In yesterday’s section we saw three different amoraic opinions as to why a 20 cubit sukkah is invalid. All three amoraim cited biblical verses to support their opinion. Today’s section asks why each amora didn’t simply accept the verse cited by the other amoraim. In other words, why do we need three different opinions supporting the exact same halakhah?
Rabbah had stated that the reason a 20 cubit sukkah is invalid is from the verse, “In order that they shall know.” The “knowing” according to Rabbah, refers to a person sitting in a sukkah today (or in his time). The other amoraim did not accept this text as a prooftext because the verse refers to the “knowing” of subsequent generations. In other words, subsequent generations should know that God caused Israel to dwell in Sukkot, but the one sitting in a sukkah does not need to “know” that there is skhakh above his head.
R. Zera had used the verse from Isaiah which implied that a sukkah should be for shade. From here R. Zera concluded that all sukkot, even the ones we sit in today, must provide shade. Above 20 cubits and the sukkah (=skhakh) does not provide shade, the walls do. The other rabbis don’t agree with R. Zera because they read that verse as referring to a messianic sukkah, and not the everyday sukkah in which we sit in today.
The Talmud also ascribes a response to R. Zera. R. Zera says that the fact that the verse uses the word “sukkah” as opposed to “huppah” which means covering, implies that it is meant to teach two things. One of those is that the sukkah that we sit in today must be for shade.
Rava said that since a 20 cubit sukkah must be permanent, it cannot be used during sukkot when one’s dwelling place must be temporary. Abaye objected that one can indeed build a permanent sukkah with iron walls. No one invalidates such a sukkah. Although Rava responded to Abaye’s objection, according to the Talmud the other sages sided with Abaye and hence they did not use this verse as proof.
At the core of today’s section are three amoraic opinions that limit the mishnah’s invalidation of the 20 cubit sukkah. These amoraim mostly claim that only a narrow 20 cubit sukkah is invalid. A broader sukhah is valid no matter how high it is.
The Talmud then takes each of these three amoraic opinions and pairs it up with one of the opinions from the previous parts of the sugya, where the three amoraim debated why a 20 cubit sukkah is invalid.
R. Yoshaya says that a 20 cubit sukkah is invalid only if the walls don’t go all the way up the skhkakh. As long as the walls of the sukkah are ten handbreadths high, the skhkakh can be much higher. But if the walls go all the way up to the skhakh, the sukkah is valid even if the sukkah is more than 20 cubits high.
The gemara explains that this follows Rabbah who held that a 20 cubit sukkah is invalid because he won’t notice the skhakh. If the walls go all the way up to the skhakh the eye will be drawn upward and one will notice the skhakh no matter how high it is.
R. Huna says that if the sukkah is larger than four cubits by four cubits about 2 meters by 2 meters) it is valid even if it is more than 20 cubits high. The mishnah invalidates only a 20 cubit high sukkah that is narrower than this measure.
This, according to the gemara, accords with R. Zera who holds that the skhakh must provide the shade. As long as the sukkah is at least 4 x 4 cubits, the skhakh will provide the shade, even if the sukkah is more than 20 cubits high.
R. Hanan bar Rabbah says that as long as the sukkah is broad enough to fit a person’s head, most of his body and his table, the sukkah can be higher than 20 cubits. We should note that on daf gimmel (3) we shall see that according to the halakhah, this is the minimum breadth of a sukkah. Thus R. Hanan bar Rabbah holds that as long as the sukkah is even slightly broader than is minimally required, the sukkah can be as high as one wants.
R. Hanan bar Rabbah’s opinion does not match any of the opinions on the previous page. If the sukkah is this narrow, one will not notice the skhakh and the shade will come from the walls not the skhakh. Furthermore, R. Hanan bar Rabbah implies that the more permanent a sukkah is, meaning the broader it is, the more likely it is to be valid. This is opposite from Rava who held that the sukkah should be more temporary, i.e. narrower not broader.
Today's section compares the three amoraic opinions we learned yesterday, each of which limited the mishnah's scope in a slightly different way.
We can understand why R. Yoshayah disagreed with R. Huna and R. Hanan bar Rabbah for he limited the mishnah by saying that as long as the walls reached the skhakh the sukkah was valid even if it is more than 20 cubits high. They, on the other hand, limited the mishnah by saying it applied only to sukkot that were narrow.
The gemara now suggests that what R. Huna and R. Hanan b. Rabbah are really arguing about is the minimum size of a sukkah. R. Hunah holds it needs to be at least 4 cubits square and R. Hanan b. Rabbah says that it is valid as long as it can hold his head, most of his body and the table.
The gemara rejects the previous explanation of the disagreement between R. Huna and R. Hanan b. Rabbah and offers a new one.
According to R. Huna the sages and Rabbi Judah disagree if the sukkah is exactly large enough to fit his head, most of his body and table. At this exactly minimum size the first opinion in the mishnah will disqualify a 20 cubit high sukkah and Rabbi Judah will validate it. But if it is any bigger than the minimal breadth, the sukkah is valid according to all opinions in the Mishnah.
R. Hanan b. Rabbah says that there is a dispute concerning any sukkah that is smaller than four by four cubits. In such cases the rabbis of the Mishnah disqualify a 20 cubit high sukkah and R. Judah validates. But if the sukkah is more than four by four cubits in breadth, even the rabbis agree that it is valid.
A baraita (a tannaitic source not found in the Mishnah) is brought as a difficulty on one of the amoraic opinions from above. Below we will clarify whom the baraita is a difficulty upon. The baraita relates the story of Queen Helena, a legendary queen from the Second Temple period who converted to Judaism. The story is told of her sitting in her sukkah that was twenty cubits high. Rabbi Judah relates this story to prove his opinion—a sukkah can be more than twenty cubits high.
The other sages respond that she could sit in such a high sukkah because she is a woman and women are exempt from the mitzvah of the sukkah (it is a time-bound positive commandment). Thus even if the sukkah was invalid it wouldn’t matter because Helena does not need to sit in any sukkah.
Rabbi Judah has the final word in the baraita. While Helena was not obligated to observe the mitzvah of the sukkah, her sons were. Furthermore, even if she wasn’t obligated to keep the mitzvah, she still always observed the rules of the sages. Thus the height of the sukkah is conclusive proof that a 20 cubit sukkah is valid.
The gemara now reconstructs R. Judah’s response to the sages. Minors who still rely on their mothers (defined as minors who wake up in the middle of the night and scream ‘mommy’) are not liable to sit in the sukkah. So the sages might have responded that her sons were minors and therefore they too could sit in an invalid sukkah. To this R. Judah responds that she had seven sons and there is no way for a woman to have seven sons without one of them having reached the age of no longer needing his mother (he hadn’t heard of the ‘octomom’).
Still, a child under bar mitzvah is only obligated out of rabbinic law (derabanan). It is possible that Helena sat with seven minor sons in her sukkah and the oldest had not yet reached bar mitzvah. To this R. Judah responds that Helena was observant even of rabbinic law. If even one of her sons was liable to sit in the sukkah, even from the rabbis and not from the Torah, she would not have sat in an invalid sukkah.
The gemara now clarifies the difficulty. According to R. Yoshaya, the sages and R. Judah argued about a case where the walls don’t reach the skhakh. It is possible that Queen Helena sat in such a sukkah, for a queen might sit in a sukkah built in such a way for ventilation.
However, the other two amoraim said that the tannaitic dispute was about a small sukkah (either four cubits, or large enough for his head, most of his body and his table). It seems unlikely that a queen would sit in such a small sukkah.