Section four deals with three statements/leniencies issued by Rava in connection with the sukkah
This statement appeared in yesterday’s section. There we explained that if one puts skhakh up on an alleyway that has a post on its end, the sukkah is valid. This post is part of the eruv system and it allows one to carry from the courtyard to the alleyway.
This is Rava’s third statement (the first was in the beginning of section 3). The situation revolves around boards set up at four corners around a well. These boards are used to allow one to draw from the well on Shabbat without transgressing the prohibition of taking something out from one domain to another. According to the Talmud, this is a specific leniency intended to make life easier for people who are traveling to the Temple on a pilgrimage. The boards are at four corners around the well. Each board is a handbreadth in each direction. Rava rules that if one puts skhakh up over these boards, a proper sukkah can be formed. This is another leniency because in this case there aren’t any real walls.
The Talmud now does what it often does when it has multiple statements from a single source. It asks why we need all three statements. Couldn’t we have sufficed with just one or two of them and derived the others from the first or second? The Talmud will now give an extended answer to this question. If Rava had just mentioned the case of the alleyway, we would have assumed that this sukkah is valid because it has at least two real walls, the walls of the alleyway. But the case of the wells the sukkah doesn’t have any real walls, just four one handbreadth walls at the corners. Therefore, Rava teaches us that even this is a valid sukkah.
If Rava had said only that he could put the skhakh over the boards around the alleyway, we might have thought that this sukkah was valid because there are four, albeit fictional walls. But an alleyway has only two walls. Therefore, Rava has to issue both of these statements.
If Rava had made those first two rules, we would have thought that both of those sukkot are valid because they involve a case of allowing one to make a sukkah in a place where carrying on Shabbat has already been allowed (the well and the alleyway). Thus if for the more stringent matter it counts as a sukkah, all the more so it counts for the less stringent matter, fulfilling the mitzvah of sukkah. But we wouldn’t have thought that he would allow one to carry in a structure on Shabbat only because it has been made into a valid sukkah by the addition of a third one handbreadth wall. That’s why he had to issue that statement as well.
Today’s section goes on to discuss the next section of the Mishnah, which teaches that a sukkah that lets in more sun than shade is not valid.
According to the first opinion in this baraita, the mishnah refers only to the skhakh. The skhakh must be able to provide the sukkah with more than 50 per cent shade. But if sun enters the sukkah from the sides due to gaps in the walls and covers more than 50 per cent of it, the sukkah is still valid. In other words, this halakhah is really about the amount of skhakh and not so much about the amount of sun actually in the sukkah.
R. Yoshayah says that the walls must also provide shade for the sukkah. If they allow more than 50 per cent sunshine to enter the sukkah, the sukkah is not valid.
Abaye offers a biblical prooftext for R. Yoshayah’s opinion. The Torah uses the verb “and you shall cover,” the same word for skhakh, in reference to the veil placed over the ark. This veil, according to Abaye, served as a partition, just as the walls of the sukkah do. And since the veil was completely closed, i.e. there were no gaps in it, the walls of a sukkah must also be completely closed.
The rabbis respond (or the gemara responds on their behalf) that this veil didn’t fully cover the ark. It was not a true partition; it just went over the sides a little bit. Therefore, we can’t use the veil to learn anything about the walls of the sukkah.
In today’s section Abaye identifies a series of tannaim (sages from the time of the Mishnah) who all require that a sukkah be a permanent structure. This contrasts with our general understanding of the sukkah as a temporary structure.
Abaye cites 8 different opinions and attributes to each of them consistent reasoning—the sukkah must be constructed as a permanent abode. As we shall see, this is a relative opinion. By that I mean that in each of these cases the opinion referred to by Abaye holds that the sukkah must be built more permanently than the opposing opinion.
The first opinion is that of Rabbi [Judah Hanasi]. As we have seen, Rabbi Judah Hanasi holds that the sukkah must be 4 cubits squared. This is a more permanent structure than those who hold that the sukkah need only be wide enough to hold his head, most of his body and his table.
R. Yoshayah stated in the previous section that the walls of the sukkah must also provide shade. This would make it a more permanent structure than those who allow gaps in the wall that allow in the sun.
R. Judah allows a sukkah to be more than 20 cubits high. This would make it a more permanent structure than those who don’t allow it to be so high.
R. Shimon requires three full walls and one fictional wall. This is more permanent than those who require only two full walls and one fictional one.
Rabban Gamaliel does not allow one to build a sukkah on a wagon or a ship, or probably on any moving vehicle. This is interpreted by Abaye to mean that R. Gamaliel requires a more permanent structure for the sukkah.
This is the dispute we saw earlier in the tractate. According to Abaye, Bet Shammai requires a larger sukkah because he requires it be more of a permanent abode. We should note that according to Abaye both Bet Shammai, who requires the sukkah to be large enough only to hold his head, most of his body and table, and R. Judah who says it must be four square cubits (a larger size) agree that the sukkah must be a permanent abode. As I stated above, “permanence” is a relative concept in these sources. Abaye attributes the idea that the sukkah must be a permanent abode to the opinion which requires the sukkah be more permanent than that of the opposing opinion.
This is a mishnah that will appear later in the tractate. R. Eliezer requires the sukkah to have a flat roof. This, according to Abaye, makes it into a more permanent structure.
A dovecote is round. The “others,” an anonymous opinion, invalidate such a sukkah because it has no corners. According to Abaye, a structure built without corners will be less permanent. Thus the “others” require a more permanent structure for the sukkah.
Today’s section is about the validity of a round sukkah. Just a warning—there is a lot of math in this section and in the subsequent sections as well. Good luck!
R. Yohanan describes a round sukkah shaped like a furnace. As long as twenty-four men can sit around the circumference of the sukkah it is valid. The Talmud will now discuss how big this actually is.
Earlier in the Talmud we saw three opinions as to how big a sukkah must be: 4 cubits square, large enough for head, most of body and table, or just large enough for head and most of body.
The Talmud assumes that this opinion must match that of Rabbi Judah Hanasi, who says that the sukkah must be four cubits square. This is the largest of the three measures. Obviously, a sukkah that only needs to be large enough to fit his head, most of his body and his table (which would have been small) is far smaller than is necessary to sit 24 people around.
However, as we shall see, the math doesn’t work out that all that well for this.
For the rabbis π was 3 and not 3 1/7…. as we now know it is. To remind ourselves—the circumference of a circle is diameter multiplied by π (or 2πr). In this case we know the diameter is 4 cubits for it is within a square where each side is 4 cubits. Since the diameter is 4 the circumference is 12, enough space for 12 people to sit around. So why does the sukkah need to be so big that 24 people can sit around the side?