Using Planks for Schach

Sukkah (1:7) | Yisrael Bankier | 4 years ago

The Mishnah (1:6) cites a debate regarding whether one can use planks of wood for schach. It appears that Rabbi Yehuda permits the use, while R' Meir disagrees.

The Gemara (14a) includes two different opinions regarding the nature of the debate. Rav understands that the debate is where one uses standard planks of wood used for construction that are four tephachim wide. R' Meir is concerned that if one uses theses planks, one might question the difference between sitting in the sukkah and sitting in one's house (which is certainly invalid). Consequently, he supports the gezeira that forbad its use. R' Yehuda however did not share this concern. If however narrower planks were used, since it is not normally used for ceilings, everyone would agree that it may be used as schach.

Shmuel however maintains that everyone agrees as to the necessity of the gezeirah. In other words, everyone forbids the use of planks that are four tephachim wide. The debate is only regarding planks that are between three and four tephachim wide. R' Meir maintains that once it is greater than three tephachim it is no longer covered be the law of levud. To explain, a space that is less than three tephachim wide is considered filled in, based on the principle of levud. Once the plank is wider, the space is significant and shoulds be considered like a ceiling. R' Yehuda however understands, that only once it is four tephachim wide is it a problem. This is because the minimum size of a domain is four tephachim. We only need to be concerned about a plank that would cover the smallest significant domain for it to be confused with a regular ceiling. With respect to planks that are less than three tephachim wide, everyone agrees that they be used as schach since at that width, they are similar to reed schach. The Bartenura explains our Mishnah in line with Shmuel's position.

The next Mishnah (1:7) discusses a pre-existing ceiling that has not been plastered and one wants to convert it into a sukkah. R' Yehuda maintains that the solution is debated by Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel. Beit Shammai maintains that the boards need to be dislodge and every second board removed with the new space filled with valid schach. Beit Hillel however maintains that either dislodging the boards or removing every second board is enough. R' Meir however maintains that every second board must be removed according to all opinions.

The Bartenura explains that debate in this Mishnah is related to the previous one. In other words, R' Yehuda maintains that one is allowed to use planks of wood for Schach – provided it is less than four tephachim. Consequently, the debate in this Mishnah is also regarding planks that are between three to four tephachim. Therefore according to R' Yehuda for Beit Hillel the issues of "ta'aseh v'lo min ha'asui" – that the "schach" is pre-existing – and the concern of confusing the schach with a regular roof can be allayed with either solution. Beit Shamai however requires both. According to R' Meir, who does not permit planks of these sizes, the only solution is to remove at least half of the planks and replace them with valid schach. This is the explanation of the Bartenura according to the Tosfot Yom Tov.

Rashi however maintains that in this Mishnah we are dealing with planks of wood that are four tephachim wide. The Ritva however finds this position difficult. For example, according to the position of Shmuel, no one allows the use of a planks that wide. How then would with dislodging the planks be sufficient according to R' Yehuda?

The Meiri however explains that the gezeira only applies when using the planks for a sukkah from the outset. In this case however, since we have a room with a fully covered roof, and we require the individual to dislodge all or remove some of the planks, the person will no longer confuse his sukkah with the rest of his house. He asserts that the concern is only for the owner of the sukkah so that actions required of him are enough to allay the concerns. Potential confusion from onlookers (that have had not input) is remote and not a concern. In a similar manner, the Rosh cites the Raza who asks why the Rif explains that the concern of Beit Hillel is taaseh ve'lo min ha'asui when we rule like Shmuel who maintains that R' Yehuda is also concerned about gezeirat tikra. He cites the Ramban who explains that since the person is trying to solve the issue of taaseh ve'lo min ha'asui it demonstrates a level of competency and understanding such that there is no longer a concern of gezeirat tikra.

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