Daf 29b

  • Rav Michael Siev


Introduction to the Study of Talmud
by Rav Michael Siev

Sukka 21 - Daf 29b

A scan of the classic printed daf can be found at:


Key words and phrases in Hebrew and Aramaic are marked in blue, and their translation/explanation can be seen by placing the cursor over them. 

From time to time, the shiur will include instructions to stop reading and do some task on your own. This will be marked by a

red pause box

 It is highly recommended that you follow those instructions. I am working on a way to have your computer melt if you don't, but as of yet, the technical details are still beyond me.

Within the quoted texts, my explanations and additions are also noted in red.

Last week, we learned the gemara on 29a that expounds upon signs of Divine displeasure and their implications for the world. The gemara continues along similar lines until the end of the chapter, on 29b. For the purposes of this shiur, I think it would be more productive for us to skip to the end of the perek, and begin the next perek.

Note that on 29b, it says "הדרן עלך הישן" in big letters in the middle of the gemara. That statement is placed between the end of the second perek and the beginning of the third, and it means, "We shall return to you, Ha-yashen." Ha-yashen is the first word of the second perek, and the chapter as a whole is therefore known by this name. (In fact, at the top of every page, in addition to the name of the masekhet and the chapter number, the "name" of the chapter - i.e. its first 1-3 words, are written as a header to the page.) A similar statement follows the conclusion of every chapter of Talmud, and it indicates our desire to return and study once more the perek we have now completed. In that vein, I highly recommend that you take some time to review the gemarot and shiurim that we have learned together this year. Review is a critical component of the learning process, and re-reading gemarot one has already encountered is an excellent way to hone one's gemara skills. 

Following the "hadran" is the first mishna of the third perek of Masekhet Sukka. The theme of this perek is quite distinct from that which the masekhet has discussed until this point. The masekhet begins with the laws of a sukka - its proper dimensions, materials acceptable for its construction, etc. It then continues with the topic that we have studied together, which is the mitzva of living in the sukka. At this point, the masekhet turns its attention to the mitzva of the four species - lulav, etrog, hadasim and aravot. This is the focus of the entire third chapter. The final two chapters of the masekhet discuss other mitzvot related to the holiday, most of which were particular to the Beit Ha-mikdash.

Without further ado, let us begin the third perek of Masekhet Sukka.

The stolen lulav and (that which is) dry - invalid.

(A lulav) of ashera and of the subverted city - invalid.

Its top was clipped, its leaves separated - invalid.

Its leaves were apart - valid. R' Yehuda says: he shall bind them above.

Palms of the Iron Mountain are valid.

A lulav that has three handbreadths in order to shake it - valid.

לולב הגזול והיבש - פסול.

של אשירה ושל עיר הנדחת - פסול.

נקטם ראשו, נפרצו עליו - פסול.

נפרדו עליו - כשר, רבי יהודה אומר: יאגדנו מלמעלה.

ציני הר הברזל כשירות.

לולב שיש בו שלשה טפחים כדי לנענע בו - כשר

This mishna lays out some of the basic criteria regarding the lulav that must be taken as one of the four species of Sukkot. Of course, the gemara will expound upon them. For now, we will just give a basic definition of terms, and will discuss in greater detail only the issues that the gemara does not address.

The first two criteria for the laws of a lulav are that if the lulav is stolen or dried out, it is not valid for use in the mitzva.

The gemara does not give specific guidelines regarding how dry the lulav must be in order to be invalid. Rishonim mention different possibilities. Some suggest that there is a time limit on the validity of a lulav - 12 months after it has been cut from the tree, it is considered "dry" and unfit for the mitzva. However, most authorities disagree with this definition and assume that dryness is to be measured by the physical properties of the lulav. The two indicators discussed by Rishonim are the lulav's color and its texture. The dominant opinion is that when the lulav's color changes from its natural green to white, it is no longer valid. However, Tosafot maintain that the lulav is kosher until it is so dry that it becomes brittle. This stage occurs much later than the change of color. The Shulchan Arukh rules that the determining factor is color, and that is how we generally act on a practical level. However, there have been times in history in which it was virtually impossible to obtain a kosher set of species, and in such circumstances the Rama and others allowed people to rely on the lenient position of Tosafot.

The mishna continues by stating that a lulav of ashera or from an ir ha-nidachat is unfit for use. An ashera is a tree that has been worshipped by idolaters. An ir ha-nidachat is a Jewish city in which most of the inhabitants have become idol worshippers. The Torah (Devarim 13) commands that the inhabitants of such a city be killed and that all of their possessions be burned. In both the case of ashera as well as the case of ir ha-nidachat, the common denominator is that the tree/lulav must be burned.

Why should the obligation to burn the lulav make it unfit for use in the mitzva? Rashi (s.v. ve-shel ir ha-nidachat) explains:

And of an ir ha-nidachat - because it is to be burned, as it is written (Devarim 13:17) "and all its loot you shall gather (and you shall burn the city and all its loot etc.)." And lulav requires a measurement of 4 handbreadths, as (we learn) later (32b). And since this (lulav) is to be burned, its measurement does not exist, for it is as (though it were already) burned.

Rashi here explains that halakha views an object that is slated for burning as though it were already burned and turned to ashes. A lulav that is to be burned continues to exist, but it is legally insignificant and therefore does not have a legal measurement. Since a lulav must be at least four tefachim long, a lulav slated for destruction is technically unfit for use.

The explanation we have just learned gives rise to an interesting difference between the mitzva of lulav and the mitzva of sukka. Since a lulav has a minimum size requirement, it is unfit for use if it must be burned. This is not the case when it comes to the sekhakh on a sukka. Sekhakh must provide enough protection to the sukka so that the area inside is more shady than sunny. However, there is no minimum size requirement for any particular piece of sekhakh. Therefore, many commentators rule that materials that are slated for burning may be used for sekhakh.

The next pair of criteria in the mishna is that the top of the lulav must not be severed and that the lulav's leaves must not be separated. The first of these criteria is straightforward. There is some debate, however, regarding the meaning of "its leaves were separated." Rashi explains that the leaves of the lulav were actually detached from its spine. The leaves were then tied to the spine of the lulav, much like an old-fashioned broom. The mishna teaches that this is invalid.

Tosafot object to Rashi's definition, and explain that the leaves are still attached to the spine of the lulav, but have been individually "separated." Each leaf of a lulav is really a double-leaf, meaning that it is folded over on itself. If one were to separate the two halves of each individual leaf (for the majority of the leaves of the lulav), the lulav would be invalid. That is what the mishna refers to when it disqualifies a lulav that has separated leaves.

Having listed six disqualifications of a lulav, the mishna now lists two conditions that are acceptable for lulavim (though we may have thought they would be problematic), and a general rule regarding its size. Firstly, if the leaves are still attached to the spine of the lulav but are spread apart, the lulav is valid. R. Yehuda requires that the leaves be bound to the spine of the lulav so that it is straight. We do not accept his view in practice. The second leniency of the mishna is with regard to lulavim that come from "Iron Mountain." Apparently, this was a place in Eretz Yisrael in which the lulavim tended to have very short leaves. The mishna teaches that such lulavim are acceptable anyway.

Finally, the mishna concludes by introducing a general rule regarding the necessary length of a lulav - it must be "four tefachim in order to shake it." The gemara later will explain that this unusual formulation is meant to hint to the fact that the length of a lulav corresponds to the minimum length of the hadasim and aravot, which is three tefachim. The lulav also requires an additonal tefach in order to be able to properly shake it. The lulav is shaken when it is initially picked up in fulfillment of the mitzva, as well as during the recitation of hallel.

The gemara

Gemara. It is stated unequivocally,

no difference on the first yom tov and no difference on the second yom tov.

It is right (regarding a) dry (lulav) - we require 'beauty,' and there is not (beauty).

But stolen, it is right (regarding) the first yom tov - for it says "to you" - from that which is yours.

But on the second yom tov, why not?

גמ' קא פסיק ותני,

לא שנא ביום טוב ראשון ולא שנא ביום טוב שני.

בשלמא יבש - הדר בעינן, וליכא.

אלא גזול, בשלמא יום טוב ראשון - דכתיב (ויקרא כג) לכם - משלכם.

אלא ביום טוב שני אמאי לא?

The mishna has taught six disqualifications of a lulav, without specifying when they apply. The gemara therefore assumes that these criteria apply for the duration of Sukkot, and not just on the first day.

Why would one have thought to differentiate between the first day and the rest of Sukkot?

Look up Vayikra 23:40 and the mishna in Sukka 41a with Rashi!

The Torah (Vayikra 23:40) commands: "And you shall take for yourselves on the first day a fruit of the citron tree . . . and you shall rejoice before Hashem your God for seven days." This pasuk clearly indicates that the mitzva of taking the four species applies specifically on the first day of Sukkot. Chazal adduce from the end of the pasuk (as quoted by Rashi on the mishna on 41a) that in the Beit Ha-mikdash, which is the place that is "before Hashem," we rejoice with the four species for all seven days of Sukkot. Thus, on a Torah level, the mitzva of the four species applies in the Beit Ha-mikdash all seven days of Sukkot, but just the first day everywhere outside of the Beit Ha-mikdash.

Why, then, do we take the four species all seven days of Sukkot (except for Shabbat) nowadays? As the mishna on 41a records, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai instituted that we take the four species everywhere for all seven days of Sukkot, in commemoration of the Beit Ha-mikdash (zecher la-mikdash). This is a rabbinically ordained mitzva (mitzva de-rabanan).

With this in mind, we can understand why there could be a difference between the criteria for a kosher lulav on the first day of Sukkot as opposed to on the second day - or any other day, for that matter. (It is important to keep in mind that when we talk about the second day of Sukkot, we mean the second day in Eretz Yisrael. In chutz la'aretz, we treat the second day as though it might very well be the first day.) Nevertheless, the gemara asserts that since the mishna did not specify that these criteria apply only on the first day, we can assume that they apply on all the days.

A few more words of introduction are in order before we continue to dissect the gemara we have just quoted. The mishna mentioned six disqualifications of a lulav, but did not tell us the basis for those disqualifications. The gemara and commentators fill in the details regarding the reasons behind each detail. Two important factors are mentioned right here in our gemara: the requirements of "hadar" and "lakhem." Let's explain them one by one.

1) Hadar. In describing the etrog, the Torah does not say simply that we should take an etrog - it rather refers to etrog as a "pri etz hadar." The gemara (35a) presents several arguments to prove that this refers to the etrog. But the gemara also learns from the unusual wording of the pasuk that the etrog, and by extension all of the species, must be hadar, which means "beautiful." Therefore, certain blemishes that take away from the natural beauty of the species make them invalid for use.

2) Lakhem. The pasuk commands "ulkachtem lakhem . . .," "you shall take for yourselves." The word "lakhem," ("for yourselves") does not seem to add anything to our understanding of the halakha. Therefore, the gemara learns that lakhem is to be understood as mi-shelakhem, "from that which is yours," meaning that one must actually own the set of species that he uses. Based on this halakha, if one were to borrow someone else's species, one would not be able to fulfill one's mitzva with them, unless the lender would actually give the species to the borrower as a gift, such that the borrower obtains legal ownership of the species. (We actually pasken this way regarding the first day of Sukkot, as we will shortly discuss.)

Now let's get back to the gemara. We inferred that all of the disqualifications mentioned in the mishna apply for the duration of Sukkot, and not just on the first day. The gemara now questions this inference. It makes sense to say that a dried-out lulav is invalid for the entire holiday, because the reason a dried-out lulav is pasul is because it is not considered hadar. However, a stolen lulav is no less beautiful than one that is obtained legally. Hadar is clearly not the operative factor in the disqualification of a dried-out lulav. Rather, the reason it is pasul is because it is not lakhem. But, the requirement of lakhem applies only on the first day of Sukkot! Why, then, should a stolen lulav be disqualified for the entire holiday?

Hopefully, you are wondering why it is that the requirement of hadar applies for the entire Sukkot while the requirement of lakhem applies only on the first day. However, our time for this week is up. Come back next week for the answer to this question and for the gemara's explanation of why a stolen lulav is pasul all seven days!