Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Gedolim and Sukkah

The Gemara (Sukkah 46b-47a) has a disagreement over whether one recites a blessing on a sukkah on Shemini Atzeres. Rav brings a proof that one does not recite the blessing from Rav Huna Bar Bizna and all the great scholars of his generation (ve-khol gedolei ha-dor), who entered a sukkah on Shemini Atzeres and did not recite a blessing. The Gemara counters that maybe they were of the view that after one recites a blessing on the sukkah on the first day, one no longer recites the blessing. The Gemara answers that they had come from the meadow (efer), i.e. they had not yet had the opportunity to enter a sukkah on the holiday and still did not recite a blessing on Shemini Atzeres even though it was their first time entering a sukkah. As Rashi explains, they had been in the field, grazing their animals, for the entire Sukkos.

This is an astonishing Gemara! The leading Torah scholars of that time did not enter a sukkah for the whole holiday, until Shemini Atzeres. How can this be???

The Tzitz Eliezer (9:32) quotes R. Chaim Berlin as suggesting a textual emendation in the Gemara, so that rather coming from efer, the meadow, they were coming from Ifra, i.e. Ifra Hurmiz the mother of Shevor Malka. They must have had some serious political-security issue to discuss with this political leader that was so urgent that it overrode the holiday obligations (see this post).

R. Ya'akov Ettlinger, in his Bikkurei Ya'akov (640:24), suggests that they had left for some hisbodedus in the meadow, introspection and meditation, and that being involved in this mitzvah exempted them from the mitzvah of sukkah. (A very surprising explanation from this German scholar.)

Both the Sefas Emes (Sukkah 47a) and Or Samei'ach (Hilkhos Sukkah 6:13) suggest that Rav Huna Bar Bizna and his colleagues sat in the sukkah on the first day (or two) of Sukkos. They explain the Gemara in different ways.

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