Monday, September 24, 2007

exemption of an eved from sukkah

No, I haven’t gotten the mah kashe l’Rashi bug out of my system. For this week I want to focus on a Rashi on a Mishna in Sukkah. The Mishna (20b) tells the story of Tevi, the slave of Rabban Gamliel, who slept under a covered bed in the sukkah, which is not an acceptable way of fulfilling the mitzvah. Rabban Gamliel boasted to the other Chachamim of Tevi’s wisdom, as Tevi’s actions demonstrated that he knew that a slave is exempt from yeshivas sukkah.

Rashi d”h ma’aseh explains: slaves are exempt from sukkah because women are exempt from mitzvos aseh she’hazman gerama [my note: the obligation of slaves parallels that of women], and where a women would be chayeves a slave would also be chayav.

If Rashi had explained that a slave is exempt from sukkah because women are exempt and stopped there, mah kashe l’Rashi is a no brainer – the Mishna leaves one wondering why a slave is exempt, and Rashi helpfully provides an answer. But Rashi doesn’t stop there – note the part I bolded. Rashi adds to his explanation that when a women is obligated in a mitzvah a slave is also obligated. Mah kashe l’Rashi that demands this extra line of clarification? The Mishna is not discussion chiyuvim, it is discussing exemptions!

Just to throw one side difficulty into the mix: the gemara (28a-b) explains that women theoretically are obligated in sukkah just like matzah, but there is a halacha l’Moshe m’Sinai which exempts them in this case. So the real reason women are exempt in this case has nothing to do with zman gerama – it is a special halacha l’Moshe m’Sinai! (Ok, so you will argue that the hllm”s is a just a giluy milsa not to compare sukkah to matzah, and m’meila it is a plain old zman gerama, but I still want to note the issue).


  1. anon15:30 PM

    I just looked at the RAshi -- if Rashi had stopped where you initially suggest he should have stopped, he would not have explained why the fact that women are peturos has anything to do with the chiyuv of the eved. Thus, Rashi needs to teach us 2 points:

    1) women are peturos
    2) an eved's chiyuv is the same as a woman.

    Without either point, you wouldn't understand why an eved is patur? Isn't that the pashut pshat is Rashi?

  2. Aside from the fact that you put the stress on the parallel ptur and Rashi uses the word parallel chiyuv (which you can plausibly claim is because the gemara uses such a lashon), the key point is that to establish the eved/isha relationship Rashi could have just eneded off "v'eved hukash l'isha". That's all the is really necessary. Why tell us a rule about when the chiyuvim apply?

  3. I gave it some more thought and think perhaps your premis is not necessarily correct. All the Mishna tells us is that Tevi did not sit in sukkah. The missing piece of information Rashi needed to make the Mishna understandable is simply that an eved is patur from yeshivas sukkah. A step further is to explain that an eved is patur from mitzvos aseh shehazeman gerama mitzvos. But why is there any need to know the source of this rule i.e. the fact that there is a relationship between the chiyuv of an eved and the chiyuv of an isha? Knowing the reason an eved is patur from zman gerama mitzvos is completely extraneous to the pshat in the Mishna, isn't it? In other words, why is there a need to know WHY an eved is patur to understand the Mishnna - doesn't it suffice to know simply the fact that he is patur?

  4. anon19:24 AM

    The Mishnah itself in short order is going to tell us that an eved is patur from yeshivas sukkah. What you dont know at the end of the mishnah is why -- which is why Rashi brings in the ishah and that an eved has the same status of an ishah. So I think there is good reason for Rashi to add that.

    As for why Rashi focuses on the petur as opposed to the chiyuv (or just quoting the gezerah shavah lah lah as he does in many other places), I thought about that and I didn't have any compelling reason to explain. Perhaps it gets to the question whether the gezerah shavah is a mechayev or a petur (but ein kan mekomo).