The mishnah teaches that if it was pierced it is invalid. Ulla b. Hanina clarifies that there is a difference between a piercing that goes all the way through to the other side. Such an etrog is invalid no matter the size of the piercing. But if the pierced point does not go all the way through, it is only invalid if it is the size of an issar, a coin.
Rava asks a question about an etrog that has symptoms that make it look like an animal that is a terefah. A “terefah” is an animal that has some sort of disease or physical defect that will cause the animal to die.
At first, the Talmud doesn’t even understand the question. After all, the mishnah has already discussed the cases of an etrog that is pierced, peeled or split. What defect could Rava be addressing that is not found already in the Mishnah?
The answer is that he is referring to an etrog whose innards seem to be pouring out, like an animal whose lungs are pouring out. Such an animal is not considered a terefah as long as the arteries are still whole.
So Rava’s question is whether an etrog is treated like the animal. The animal might not have died from the lung probelm because it’s all still inside the animal. But the etrog’s innards are spilling out, they are not inside the etrog. So the question is—does this make a difference?
This baraita lists various physical problems that render an etrog invalid. Below we will see how this baraita functions as an answer to Rava’s question.
The baraita taught that a swollen or decayed etrog is invalid. At first we understand this to mean that swollen refers to the outside of the etrog and decayed is from the inside. This would mean that the answer to Rava’s question is negative—an etrog that is a terefah would be invalid.
But the Talmud rejects this understanding of the baraita. Both swollen and decayed are on the outside of the etrog, and an etrog is disqualified even if it is only swollen or only decayed. It need not have both defects.
Today’s brief section deals with the line from the baraita that disqualified an Ethiopia etrog.
The first baraita disqualifies an Ethiopian etrog. In contrast, the second baraita says that an Ethiopian etrog is valid; only one that is like an Ethiopian etrog is invalid. Rashi explains that an Ethiopian etrog is one that grows in Ethiopia. But an etrog that is like an Ethiopian is one that grows in Israel, but is like the Ethiopian ones. An Ethiopian etrog is valid, because that’s just the way they look there in Ethiopia. But if such an etrog grows elsewhere, it is not natural and it is invalid.
Abaye answers the difficulty by simply stating that the mishnah also refers to a case where the etrog is like an Ethiopian one. True Ethiopian etrogs are always valid.
Rava answers that the mishnah refers to a true Ethiopian etrog, which the mishnah indeed invalidates. However, it invalidates it for people living in Israel who are far from Ethiopia. But Babylonia is closer (according to Rashi) to Ethiopia, and therefore Ethiopian etrogim are valid there. But an etrog similar to an Ethiopian one is unnatural and therefore invalid.
Today’s section deals with the baraita that was quoted above in section one of this week’s daf.
In the baraita that was found in the beginning of the daf, R. Akiva said that a half-ripe etrog is not valid on Sukkot. Rabbah lumps R. Akiva’s ruling together with R. Shimon’s ruling made elsewhere, that when an etrog is still small, it need not be tithed, because it is not yet considered a fruit. Thus both tannaim seem to say the same thing—an etrog is not considered halakhically to be a fruit until it is ripe.
Abaye rejects Rabbah’s attempt to equate the positions of R. Akiva and R. Shimon. First of all R. Akiva might have disqualified an unripe etrog for Sukkot because it is not goodly, but when it comes to the obligation to tithe it, he would still hold that it is liable for tithes.
Second, R. Shimon might have stated that a half-ripe etrog need not be tithed because until it is ripe, its seed cannot be used. But when it comes to using it for Sukkot, he might agree with the sages that an unripe etrog can be used.
In short, both tannaim might have special requirements due to their interpretation of the verse at hand, either about Sukkot or about tithing. But this doesn’t mean that they always rule that an unripe etrog is not yet considered a fruit.
Abaye finishes his statement by saying that no more argument can be done. I’m not sure what gives him the right to say such a thing, but that’s just the way it is. There is nothing more to say about it!