QUESTION: The Mishnah (11a) states that the Sechach of a Sukah must be
something which cannot become Tamei and that grows from the ground (Gidulei
Karka). According to Rebbi Yochanan, this requirement is derived from the
verse, "b'Aspecha mi'Garnecha u'mi'Yikvecha" -- "... when you gather in from
your threshing floor and your wine press" (Devarim 16:13), which teaches
that Sechach must be made from material similar to the residue left over
from the threshing and wine pressing processes ("Pesoles Goren v'Yekev").
Rav Chisda says that it is derived from a verse in Nechemyah (8:15), which
teaches that the Sechach must be similar to the "branches of myrtle" (which
are not Mekabel Tum'ah and are Gedulei Karka).
If these are the verses from which we learn the requirements of Sechach,
then why do we not say that we are only allowed to use grain stalks or vine
branches for Sechach ("Pesoles Goren v'Yekev") according to Rebbi Yochanan,
or only the specific woods mentioned in the verse in Nechemyah according to
Rav Chisda. What indication is there in the verses to permit using Sechach
from natural products which are similar to the types mentioned in the verse?
The answer is that we only learn from the verse the guidelines for what
makes the Sechach fit for a Sukah if there is some *logical basis* for
putting such limitations on the Sechach . It is logical to learn from the
verse that Sechach must be a natural product, since that is the type of
covering which is used to make shade for a temporary dwelling. It cannot be
a processed item. It is logical, therefore, that this verse excludes
something that can be Mekabel Tum'ah (i.e. it is processed) and something
which does not grow from the ground, or a live animal (since these less
accessible objects are not readily used for making shade). Concerning
different types of wood, there is no reason to say that the type of wood
mentioned in the verse is more fit for a Sukah than any other type of wood,
since the Torah did not specify that a specific object must be used for
The RITVA (11b) asks, if this is so, how do we learn the requirement that
Sechach must not be attached to the ground ("Mechubar")? Rashi (11a, DH
Pesulah) tells us that the source is from the verse of our Sugya: since
Pesoles Goren v'Yekev is not Mechubar, we learn that Sechach must not be
Mechubar. What is the logical basis to learn from Pesoles Goren v'Yekev that
Mechubar may not be used? On the contrary, if it is necessary to use a
natural product, then something which is attached to the ground is more
natural than something which has been detached! Why should we learn from the
verse that Mechubar cannot be used? (This is the way the question appears in
the Mosad Rav Kook edition of the Chidushei ha'Ritva. In the older printings
the word "Rav Chisda" appears instead of the word "Rachmana," which has
caused much confusion concerning the Ritva's intention.)
ANSWER: The RE'AH and the RITVA conclude that it must be that the Pesul of
Mechubar is learned from a different source. It is learned from the
principle of "*Ta'aseh*." "Ta'aseh" teaches that one must do an action to
make the Sechach; by putting branches which are Mechubar onto the Sukah, no
Ma'aseh was done; rather, the branches were just waved from one place to
another, while at their base they remained connected to the ground. (This is
not to be confused with the Pesul of "Ta'aseh *v'Lo Min ha'Asuy*," which
describes what *type* of action is necessary; the action which makes the
Sukah must be the *placing* of the Sechach and not a later action (such as
cutting the Sechach from its source).
Rashi (11a, DH Pesulah) says that Mechubar is Pasul because it does not fall
into the category of Pesoles Goren v'Yekev. He might also mean to say like
the Ritva, that the logical basis for distinguishing between something that
is Mechubar and something that is not Mechubar, is that in the case of
Mechubar, one is not doing an action. Rashi learns from Pesoles Goren
v'Yekev that an action must be done to put the Sechach on the Sukah.
OPINIONS: Rebbi Yochanan says that strands of unprocessed flax may be used
as Sechach, but if the strands have been pressed and combed, then they may
not be used as Sechach. Since such strands are natural products that grow
from the ground, why may they not be used as Sechach?
(a) RASHI (DH Sachachah) says that the Gemara is referring to strands of
flax that have been bleached. Such strands are then Mekabel Tum'as Nega'im
according to one opinion (Rebbi Yehudah in Nega'im 11:8) even though they
have not yet been spun.
(b) TOSFOS (DH b'Anitzei) says that if the strands of flax have not been
spun, nobody says that they are Mekabel Tum'ah -- even Tum'as Nega'im.
(Rebbi Yehudah is referring to after they have been spun when he says that
they are only Mekabel Tum'ah once they are bleached.) Rather, Tosfos
explains that since these strands are close to reaching a state in which
they can be Mekabel Tum'ah (since they have been *prepared* to be spun), the
Rabanan decreed that they may not be used as Sechach. Tosfos adds that it is
only according to the opinion that does *not* require bleaching (because
then it is not close to being Mekabel Tum'as Nega'im; according to Rebbi
Yehudah, that bleaching is required as well, it is not even close to being
Mekabel Tum'as Nega'im).
(c) The RAMBAM (Hilchos Sukah 5:4) says that the reason that strands of flax
may not be used is because their form has changed after they have been
pounded and combed, and they no longer resemble Gedulei Karka, items which
grew from the ground.
(d) The RA'AVAD there argues with the Rambam and says that the reason
strands of flax may not be used as Sechach is because they are fit to be
used as stuffing for pillows and sheets. Since pillows and sheets are
Mekabel Tum'ah, the stuffing is also Mebakel Tum'ah. (He appears to be
referring to the Mishnah in Kelim (17:13) which says that objects which are
not Mekabel Tum'ah by themselves can nevertheless be Mekabel Tum'ah when
they are sewn to objects that are Mekabel Tum'ah).