The baraita invalidated an etrog that was grown in a cast such that its shape would look like another species. Rava emphasizes that this etrog is invalid only if it is made to look like another species. If it still looks like an etrog, it is valid. After all, it is an etrog.
The Talmud asks what Rava teaches us beyond that which is already taught in the baraita itself.
The answer is that if he grows it in the shape of “planks joined together” it is still valid, if it still looks like an etrog. Rashi explains that “planks” means that there are deep grooves in it, making it look like it is a series of joined planks. As long as the etrog still looks like an etrog, it is valid.
Today’s section deals with an etrog that was partly eaten by mice.
The section opens with Rav’s statement that one cannot use an etrog that has been gnawed at by mice because it is no longer “goodly.”
However, this seems to be contradicted by the actions of R. Hanina, who ate a little bit of his etrog and then still used it to perform a mitzvah.
At this point, the Talmud seems to equate the two—an etrog that has been partially eaten is either valid or invalid, it matters not who ate it, a human or mice.
The Mishnah stated that if the etrog is missing any part of it, it is no longer valid. This seems to be a difficulty against R. Hanina who took a bite out of his and then used it on Sukkot. But this difficulty can be resolved by saying that the Mishnah refers to the first day of the Festival when the mitzvah to take an etrog is considered to be “deorayta” from the Torah “And you shall take on the first day…”. On subsequent days, the mitzvah is only derabanan, of rabbinic origin, and therefore, R. Hanina could use an etrog from which he had already taken a bite.
But the problem with Rav still remains—if R. Hanina could take a bite out of his, why then can’t an etrog gnawed at by mice be used on subsequent days?
The answer is that an etrog gnawed at by mice is disgusting, and therefore is not goodly. Think of it this way—if I offered you a bite of my sandwich and you were hungry, you might take a bite. If I offered you a bite of a sandwich from which mice had gnawed, you’d probably have to be pretty hungry to eat it.
In this version of the sugya, Rav rules just like R. Hanina—an etrog that has a bite taken out of it can be used, but not on the first day.
Today’s section deals with the minimum and maximum size of an etrog.
In the Mishnah R. Meir said that the minimum size of an etrog is the size of a nut, whereas R. Judah said it must be the size of an egg.
Rafram b. Papa, an amora, noted that the same sizes are attributed to the same tannaim in connection with an entirely different dispute. On Shabbat it is forbidden to carry more than four cubits in the public domain. Within four cubits it is also forbidden to carry, but the prohibition is lighter—only derabanan. However, for the sake of cleanliness, a person can carry three stones with which to wipe himself if he needs to go to the bathroom on Shabbat (aren’t you thankful for toilet paper). Again, this is only within four cubits. It is always prohibited to carry more than four cubits.
R. Meir says that the stones can only be the size of a nut. R. Judah says that they can be up to the size of an egg. I’m sure we could all make some humorous remarks right now. But I’ll hold them in.
In the Mishnah R. Yose allowed an etrog so large that one needed two hands to hold it. R. Judah said that one had to be able to hold two in one hand.
R. Yose tries to bring proof from the fact that R. Akiva came to shul one day with an etrog so large that he had to carry it on his shoulder. But R. Judah, as we might have expected him to do, does not accept that as proof. According to R. Judah, the other sages told R. Akiva that the etrog he was schlepping on his shoulder didn’t look so good.
Today’s section deals with a new mishnah.
According to some sages, three of the species (all except the etrog) must be bound together. In the mishnah there is a debate whether the cord used to bind the three together must be from the same species as one of the three species. As we shall see in the Talmud, the problem with it being from another type of tree is that when he picks up the lulav, he will be carrying five species—the four mandated ones and the one from which he made his cord. This might be a violation of the prohibition of adding on to the Torah’s commandments. The Torah says four species—it would be prohibited to add a fifth.
Rava says that any part of the palm tree can be used to bind the three species together, even the sinew or parts of the base of the tree. The reason that R. Judah demands one use parts of the palm is not so that the lulav looks good, but because if he uses a different species, he would be taking five species, as I explained above.
Rava explains that the fact one uses sinews and roots of palm-trees to make a sukkah, and that R. Judah demands that the sukkah be made from any of the four species, proves that these parts of the date-palm count are considered part of the species. We shall return to this point below. For now, we will first explain the baraita itself.
The main dispute in this baraita is quite interesting. R. Meir says that one can use any material to make a sukkah, as long as it follows the normal rules of making a sukkah. In other words, while the skhakh must have grown from the ground, it need not be of the four species.
R. Judah says that it must be one of the four species.
The background of this dispute is Nehemiah 8:15, which is quoted below. In this verse Nehemiah and Ezra and the people who have returned to Israel after the first exile seem to interpret Leviticus 23:40 as if it mandates building the sukkah from the four species. However, their identification of the species slightly differs from the normative rabbinic interpretation and from the precise wording of Leviticus. Biblical scholars nevertheless interpret this verse as referring to building the sukkah from the four species. The rabbinic way of dealing with this verse is found below.