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Sukah 36

SUKA 36-56 (End of Maseches) have been dedicated by the wife and daughters of the late Dr. Simcha Bekelnitzky (Simcha Gedalya ben Shraga Feibush) of Queens N.Y. Well known in the community for his Chesed and Tzedakah, he will long be remembered.


OPINIONS: One Beraisa states that an Esrog "Kushi" is valid, while an Esrog which is "similar to a Kushi" is Pasul. However, another Beraisa, as well as our Mishnah (34b), state that an Esrog Kushi is Pasul. Abaye explains that when our Mishnah says that an Esrog Kushi is Pasul, it means an Esrog that is "similar to a Kushi." An Esrog Kushi, though is valid. Rava argues and says that even an Esrog that is actually Kushi is Pasul, like our Mishnah states, but only when it is being used in Eretz Yisrael. Since such an Esrog is not common in Eretz Yisrael, it is not Hadar and therefore it is Pasul. The Beraisa which says that an Esrog Kushi is valid is referring to Bavel, where it was common to use such Esrogim.

What is an "Esrog Kushi" and what is an Esrog which is "similar to a Kushi?"

(a) Rashi explains that an Esrog Kushi is one that grew in the land of Kush. The Kush-species of Esrog was much darker than the usual Esrog. In Kush it is valid because that is the way it normally grows there. In contrast, if a local Esrog tree elsewhere produces a mutant Esrog which is dark colored and looks like an Esrog from Kush (it is "similar to a Kushi"), it is Pasul. Rava adds that even the Esrog Kushi itself is Pasul in Eretz Yisrael (if it was imported, for example), because such dark Esrogim are uncommon and are considered uncomely to those who are not accustomed to seeing such dark Esrogim.

Why, according to Rava, is an Esrog Kushi valid in Bavel? Rashi explains that Bavel is close to Kush, and the Esrogim of Kush are therefore a common sight in Bavel. (Support for Rashi's explanation may be found in the Yerushalmi, Sukah 3:6).

If we understand Kush to refer to Ethiopia, as it is commonly translated, how can Rashi say that it is close to Bavel? It is certainly closer to Eretz Yisrael than to Bavel! Why, then should the Esrog Kushi be more common in Bavel than in Eretz Yisrael?

Apparently, the "Kush" mentioned in the Mishnah and Beraisa is not the Kush in east Africa. Rather, it is the Kush that was close to Hodu (India), as mentioned in the Gemara in Megilah (11a). (This Kush was probably the region of the Hindu-Kush Mountains, today in east Afghanistan).

(b) Rabeinu Chananel, the RIF and RAMBAM (Hilchos Lulav 8:8) write that an Esrog Kushi refers to a dark green Esrog. Such an Esrog was valid in Bavel, because in Bavel the Esrogim grew darker than in Eretz Yisrael. "Similar to a Kushi" means that it is a much darker color, closer to black. "Similar to a Kushi" does not mean that it is similar to an Esrog from Kush, but rather that it is similar to the skin color of a native of East Africa ("Kushi"). Even in Bavel such an Esrog is Pasul because it was not common to have such dark Esrogim. In Eretz Yisrael both were Pasul, because the Esrogim there were generally of a lighter green.

HALACHAH: The Rif and Rambam are more Machmir than Rashi with regard to an Esrog which is very black. According to their interpretation of the Sugya, even where Esrogim naturally have black skin, they are Pasul. (Apparently they maintain that a black Esrog is considered to be a different species) Rashi, though, permits such an Esrog in the place where it grows and where it is commonly used. The SHULCHAN ARUCH (OC 648:17) rules like the Rif, that a very black Esrog is always Pasul, no matter where it grows (it could be that there is no practical difference, because there is no place in the world in which an Esrog grows naturally black).

Rashi is lenient in another respect as well. Even in a place where Esrogim do not grow dark, if dark Esrogim are often imported to there one may use the foreign Esrogim. They are not lacking in Hadar since they are a commonplace sight there. We do not find that the Rif and Rambam permit such an Esrog (they require that the Esrog look like the other Esrogim that are *grown* in that place). However, the PISKEI RID, who explains "Esrog Kushi" like the Rif, does accept this leniency and rules that if one is near the place where the dark Esrogim grow, then the dark Esrogim are valid. The Shulchan Aruch does not write anything about the case of using a dark Esrog in a place where such Esrogim are often imported (see also BI'UR HALACHAH, DH Makom, who interprets the Machlokes somewhat differently). Therefore, perhaps we may be lenient and permit using such Esrogim.

AGADAH: The CHASAM SOFER gives a fascinating homiletical explanation for the Gemara's discussion about the validity of an Esrog ha'Kushi (as Rashi explains it). He writes as follows.

We find that the Torah refers to Tziporah, the wife of Moshe Rabeinu, as a "Kushis" (Shemos 12:1). The Gemara in Moed Katan (16b) explains that the verse does not mean that she was actually black, but rather that she was outstanding in her actions.

According to the Midrash, an Esrog (which both tastes good and smells good) represents the Tzadik, who does both good deeds and learns Torah. An Esrog Kushi, therefore, refers to an exceptional Tzadik who is involved only in Torah and does not involve himself in any way with the mundane activities of the world.

The Gemara (Berachos 35b) records the dispute between Rebbi Yishmael and Raban Shimon bar Yochai, regarding whether one should learn Torah as well as be involved in earning a livelihood, or whether one should be involved exclusively in learning Torah. The Gemara says that many did like Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai (i.e., learned Torah to the exclusion of all other pursuits) but did not succeed. The Chasam Sofer explains in the name of his rebbi, the HAFLA'AH, that they did not succeed because they were only following Raban Shimon bar Yochai on the surface; they acted like him outwardly, but inwardly they lacked his conviction and his faith, and that is why they did not succeed. They were not "Tocho k'Voro" (Berachos 28a) -- they were not as genuine on the inside as they appeared to be on the surface. They only "*did like* Raban Shimon bar Yochai."

The Hafla'ah says that this is the meaning of the Beraisa in our Gemara that discusses the validity of an Esrog Kushi. A Talmid Chacham who is Kushi through and through is the only one that is acceptable. But if he is only "similar to a Kushi," that is, he acts like a Kushi, but inwardly he does not have the same commitment, he is Pasul; he will not succeed.

The Chasam Sofer takes this further and explains Rava's statement with the same allegory. Even an Esrog Kushi, Rava says, is only valid in Chutz la'Aretz. Rava is expressing the opinion of Rebbi Yishmael (Berachos 35b) who says that a person is supposed to be involved in worldly activities (earn a living in a natural way) in addition to learning Torah. In fact, the Gemara in Berachos relates that Rava would send away his Talmidim twice a year to earn a livelihood, for he held like Rebbi Yishmael. Rava, then, is saying that in Eretz Yisrael even a Kushi is Pasul (a Talmid Chacham who is involved only in Torah), because one must work the fields. However, this requirement applies only in Eretz Yisrael, because there, working the fields involves a practical Mitzvas Aseh (Yishuv Eretz Yisrael). It may not be deferred due to learning Torah any more than the Mitzvos of taking an Esrog and eating Matzah. Outside of Israel, though, where there is no Mitzvah to till the soil, Talmud Torah overrides the need to be involved in earning a livelihood, and therefore an Esrog Kushi (a Talmid Chacham involved only in learning Torah) is valid in Bavel (i.e. Chutz la'Aretz).


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