Sukkah 56

Mazal Tov! Today we have reached the final daf of Massechet Sukkah (Sukkah 56), yet like many final dapim, there seems to be an assortment of ideas that – on first glance – don’t necessarily fit together.The daf begins by addressing the Mishna (Sukkah 5:7) which speaks of how kohanim served in one of 24…

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Sukkah 55

We are taught in the Mishna (Sukkah 5:6) in today’s daf (Sukkah 55b) that a total of seventy bulls were offered as sacrifices in the Temple over Sukkot, and this fact then prompted Rabbi Elazar to ask: ‘To what do these seventy bulls correspond?’, which he then answers by explaining that they correspond ‘to the…

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Sukkah 54

Having been taught that different songs were sung in the Beit HaMikdash on different holy days, today’s daf (Sukkah 54b) notes that when Rosh Chodesh falls on Shabbat, the song for Rosh Chodesh precedes the song for Shabbat.The problem with this – as noted by the Gemara itself – is that it conflicts with the…

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Sukkah 53

 Having been taught in the Mishna (Sukkah 5:4, 51a) that ‘חסידים (pious people) and אנשי מעשה (people of deeds) would dance’ during the Sukkot Simchat Beit HaShoevah ceremony, a Beraita in today’s daf (Sukkah 53a) attempts to understand more about who these people were and their personal and spiritual qualifications which made them suitable role…

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Sukkah 52

 In today’s daf (Sukkah 52b) we encounter a fascinating teaching from the school of Rabbi Yishmael relating to how we should respond to the temptation of our yetzer hara (the evil inclination): ‘If this scoundrel (i.e. the yetzer hara) [attempts to] accost you [to tempt you to sin], draw it to the Beit Midrash (study…

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Sukkah 51

On first glance, much of today’s daf (Sukkah 51b) focusses on the external beauty and splendour of the most exquisite sacred spaces that have been built in Jewish history – beginning, of course, with the Beit HaMikdash. In fact, we are told ‘whoever did not see the Beit HaMikdash when it stood never saw a…

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Sukkah 50

 The Mishna (Sukkah 5:1) and subsequent Gemara in today’s daf (Sukkah 50b) discuss the musical accompaniment of the Simchat Beit HaShoevah (literally, ‘the joy of the house of the water-drawing’, which refers – on a basic level – to the drawing of water ceremony from pool of Shiloach which was then used for water libations…

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Sukkah 49

 Today’s daf (Sukkah 49b) is very special as some of the most exquisite teachings about Chessed are found in today’s daf. Here we are taught that giving tzedakah is greater than bringing korbanot, and here we are taught that performing acts of Chessed surpasses giving charity. Yet notwithstanding this, I would like to turn my…

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Sukkah 48

While numerous words are used in Tanach and our Tefillot to describe the feelings of joy and happiness, much ink has been spilt in trying to distinguish between the deep meaning of the words שמחה (simcha) and ששון (sasson).In today’s daf (Sukkah 48b), we read a dialogue between two individuals – one called simcha and…

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Sukkah 47

 In the midst of a detailed halachic discussion in today’s daf (Sukkah 47a) concerning the possible necessity of reciting the bracha on dwelling in a Sukkah on Shemini Atzeret in the diaspora, we are told that ‘Rav Huna bar Bizma and all the great men of the generation visited a sukkah’ on that day and,…

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Sukkah 46

 Today’s daf (Sukkah 46a) addresses my favourite bracha – Birkat Shehecheyanu – and it is here where we are taught that someone who builds their Sukkah should recite Shehecheyanu.Significantly, many precedents are learnt from today’s daf – as well as from the discussion in Tosfot (DH Ha’oseh) on today’s daf – concerning when Shehecheyanu should…

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Sukkah 45

 Following the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, Chazal needed to find ways to encourage Am Yisrael to see grandeur within the individual mitzvot that they performed and to appreciate how even the most minor of spiritual acts can have a major spiritual impact, and as it happens, today’s daf (Sukkah 45) provides us with at…

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Sukkah 44

 Yesterday I received a message about a very dear friend who was recently in hospital for a relatively simple procedure but who has just discovered that he is very unwell. This is someone I have known for many years who, beyond everything else, was not only a daily chavruta of mine, but who is –…

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Sukkah 43

For those unfamiliar with the way in which Sukkot was celebrated in the Beit HaMikdash, today’s daf (Sukkah 43b) – which expands upon and debates the teachings in Mishna Sukkah 4:1-3 (see Sukkah 42b) – may be hard to comprehend. This is because, as we were previously taught in Mishna Sukkah 3:12 (see Sukkah 41a),…

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Sukkah 42

 “A child who knows how to wave the lulav is obligated in lulav”. These words, found in the Mishna (Sukkah 3:15) in today’s daf (Sukkah 42b), inform us that the duty of Chinuch (education) of children for the mitzvah of Arba Minim (Four Species) begins once a child has reached the age and stage when…

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Sukkah 41

 We have previously noted that the hadassim (myrtle) and aravot (willows) are bundled with the lulav such that the lulav is surrounded by these other species (see Sukkah 33a) – and the reason I mention this is because I think that this image of the lulav being surrounded and protected by these other species is…

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Sukkah 40

 A principle taught in today’s daf (Sukkah 40) and derived from Vayikra 25:6 is that Shemitta sanctity only applies to items whose benefit and consumption coincide (שהנאתו וביעורו שוה) such as food, drink, oils and wax (see Rashi). On the basis of this principle, given that only after wood has begun to burn does it…

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Sukkah 39

 A major debate relating to the intersection of Shemitta (the Sabbatical year) and Sukkot is recorded in today’s (Sukkah 39b) daf.In terms of an Etrog used during the year of shemitta (nb. for those unaware, we will be starting a shemitta year on Rosh Hashanah), almost its entire growth occurs in the 6th – as…

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Sukkah 38

 Towards the end of today’s daf (Sukkah 38b), a verse from Sefer Melachim describing an important historical event that occurred during the period of King Yoshiyahu’s (Josiah’s) reign of Yehuda (Judah) is proposed as proof for the halachic principle of שומע כעונה – ‘listening is like responding’. Yoshiyahu was a righteous king. Unfortunately, his grandfather Menashe…

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Sukkah 37

 In the Mishna (Sukkah 3:9) towards the end of today’s daf (Sukkah 37b), we are informed of the different sections of Hallel when the lulav bundle is waved, and though Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel disagree on the matter, the Mishna concludes (and the custom is codified – see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 651:8) that…

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Sukkah 36

 The Mishna (Sukkah 3:8) towards the end of today’s daf (Sukkah 36b) records a debate between Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Meir about the type of material that may be used to tie the lulav bundle (lulav, hadassim & aravot) together.According to Rabbi Yehuda, it may only be tied במינו – with material of its own…

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Sukkah 35

 Today’s daf (Sukkah 35a) provides us with a gorgeous insight about what has unfortunately become a rare yet true pleasure of life. Specifically, the daf presents a variety of explanations about the significance of the word הָדָר (hadar) – which is generally translated as ‘beautiful’ – and which the Torah uses (in Vayikra 23:40) about the…

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Sukkah 34

When listing the Arba Minim (Four Species), the Torah (see Vayikra 23:40) first mentions the Etrog (פְּרִי עֵץ הָדָר), then the Lulav (כַּפֹּת תְּמָרִים), then the Myrtle (עֲנַף עֵץ עָבֹת), and then the Willow (עַרְבֵי נָחַל). However, this is not the order in which these items are treated in the Mishna. Instead, when the Mishna…

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Sukkah 33

Towards the end of today’s daf (Sukkah 33b), attention is given to the term עַרְבֵי נָחַל which is used by the Torah (see Vayikra 23:4) to describe the willow that, as we are also taught in today’s daf (Sukkah 33a), is bound with the myrtle to the lulav. Given that the term עַרְבֵי נָחַל literally…

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Sukkah 32

 Today’s daf (Sukkah 32a) records a fascinating discussion between Ravina and Rav Ashi relating to the identity of the Lulav. Ravina asks ‘How do we know that the phrase כַּפֹּת תְּמָרִים (Vayikra 23:40) – meaning ‘the branches of palm trees’ – refers to the unopened palm frond? Perhaps it means the thorny branches of the…

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Sukkah 31

 We were previously taught that a dry lulav is invalid because it is not הדר – ‘beautiful’ (see Sukkah 30a). However, today’s daf (Sukkah 31b) relates how there was a period when the residents of large cities were unable to procure fresh lulavim and these residents would bequeath their lulavim to the next generation, such…

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Sukkah 30

As I have previously explained, I believe that Jewish ethics are found and expressed within Jewish law (and where we struggle to see the Jewish ethics in Jewish law, it is likely that the Jewish law has not been explained or applied correctly). Yet while there are occasions when the relationship between Jewish ethics and…

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Sukkah 29

Today’s daf (Sukkah 29a) quotes a ruling that ‘if someone was sleeping in a sukkah and it began to rain, they should leave the sukkah whereby even if it stops raining, we do not trouble them to return to the sukkah until it becomes light (עד שיאור)’. In response to this, the Gemara asks whether…

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Sukkah 28

 The Mishna (Sukkah 2:8) in today’s daf (Sukkah 28a) rules that ‘a קטן (minor) who does not need his mother is [rabbinically] obligated in [the mitzvah of] Sukkah’, which then prompts the Gemara (Sukkah 28b) to explore what is meant by the phrase ‘who does not need his mother’?According to the academy of Rabbi Yannai,…

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Sukkah 27

Today’s daf (Sukkah 27b) informs us that there is a duty להקביל פני רבו ברגל – literally, ‘to greet the face of one’s teacher on the festival’, but understood to mean that one should visit one’s teacher on the festival. As the Gemara explains, this duty is derived from Melachim II 4:23, and it is…

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Sukkah 26

 Having previously been taught that ‘the sick and their attendants are exempt from the mitzvah of sukkah’ (see Mishna Sukkah 2:4, 25a), and having previously been introduced to the principle that מצטער פטור מן הסוכה – ‘someone who experiences discomfort by being in the Sukkah is exempt from the duty of being in a sukkah’…

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Sukkah 25

 Today’s daf (Sukkah 25b) informs us that a bridegroom is exempt from the mitzvah of sukkah either, as Rava explains, because a bride and groom would feel uncomfortable being physically intimate in a sukkah which is relatively open, or as Abaye explains, because the openness of the sukkah would mean that their guests would come…

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Sukkah 24

We were previously taught in a Beraita (see Sukkah 23a) about using an animal as a wall for the sukkah, which Rabbi Meir invalidated, and Rabbi Yehuda validated. In terms of why this is the case, it seemed that Rabbi Meir was concerned (according to Abaye) that the animal may die, or (according to Rabbi…

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Sukkah 23

Today’s daf (Sukkah 23) discusses the unusual scenario of building a sukkah ‘on the back of an animal’ which Rabbi Meir validates, and Rabbi Yehuda invalidates. In explaining this debate, the Gemara explains that Rabbi Yehuda asserts from the words: חַג הַסֻּכֹּת תַּעֲשֶׂה לְךָ שִׁבְעַת יָמִים – ‘the festival of Sukkot you shall make for…

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Sukkah 22

Today’s daf (Sukkah 22) opens with a Mishna (Sukkah 2:2) stating that ‘a sukkah whose shade exceeds its sunlight is kosher’. As the Gemara (Sukkah 22b) observes, ‘this implies that a sukkah which has equal amounts of shade and sunlight is invalid.’However, as the Gemara then proceeds to explain, this seems to conflict with a…

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Sukkah 21

Towards the end of today’s daf (Sukkah 21b) we are taught a lesson from Rav that שיחת תלמידי חכמים צריכה לימוד – ‘the casual conversations between Torah scholars are deserving of study’, and as the Ben Ish Chai explains (see Ben Yehoyada on Sukkah 21b), it is particularly noteworthy that Rav is the author of…

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Sukkah 20

 A curious teaching of Resh Lakish is quoted in today’s daf (Sukkah 20a) where we are told that, ‘initially, when Torah was forgotten from [the people of] Israel, Ezra ascended from Babylon and gave it a proper foundation. When it was again forgotten, Hillel the Babylonian ascended [to Israel] and gave it a proper foundation.…

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Sukkah 18

Today’s daf (Sukkah 18a) contains two teachings of Rabbi Yehuda bar Ilai which seem totally unrelated – other than the fact that they use similar language. In terms of the first, we are told that, ‘Rabbi Yehuda bar Ilai taught: “Where the roof of a house was breached and s’chach was placed over the opening, it…

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Sukkah 17

Today’s daf (Sukkah 17a) continues to discuss the laws of constructing a sukkah and how our Sages imagined relatively small gaps in the roofs and walls of a sukkah as being closed. For example, we learn about the rule of ‘Dofen Akuma’ (literally ‘bent wall’) which asserts that an area of roof above a sukkah…

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Sukkah 16

Every family and every community have their stories about ‘the time when…[an unusual halachic situation arose and a creative halachic solution was found]’, but as we learn from today’s daf (Sukkah 16b), great care must be taken to accurately share the details of those stories so as to avoid confusion and perhaps even future halachic…

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Sukkah 15

 The Mishna (Sukkah 1:7) in today’s daf (Sukkah 15a) presents a variety of opinions about what must be done to transform a yet-to-be-finished roof of a house where the beams are in place, to a valid sukkah roof.For example, according to Beit Shammai, the beams must be loosened and symbolically moved (to demonstrate that this…

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Sukkah 14

In today’s daf (Sukkah 14b) we are told by Rabbi Yehuda how, while living in a period and place of danger, he and others used four-tefachim-wide boards to cover a porch in order to fulfil the mitzvah of dwelling in a sukkah. However, the Sages then responded to him saying that, אין שעת הסכנה ראיה…

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Sukkah 13

Today’s daf (Sukkah 13b) quotes a beraita to teach us that, ‘fig branches with figs on them, vines with grapes on them, straws with ears of grain on them, and brooms of palms with dates on them – in all these cases if the non-edible part (i.e. branch/vine/straw) is greater than the food, then it…

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Sukkah 12

As you will have likely noticed from my daily daf posts, I believe that spiritual messages are often embedded in the words used by our Sages to express technical halachic statements, and I personally take much pleasure in identifying and developing ideas relating to hashkafa (our spiritual outlook and attitude) from halacha (the rules relating…

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Sukkah 10-11

While learning yesterday (Sukkah 10) and today’s daf (Sukkah 11) over Shabbat (given that today was Tisha B’Av), I was drawn to explore a phrase which is used on four occasions in Sukkah 11b – namely קציצתן זו היא עשייתן – ‘their detaching is their making’.Specifically, this phrase is used in a discussion concerning the…

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Sukkah 9

The Mishna in today’s daf (Sukkah 9a) presents a disagreement regarding the halachic validity of a ‘sukkah yeshana’ (literally, ‘an old sukkah’) – which actually means a sukkah on which s’chach has sat for over 30 days prior to Sukkot that had not expressly been placed there for the sake of the upcoming Sukkot festival.…

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Sukkah 8

If you like Mathematics you will likely enjoy the end of yesterday (Sukkah 7b) and much of today’s daf (Sukkah 8a), whereas if you don’t, you may find it a little tricky. This is because the discussion relates to the minimum dimensions of a circular sukkah which requires a journey into the history of pi…

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Sukkah 7

We were previously taught in the first Mishna of Massechet Sukkot that a sukkah שחמתה מרובה מצלתה – “in which there is more sun than shade” פסולה – “is invalid”, while in today’s daf (Sukkah 7b) we are taught that this rule only applies to the shade provided by the s’chach – whereas if there…

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Sukkah 6

In addition to considerable discussion about the authority of the Oral Torah, today’s daf (Sukkah 6b) teaches that while a sukkah can have either four of three full walls, a sukkah must minimally have just two full walls and a third mini-wall (which need only be as long as a tefach – approx. 10 cm).Yet,…

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Sukkah 5

While continuing its discussion about the minimum height of a Sukkah, today’s daf (Sukkah 5b) explains that the measure of 10 tefachim is derived from the gap which existed between the holy Aron (Ark) and the wings of the Keruvim (Cherubim) which sat atop the Aron.Interestingly, the reason for this association is due to the…

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Sukkah 4

Today’s daf (Sukkah 4a) continues its discussion about the permitted height of the Sukkah which, as Mishna Sukkah 1:1 previously taught, cannot be taller than 20 amot (approx. 10 metres), and must be at least 10 tefachim (approx. 1 metre). Beyond this, our daf also rules that in a situation where the sukkah is exactly…

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Sukkah 3

 In his preface to his ‘Shemoneh Perakim’, the Rambam urges us to ‘accept the truth [regardless of] which person said it’, and while this is an excellent piece of advice in all situations, the reason for me mentioning it here is in response to an exchange between Rav Shmuel bar Yitzchak and Rabbi Abba found…

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Sukkah 2

 The first Mishna of Massechet Sukkah begins by teaching us that ‘a sukkah whose s’chach is above twenty amot (approx. 10 metres) is invalid’, and in the subsequent discussion in the daf (Sukkah 2a), the question of מנא הני מילי – ‘from where do we know this rule?’ is asked, to which the Gemara cites…

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