons by the sun. So when the moon is eclipsed it’s a bad sign for Israel, but when the sun is eclipsed, it’s a bad sign for idolaters.
This section is pretty self-explanatory. Here the signs are universal, not directed against a particular nation.
The first half of the baraita interprets the color of the sun as an omen to the world. Red signifies the blood shed by a sword and the grey of sack-cloth signifies the ashen face of someone undergoing starvation.
The second half imparts significance to the time of day of the eclipse, but there are two versions of the interpretation. The first version is that if the eclipse is at sunset, then it was delayed. This implies that calamity will be delayed. If the eclipse appears first thing in the morning, calamity will hasten on its way.
The second version interprets in the opposite manner. If it is eclipsed in the evening, then just as the sun is hurrying to set, so too calamity will appear quickly. However, if the eclipse is in the morning, then just as the sun has a long time before it sets, so too calamity will tarry in coming.
This is a continuation of the source that began in yesterday’s section, concerning the interpretation of eclipses.
There are two sections here. In the first, the baraita says that the calamity that strikes the world is also meted out to the gods that each people worships. This is directly related to the verse in Exodus where our God says that in meting out punishment to the Egyptians, He will also execute judgment against the Egyptians gods. This line is probably familiar to many of you from the Dayyenu.
The second half is a message of comfort and theology to Israel—heavenly omens portend calamities but only when Israel is not performing the will of God. When Israel performs the will of God, the heavenly bodies have no effect on them. To put this another way, the heavenly bodies are only signs of God’s anger at Israel. They are not the cause of Israeli’s suffering.
The last section of this daf and this chapter continues with baraitot explaining why the various luminaries are in eclipse.
An Av Bet Din is the head of the court. He should be eulogized properly. The second crime is the rape of a betrothed girl, referring to Deuteronomy 22:27. We should note that that Torah says that the rapist is punished with death. However, the Torah’s verse refers to a case where the rape occurred in the field, where no one could protect Torah. The baraita here refers to a case where she was raped in the city, where there should have been people to protect her. In such a case, clearly the rapist is still liable for the death penalty. But the community also bears some responsibility for not being there to save her.
“Sodomy” refers to male on male sex.
We now move on to a phenomenon that is not just a portent of bad things to come (eclipses) but is actually itself a type of calamity. Throughout talmudic literature we hear of the fear that the Roman government will take possession of Jewish property. This seems to have been a significant fear of the time period.
Again, the baraita seems to propose a measure for measure basis for why bad things happened to Jews. When Jews do not act justly in economic matters, there property is taken away from there. One who holds on to a paid bill may use it to collect the same debt twice (or someone else might use the bill to collect the debt a second time). Lending money with interest to a fellow Jew is prohibited by the Torah. If Jews have the power to prevent wrongdoings to others and they don’t, then they will be punished by others committing wrongdoings against them.