R. Yoseph offers testimony that on the eighth day of Sukkot in the Diaspora one sits in the sukkah but does not recite the blessing.
However, the Talmud points out that the fact that he saw these rabbis sit in the sukkah and not recite a blessing is not proof that they hold that one doesn’t bless on the eighth day of Sukkot. It could be that they hold that once one has recited a blessing on the first day, one doesn’t recite the blessing on any of the subsequent days.
This possibility is negated when we learn that there is a tradition that they had just come from the fields, meaning they had not yet sat in a sukkah for the whole festival! Since it was their first time in the sukkah, they certainly should have blessed. The fact that they did not do so was evidence that they hold that one never recites a blessing over the sukkah on the eighth day.
This section opens with a reversal of the interpretation of the debate from the previous section. Here we see that all amoraim agree that one does not bless over the sukkah on the eighth day in the Diaspora. They disagree over whether one even sits there. Rav holds that one does, and R. Yohanan holds that one does not.
R. Yoseph rules according to R. Yohanan, citing evidence that even R. Judah son of R. Shmuel b. Shilat, the sage who transmitted Rav’s statement, did not sit in the sukkah on the eighth day.
Nevertheless, the sugya concludes by ruling that one does sit in the sukkah on the eighth day in the Diaspora, but no blessing is recited. I should note that the last time I spent Sukkot outside of Israel was 1993 (it’s now 2014). I barely remember what we did way back then, but I guess we sat in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeret.
Our sugya continues to deal with Shemini Atzeret and its status as an independent holiday.
R. Yohanan notes that the eighth day of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, is enough of a separate holiday that one recites the blessing over time, what we call shehiyanu. This occurs at candle lighting and kiddush. This distinguishes it from the seventh day of Pesah, which is not an independent holiday at all.
R. Levi b. Hama notes that there are two or three ways in which the eighth day of Sukkot differs from the other days. One does not sit in the sukkah or take the lulav on Shemini Atzeret and in the Temple they did not perform the water libation (a topic to which we will return later). R. Judah holds that the water libation was performed on Shemini Atzeret. So to him there are two differences. In any case, this is enough to distinguish it from Sukkot.
The Talmud notes that the seventh day is in some ways different from the preceding days of Pesah. One is obligated to eat matzah on the first night, but not on any of the subsequent nights.
But this argument really isn’t so strong. The seventh day of Pesah is different from the first night, but not from the first day, because one is obligated to eat matzah only at night. But Shemini Atzeret is different from the previous day as well.
These four amoraim now continue to explain why Shemini Atzeret is different from Sukkot, but the seventh day of Pesah is not different from the rest of Pesah.
Ravina points out that the seventh day of Pesah is different from the first day, but it is the same as the sixth day. Shemini Atzeret, the eighth day, is different from the seventh day of Sukkot.
R. Papa points out that there is a difference in the number of bullocks sacrificed. For most of Sukkot each day has many bullocks sacrificed, starting from 13 and going down to 7. On Shemini Atzeret there is only one.
R. Nahman b. Yitzchak notes that on all other days it is written, “And on the X day.” For Shemini Atzeret the word “and” is missing. This signifies that it is a distinct day.
Finally R. Ashi notes that when it comes to Shemini Atzeret the Torah uses “their ordinance” whereas for the preceding days the singular form was used.
In yesterday’s section R. Yohanan ruled that on Shemini Atzeret one recites a blessing over the season—shehiyanu. Today’s section continues to deal with that subject.
This long baraita is brought as a support for R. Yohanan, but first we need to explain it. The baraita deals with a case where some of the sacrifices are offered, but for some reason they cannot offer them all. According to the first opinion, if any of the sacrifices are not offered, then they cannot fulfill the mitzvah of the sacrifices that have been offered. But R. Judah says that if they don’t have enough bulls then they can sacrifice a lesser number and at least partially fulfill the mitzvah. This is because the number of bulls required is diminished every day of the festival (from 13-7). Therefore, we can see that it is not essential to have the correct number.
The other sages point out that the same is true for the lambs and rams—there are fewer on Shemini Atzeret than there were on the previous days. R. Judah defends his position by stating that Shemini Atzeret is a separate festival. It has its own number of sacrifices, the Psalm (song) is different from the other days, the blessing is different, and it too has a requirement to stay in Jerusalem overnight after the festival is completed (this is true of other festivals as well). Therefore, since it is a separate festival we don’t say that the number of lambs and rams is diminished from day seven to day eight.
In any case, what is crucial to us is that R. Judah says that Shemini Atzeret has its own blessing. At first, we assume that this means that one recites shehiyanu on Shemini Atzeret.