The previous daf dealt with a stolen lulav. This week’s daf begins with a discussion about a stolen sukkah.
The sugya opens with a baraita in which R. Eliezer and the sages dispute the validity of a stolen sukkah and one built in the public domain, R. Eliezer invalidating it and the sages validating it.
The amora R. Nahman now begins to explain the underpinnings of the dispute between R. Nahman and the sages. In order to understand this we need to understand that there is a dispute concerning whether when one “robs” someone of his land, does legal title change hands. If title does change hands, then when Shimon robs Reuben of his land, the land now belongs to Shimon. Of course he must restore the land to Reuben, but until he does so, it is his land. If something happens to the land (such as a river flooding it) he must restore the original value of the land to the one from whom he stole it.
R. Nahman interprets R. Eliezer’s opinion so that we don’t need to know whether R. Eliezer holds that land can or cannot be stolen. R. Eliezer holds that one must own his own sukkah. So if land can be stolen, then the sukkah is a stolen one and cannot be used because it doesn’t belong to him. If land cannot be stolen then it is still a borrowed sukkah and one can’t use a borrowed sukkah either.
The rabbis hold that one can use another person’s sukkah in order to fulfill his obligation. They also hold that land cannot be stolen, so this is considered a borrowed sukkah, which one can use to fulfill one’s obligation.
R. Nahman limited the dispute between the rabbis and R. Eliezer to a case where he stole the land itself—meaning he built the entire sukkah on land that is not his. The reason that R. Nahman interpreted the mishnah this way is that the “stolen sukkah” is compared in the baraita to one who builds a sukkah in the public thoroughfare. In both cases one is using land that doesn’t belong to him.
The sages and R. Eliezer do not dispute if one steals wood and uses it to build a sukkah. In such a case all agree that the sukkah can be used for the festival. The thief just owes the wood back to the one from whom he stole it. But in the meanwhile, the sukkah is his and he can use it to fulfill his obligation.
Today’s section contains a story about a woman who came before R. Nahman complaining that someone had stolen wood from her to use in building his sukkah.
This is somewhat of a sad story, at least in my opinion. An old woman comes in front of a bunch of rabbis, complaining that they stole her wood. The rabbis of the exilarch’s house, the head of the community in Babylonia, ignore her. She continues to complain, making a reference to Abraham who had 318 servants—she is Abraham’s descendent, just as much as they are. R. Nahman continues to ignore her, dismissing her as a noisy woman. He concludes by stating that they do owe her the value of the wood. But the wood itself belongs to the rabbis who assumedly stole it, or perhaps bought it from someone who stole it.
Our sugya continues to deal with various parts of a sukkah that was built with stolen parts.
There is a rabbinic “enactment” called “the enactment of the beam.” What this means is that if someone steals a piece of wood and then uses it to build a house he doesn’t need to return the actual wood, as one normally does with stolen property. Returning the actual beam would require tearing down the whole house. Rather, he can return just the value of the wood, whatever it was worth when it was stolen.
The Talmud is puzzled why Ravina even needed to state this. Why would we have ever thought otherwise?
The answer is that we might have thought that a joist is not treated the same as unfinished wood. Unfinished wood is easily found and easy to replace. Therefore, the robber need only return the value. The owner can just buy new wood. In contrast, a joist is harder to find. Therefore, the robber would have to return the joist itself. That is why Ravina needs to teach that even the joist need not be returned—only its value.
The section concludes with two caveats on Ravina’s ruling. First of all, after Sukkot is over he must return the joist itself. Since he doesn’t need the sukkah for a religious purpose, there is no reason not to force him to return the joist as it is to the owner.
However, if he has attached the joist to the sukkah he doesn’t have to return it even after Sukkah. Attaching it makes it like any beam of any building, which need not be returned once it has been made part of the structure.
Today’s section begins to discuss the second reason that a lulav is invalid—it is dry and withered up
In this baraita there is a dispute between the sages and R. Judah concerning whether some part of the lulav is invalidated if it is dried up. However, it is not entirely clear whether the baraita refers to all four species or just to the etrog. The reason we might think that it refers just to the etrog is that the Torah specifically calls the etrog “the fruit of a goodly tree.” So it seems clear that a etrog that is withered cannot be used.
Rava says that the debate is over whether the lulav (the palm-branch) is compared with the etrog. The rabbis say that it is—just as the etrog must be goodly (not withered) so too must the lulav. R. Judah says that we do not make such a comparison.
The first difficulty the Talmud raises is whether R. Judah really holds that the lulav (the palm-branch) need not be goodly. To prove that he does require that the lulav be aesthetically pleasing the Talmud cites a baraita where R. Judah says that he must bind the lulav, the palm-branch, from above. For now, we assume that this is because he requires that it be aesthetically pleasing.
The Torah calls the lulav “branches of palm-trees.” The word which I have translated as “branches” is כפות which also means in Hebrew – bind up (this is not the real meaning in the Bible). Thus R. Judah makes a midrash using this word to teach that the top of the lulav must be bound. But this has nothing to do with the lulav being “goodly.” R. Judah does not require this.
The Talmud presses its case by citing a mishnah in which R. Judah says that the lulav must be bound with something that is its own species, a piece of the palm tree itself. The initial assumption is that by using something that matches the lulav itself, the binding will be more aesthetically pleasing.
The Talmud now provides a different reason why R. Judah holds that the lulav must be bound with something that is part of the palm tree itself. Rava stated that one could use even a sinew or a piece of the root, parts of the palm that are clearly not so pretty to look at. Thus the reason that R. Judah says that whatever is used for binding must be part of the palm is that if one uses a different species he will transgress the prohibition of adding on to the commandments. The Torah said to use four species, not five. If binding the lulav is mandatory then it too must be from one of the four species. But R. Judah doesn’t hold that the lulav must be “goodly.”
To summarize where we are up till now—R. Judah holds that withered lulav is valid, while the sages say it is invalid. But when it comes to the etrog, all sages hold that it must be goodly, i.e. not withered.