כ״ו באדר א׳ ה׳תשע״ד (February 26, 2014)

Sukka 23a-b: A Sukka on a Camel

The Mishna (22b) teaches that a sukka can be built on the back of a camel, although such a sukka cannot be used on Shabbat or Yom Tov (it can be used on the intermediate days of the holiday) due to Rabbinic restrictions on the use of animals on those days.

Sukka built on a camel

Sukka built on a camel

The Gemara on our daf identifies this opinion as being authored by Rabbi Meir, who rules that a sukka can be built on an animal. Nevertheless, Rabbi Meir rules that an animal cannot be used as one of the walls of a sukka. The amora’im disagree as to the source of this prohibition – Abaye claims that it stems from a fear that the animal will die, and in falling over it will no longer be of the proper height needed for a sukka wall (the Gemara will later discuss whether this concern exists if the animal is an elephant, which has considerable height even when lying on its side); Rabbi Zeira argues that the concern is that the animal may run away, leaving the sukka without a wall.

These concerns are what make Rabbi Meir wary about using a living animal for a number of other uses, as well. Aside from the case of a sukka wall, Rabbi Meir also restricts the use of a live animal:

  • as a symbolic lehi (a side post placed at the entrance to an alleyway to render it permitted to carry in the alleyway on Shabbat)
  • as one of the corners in pasei beira’ot that permit pilgrims heading towards Jerusalem to draw water from a well in a public domain
  • as a gollel to a grave.
Upright boards surrounding wells--pasei bira'ot

Upright boards surrounding wells–pasei bira’ot

di gollel

Covering for a grave–gollel

The commentaries disagree about how to define a gollel. Rashi explains that it is the cover to a casket. Tosafot point out that it is difficult to imagine a live animal being used for that purpose. They suggest that it is a rounded stone that was used to close up a burial cave (several such stones have been found near ancient burial caves in Israel). During the times of the Mishna, common burial practice was to place the dead body in a temporary grave where it would decompose. At a later date, the bones would be removed and transferred to a family burial cave. The round shape of the gollel stone allowed it to be rolled, closing the cave, yet easily opened when necessary.

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