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Sukah 20

SUKAH 20 - Dedicated by Marsha and Lee Weinblatt of N.J., in honor of the 5th of Iyar


QUESTION: According to Rav Papa's explanation, the Mishnah (19b) states that a large mat of reeds is normally made for use as Sechach (even without expressed intent) and thus it is valid as Sechach, and a small mat of reeds is normally made for reclining and thus it is invalid as Sechach. The Beraisa states that a mat of reeds cannot be used for Sechach if it is interwoven ("Arugah"), but it may be used if it is braided ("Gedulah"). RASHI and TOSFOS point out that this means that even a small mat (that was made with no expressed purpose) may be used for Sechach if it is braided.

In the end of the Beraisa, Rebbi Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi and Rebbi Dosa say that a mat may be used for Sechach even if it is interwoven. According to Rashi, that means that a small mat of reeds may be used, according to these Tana'im, no matter how the reeds are intertwined (Arugah or Gedulah). However, this opinion seems to contradict our Mishnah which states that a small mat of reeds that was made with no specific intent is assumedly made for the sake of reclining upon and it cannot be used for Sechach. How is this opinion to be reconciled with our Mishnah?


(a) The MAHARSHA writes that Rebbi Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi and Rebbi Dosa are arguing with the Mishnah. The Halachah does not follow their opinion, but it follows the Mishnah. This is indeed the ruling of the RA'AVAD (Hilchos Sukah 5:4).

(b) The RIF and RAMBAM (Hilchos Sukah 5:4) omit the difference between a woven and braided mat of reeds. The MAGID MISHNAH explains that they rule like Rebbi Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi and Rebbi Dosa in the Beraisa, who say that both types of mats are valid as Sechach. However, the Rif and Rambam understand that the word the Beraisa uses is not "Gedulah" (braided) but "Gedolah" -- large. As such, the Tana Kama of the Beraisa is stating that a *large* reed mat is valid, like our Mishnah says, but if the mat is woven, then it is Pasul even if it is large. The Rambam rules like Rebbi Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi and Rebbi Dosa who argue with the Tana Kama of the Beraisa and say that a large mat is always valid, which is the same opinion as our Mishnah (which allows all large mats and does not differentiate between woven or otherwise).

HALACHAH: The difference between woven and braided mats is not cited by the Shulchan Aruch (who rules like the Rambam in this regard). In practice, though, it depends on the purpose for which mats are normally used in that place and time (MISHNAH BERURAH 629:18).

In recent years, mats have been marketed which were made expressly for the purpose of using them as Sechach on Sukos (such as "Sechach la'Netzach"). There are four points that are dealt with in Halachic literature when discussing these mats:

(1) Were they made in an area in which most such mats are used for reclining upon? No matter where they are being used, if in their place of origin they are normally used for reclining they are Mekabel Tum'ah.

(2) We rule that l'Chatchilah, one should not support the Sechach with an object that is not itself fit to be used as Sechach (i.e. the "Ma'amid" must fit the criteria for Sechach -- see Insights to 21b). If the mat is held together with ropes, they are considered to be Ma'amidim. Some ropes are Mekabel Tum'ah, so they should not be used as Ma'amidim. (Vines or natural fibers may be used, since they are not Mekabel Tum'ah and are themselves valid Sechach.)

(3) The Rabanan deemed a board that is three or more Tefachim in width to be invalid for Sechach due to "Gezeiras Tikrah" (Daf 14a). Does this apply to a mat? It is true that each slat in the mat is not 4 Tefachim wide, but the combined width of the tied slats is over 4 Tefachim. Perhaps, since they are tied together, they are to be viewed as one large entity. (If the mat is not woven with slats, but with unprocessed bamboo or sticks, this should not apply.)

(4) The Gemara discussed the so-called "Gezeiras Chavilah," due to which the Chachamim disqualified a bundle consisting of 25 or more sticks to be used as Sechach. Is the mat of tied slats considered a Chavilah? (Interwoven slats are obviously not considered Chavilah; this question arises only when the mat consists of parallel slats tied together.)

L'Halachah, not all mats are the same, and not all Poskim rule similarly. Therefore in practice, one should consult his local Orthodox Rabbi regarding which mats to use and which not to use for Sechach.
QUESTION: Reish Lakish, when he quoted Rebbi Chiya and his sons, said "I am hereby an atonement for Rebbi Chiya and his sons." Rashi explains that since Rebbi Chiya was the Gadol ha'Dor, Reish Lakish honored him and treated him like his rebbi. After the death of one's rebbi or father, one is supposed to say, "May I be an atonement for him," meaning "May Hashem inflict upon me punishment to atone for the sins of my rebbi or father who passed away."

How could one person's afflictions serve as atonement for the sins of another person? If someone sinned, then he should be punished for his sins; how can one person bear punishment to exonerate another? (RABBI EFRAIM ZALMAN STERNBUCH -- son of the renowned Rav Moshe Sternbuch -- in "Yissachar u'Zevulun," ch. 3, discusses this at length. The sources cited here are culled from his discussion.)


(a) THE MAHARSHAM (3:151) explains that "all of Israel are responsible for one another" means that everyone is in some way responsible for the sins of the other person. Therefore, he is also able to make himself like a guarantor ("Arev") for someone else. If someone acts as guarantor for the repayment of a loan, it is the option of the lender to choose to collect from either the debtor himself or from the guarantor. Similarly, one who says "Hareini Kaparaso..." gives Hashem the option to choose whether to collect from him or from the actual sinner.

However, the MACHANEH CHAIM (Choshen Mishpat #20) points out that from numerous verses it is evident that a person must himself bear liability for his sins (see, for example, Yechezkal 18:20, Tehilim 49:8). Rav E.Z. Sternbuch also cites RAV HAI GA'ON (quoted in MAHARAM ALSHAKER #101) who writes that a person certainly cannot trade or sell the reward for a Mitzvah or the punishment for an Aveirah which he did.

(b) The MACHANEH CHAIM instead suggests that saying, "Hareini Kaparaso" is just a way of honoring the deceased or praying for him, as if he is saying, "*I wish that* my afflictions could be an atonement for him" (but not that they actually can be).

Rav E.Z. Sternbuch asks that we find in Kidushin (31b) that during the first year after the death of one's father or rebbi, the son or Talmid is *required* to say "Hareini Kaparas Mishkavo" each time that he mentions his father or rebbi. On the other hand, we find that a person is not required to undergo physical torture or hardship in order to honor his parents (such as begging from door to door, see Yoreh Deah 240:5); as the Vilna Ga'on writes, one is not required to suffer by giving up a prospective spouse because his father disapproves. If so, he should not be required to undergo afflictions to attain atonement for his father. Why, then, does the Gemara obligate him to say that he wants to have afflictions in order to atone for his father if he indeed may not want to and he is not obligated to? Even if he does not really receive the afflictions, as the Machaneh Chayim suggested, how can he be required to say that he "wishes he would" if it is not Halachically required for him to honor his father, practically, in such a manner?

Rav E.Z. Sternbuch rejects a proposition of Rav Binyamin Stern (B'TZEL HA'CHACHMAH 6:17-22) that after death there obligation of honoring one's parents is greater than when one's parents are living. Furthermore, it seems clear from a number of sources that the afflictions that a son or Talmid experiences are indeed Mechaper for his father or rebbi (see, for example, BEIS YOSEF OC 284). The words of Rashi, too, imply that a person's own afflictions could actually atone for the deceased.

(c) Rav E.Z. Sternbuch and his father, RAV MOSHE STERNBUCH (Teshuvos v'Hanhagos 2:47), write that according to PERUSH RI HA'ZAKEN in Kidushin (30a), one says "Hareini Kaparas Mishkavo" only when *quoting a teaching* said by the father or rebbi. If so, the son may not be accepting afflictions in order to atone for the sins of the father. Rather, he is saying that "if I made a mistake *when repeating my father's statement*, then let me be punished for misquoting him, instead of him being punished for not teaching me properly, because it is my mistake and not his." However, the Rishonim do not seem to agree to this ruling. The DARCHEI MOSHE (YD 240) cites RABEINU YERUCHAM who says explicitly that *every* time one mentions his father or rebbi during the first year, he should say "Hareini Kaparas Mishkavo."

(d) Rav E.Z. Sternbuch (Yissachar u'Zevulun, p. 55) writes that perhaps one can only gain atonement for the father for his sin of not raising his son properly. One is saying that "if I sin, and therefore my father is deserving of punishment because of his failure to educate me properly, I should be punished and not him." He bases this on a Rishon (Rabeinu Shneur) quoted by the BEIS YOSEF (OC 284). The logic is that one is able to atone for someone else's sin *which caused* his own sins, by forgiving the other person and suffering for one's own sins. Alternatively, by saying that he accepts upon himself afflictions for his sin (which was done as a result of a lack in his education), he is doing Teshuvah for what he did wrong, and he thereby corrects his wrongdoing, which consequently corrects his father's failure to educate him (since the son eventually was educated in either case), and thus his father also gains.

According to this, it is clear why the son is obligated to accept such afflictions for his father or rebbi, since it is his actions that are causing the father or rebbi punishment. The same could apply for someone like Rebbi Chiya who was a Gadol ha'Dor, who was responsible for everyone in his generation; as such, Reish Lakish could accept afflictions in order to atone for whatever lack of education from Rebbi Chiya that might have caused Reish Lakish (his students student) to sin.

(e) Rav E.Z. Sternbuch then found a Teshuvah of MAHARAM CHALAVAH (#17) which discusses at length the principle that a person cannot transfer the punishment for Aveiros. However, he shows that saying "Hareini Kaparaso" indeed is a way to provide atonement for the deceased, and in a greater sense than just forgiving the sin of not providing proper education for the child. He shows this from the Gemara in Sanhedrin (104a). where the Gemara implies that a son could exculpate his father from punishment ("Bra Mezakeh Aba"). Also, the Gemara in Chagigah (15b) implies that Rebbi Meir and Rebbi Yochanan were able to procure atonement for Acher (Elisha ben Avuyah).

Maharam Chalavah explains how the atonement works. "It is appropriate for him to be Mechaper for his father," because since the son "is the produce, the fruit, of a Tzadik," he is able to effect atonement for that Tzadik. Likewise, a Talmid is able to effect atonement for his rebbi, since he learned his Torah from him, and thus it is appropriate for him to save him just like a son saves his father.

His intention might be as the Gemara in Yoma (87a) says, "One who causes merit for others, no sin will come upon his hands." The Gemara explains that Hashem will save such a person from sin, because it is not proper that the rebbi should be in Gehenom while his Talmidim are in Gan Eden. The same way, whenever a person has a son or Talmid who does Mitzvos as a result of what he has learned from his father or rebbi, it is not appropriate that his rebbi should suffer for his sins while the son or Talmid is being rewarded for his merits -- which are to the credit of the rebbi who taught him. Because of that, he has a moral obligation to save his rebbi who was Mezakeh him. This moral obligation is what obligates him to accept even physical suffering to atone for his rebbi, and that is also what enables that acceptance of suffering to actually effect atonement for his rebbi.


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