Daf 26a

  • Rav Michael Siev


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Introduction to the Study of Talmud
by Rabbi Michael Siev

Sukka 09 - Daf 26a

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(You can find a scan with larger print by going to the e-daf.com homepage and selecting sukah 26a)

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When we started our learning a couple of months ago, we began with the mishna on 25a. That mishna states three halakhot

1) Messengers of a mitzva are exempt from the mitzva of sukka.

2) Sick people and their attendants are exempt from sukka.

3) One may eat casually (i.e. a snack) outside of the sukka.   

We have spent our first eight shiurim learning the daf of gemara that analyzes the mishna's first ruling. In that context we discussed various issues related to the concept of ha-osek be-mitzva patur min ha-mitzva, and last week we discussed the issue of people who are traveling for purposes other than to fulfill a mitzva.

The Gemara now moves on to discuss the latter two rulings of the mishna. The Gemara generally introduces the discussion of a new statement from a mishna by quoting at least the beginning of that statement. That quote is preceded and followed by two diamond-shaped dots. That is the case in our gemara as well. We begin about halfway down the page on 26a, at the "two dots."


"Sick people and their attendants:"


The rabbis taught: "The sick person that they said is not (just) a sick person who is in danger,

rather even a sick person who is not in danger, even if he feels in his eyes, even if he feels in his head."

Rabban Shimon ben Gamli'el said: "One time I felt in my eyes in Ceasarea, and Rabbi Yosei the Great allowed me and my attendant to sleep outside the sukka."

Rav allowed Rav Acha Bardela to sleep under a canopy because of mosquitoes.

Rava allowed Rabbi Acha bar Ada to sleep outside the sukka because of the smell of the earth. 

Rava (is consistent with) his reason, for Rava said: "One who is uncomfortable (mitzta'er) is exempt from the sukka."

But we learned in the mishna: "Sick people and their attendants are exempt from sukka": a sick person--yes; one who is uncomfortable--no!

Say: a sick person, he and his attendants are exempt; one who is uncomfortable, he is exempt, his attendants not.

חולים ומשמשיהם:

תנו רבנן: חולה שאמרו - לא חולה שיש בו סכנה,

אלא אפילו חולה שאין בו סכנה, אפילו חש בעיניו, ואפילו חש בראשו.

אמר רבן שמעון בן גמליאל: פעם אחת חשתי בעיני בקיסרי, והתיר רבי יוסי בריבי לישן אני ומשמשי חוץ לסוכה.

רב שרא לרב אחא ברדלא למגנא בכילתא בסוכה משום בקי.

רבא שרא ליה לרבי אחא בר אדא למגנא בר ממטללתא משום סרחא דגרגישתא.

רבא לטעמיה דאמר רבא: מצטער פטור מן הסוכה.

והא אנן תנן: חולין ומשמשיהם פטורים מן הסוכה. חולה - אין, מצטער - לא!

אמרי: חולה - הוא ומשמשיו פטורים. מצטער - הוא פטור, משמשיו לא.  

The gemara begins its study of the mishna by quoting a tosefta that adds an important detail to the mishna's ruling. [As a reminder, the Mishna is comprised of teachings by the Tanna'im, compiled by Rabbi Yehuda Ha-nasi. The Tosefta is another compilation of the rulings of the Tanna'im, generally printed at the end of standard editions of the Gemara. The Gemara often quotes the Tosefta or other statements of Tanna'im called beraitot (singular: beraita), which literally means "outside." These are statements that were not included in the Mishna or Tosefta but were known to the Amora'im through oral tradition.] In our case, this tosefta (2:2) adds an important detail to the mishna's ruling. When we say that one who is sick is exempt from living in the sukka, we do not simply refer to someone who is dangerously ill: even one who suffers from a headache or eyestrain is exempt from sukka. As proof, the tosefta cites an incident concerning Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, whose eyes were hurting him one Sukkot. Rabbi Yosei permitted him and his attendants to sleep outside the sukka, based on the rule that one who is sick is exempt from the mitzva of sukka.

This added detail affects not only the scope of the exemption, but also our understanding of why there is such an exemption. One could have understood that the exemption is limited to situations in which living in the sukka has potentially life-threatening consequences to one's health. If so, the mitzva of sukka would be no different than all other mitzvot, including refraining from labor on Shabbat and fasting on Yom Kippur, which are overridden when there is concern for human life. This tosefta teaches that beyond that obvious case, there is a special halakha specific to sukka which exempts all who are sick from the obligation to live in the sukka.

What would be the nature of the unique exemption of a sick person from the mitzva of sukka? One possibility could be the more general principle of mitzta'er, which we have encountered before and will address again shortly. Anyone who is uncomfortable in the sukka is exempt from the mitzva and may return to his house; if so, however, we will have to limit the exemption of a sick person to cases in which any mitzta'er is exempt. As we have discussed in previous shiurim, we normally assume that the petur of mitzta'er is based on teishevu ke-ein taduru, the principle that we live in our sukkot in the same manner in which we live in our homes. Since one who is significantly uncomfortable at home would leave for a more pleasant environment, so too one who is uncomfortable in the sukka. Of course, this reasoning only applies if one will be more at ease in one's house than in the sukka. While this may be true of many ailing people, it will not necessarily apply in every situation.

Some commentators assume that the exemption of a sick person (and perhaps of a mitzta'er as well) is not based on teishevu ke-ein taduru but is rather its own independent exemption. In this case, the petur would be based not on the first part of the verse that obligates us to live in sukkot to begin with (Vayikra 23:42): "In sukkot you must dwell (teishevu) for seven days," but the second, "every native (ezrach) in Yisra'el must dwell in sukkot." There are some who claim that the unusual word "ezrach" refers only to those who are in a good, comfortable state of being; as opposed, for example, to one who is ill.

Moving back to the gemara, we see that having completed its quote of the tosefta, the gemara cites two examples of Amora'im who exempt people from sukka in circumstances a bit different from those discussed in the mishna and the tosefta: Rav permits Rav Acha Bardela to sit enclosed in a canopy in the sukka in order to escape from the mosquitoes, despite the fact that according to most opinions, one who does so is considered as though he has left the sukka entirely; and Rava similarly permits Rabbi Acha bar Ada to leave the sukka in order to escape the offensive odor of a particular type of dirt or clay that had been used to line the floor of the sukka. (Although one should not use foul-smelling substances in one's sukka, and if one does so the sukka may be invalid, the case in our gemara may address one in which most people are not offended by this particular odor. Alternatively, the substance may have emitted the smell only when wet and this story takes place after a downpour.)

The gemara notes that the ruling of Rava (and of Rav) is consistent with the principle stated by Rava (and on 25b by Rav) that a mitzta'er is exempt from sukka. Having clearly formulated the basis of Rav and Rava's rulings, the gemara questions the underlying principle: our mishna mentions the specific case of one who is sick. If anyone who is uncomfortable in the sukka is exempt, should the mishna not have stated the halakha in a more inclusive manner? Does our mishna not therefore imply that only a sick person is exempt, while other types of mitzta'er remain obligated in the mitzva?

The gemara answers that there is a different reason that the mishna mentions specifically the case of the sick person: a sick person's attendants are also exempt from sukka, but this is not the case regarding one who is merely uncomfortable in the sukka. The mishna singles out the case of the sick person in order to teach us that his attendants are also exempt (as the mishna explicitly states)--not because a sick person is the only one excused from the mitzva of sukka (while a mitzta'er is still bound to perform it).

Why, in fact, should the attendants of a sick person be exempt from sitting in the sukka? Since they themselves are not ill, why are they different than anyone else?

Hint: Think back to concepts that we have discussed over the course of our learning that sometimes excuse people from the mitzva of sukka!

Each of the two main principles that we have discussed so far may be the factor behind the exemption of the sick person's attendants.

1) One possibility is to apply the concept of ha-osek be-mitzva patur min ha-mitzva: one who attends to the needs of a sick person fulfills a mitzva; he is therefore exempt from other mitzvot, including sukka.

2) Another option is to return to the halakha unique to the mitzva of sukka, teishevu ke-ein taduru: people who are ailing often have attendants who leave their own homes in order to stay with the patient and attend to his needs; similarly, one may leave the sukka in order to attend to the needs of a sick person.

Of course, it is possible that both reasons apply in many situations. This is significant, as there are scenarios in which one of the two reasons may be inapplicable: 

a) When the attendant is not actively involved in attending to the needs of the patient: in such a case he can no longer be considered osek be-mitzva, though if the attendant is still "on-call," we may still apply the rule of teishevu ke-ein taduru.

b) On the first night of Sukkot: according to many posekim, the exemption of teishevu ke-ein taduru does not apply on the first night of the holiday until one has eaten a ke-zayit in the sukka (we will discuss this more at length in a future shiur). The general principle of ha-osek be-mitzva patur min ha-mitzva applies at all times.


Back to the Gemara

We continue with the gemara's discussion of the third and final ruling of the mishna on 25a; note that once again the gemara quotes the relevant line from the mishna, preceded and followed by two dots. The gemara is about three quarters of the way down the page, on 26a.

We eat a light eating outside the sukka:

And how much is a light eating?


Rav Yosef said: "Two or three eggs."

Abbayei said to him: "But many times it is enough for a person with that, and it is for him a set meal!"

Rather, Abaye said: "As a student tastes and goes to the assembly (=to study)."

אוכלים אכילת עראי חוץ לסוכה:

וכמה אכילת עראי?

אמר רב יוסף: תרתי או תלת ביעי.

אמר ליה אביי: והא זימנין סגיאין סגי ליה לאיניש בהכי, והוה ליה סעודת קבע!

אלא אמר אביי: כדטעים בר בי רב ועייל לכלה.   

Our mishna states a principle; that whereas one must eat all of one's meals in the sukka, one may eat casually (i.e. a snack) outside the sukka. The gemara seeks to define these terms: what is the difference between a meal (achilat keva) and a snack (achilat arai)? Where does one draw the line? Rav Yosef answers that two or three eggs' volume of food is still considered a snack: more than that is a meal, and one may not eat it outside of the sukka. Abbayei argues that even two or three eggs' volume of food is somewhat satiating and can be considered to be a meal. He therefore limits a snack to the amount that a student grabs on his way out to yeshiva--a mouthful, which is generally assumed to be about the size of one egg.

It seems from the wording of Rav Yosef and Abbayei that the measures we are dealing with in regard to this halakha are not exact. This is readily evident from the statement of Rav Yosef, who speaks of "two or three eggs." It seems to be true even of Abbayei's ruling, which does not refer to one egg, but rather defines the amount "as a student tastes." This is somewhat unusual, but some commentators assume that it is the case, and since we accept Abbayei's opinion, one who eats slightly more than an egg's volume (ke-beitza) is not liable for having eaten a "meal" outside the sukka. However, based on a gemara we will see later, other commentators assume that the ke-beitza limit is one that is precise. This is the way we assume in practice.

Let us conclude with one more practical note: the commentators explain that our gemara is not talking about just any type of food. This definition of a "snack" as no more than a ke-beitza (or, according to Rav Yosef, 2-3 ke-beitzim) definitely applies when it comes to breads, and it is the subject of debate with regard to other foods (actual eggs, eaten by themselves, are probably always considered a snack!). We will discuss this issue further in a later shiur.