As we learned, the last Mishna (25a) permitted eating a non-formal meal outside the sukka. The Mishna on our daf records that when asked to taste the food that was being cooked on Sukkot, Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai insisted that it be brought into the sukka, as did Rabban Gamliel when he was brought two dates and a bucket of water.
In contrast, the Mishna relates: And when they gave Rabbi Tzadok less than an egg-bulk of food, he took the food in a cloth for cleanliness; he did not wash his hands because in his opinion, one is not required to wash his hands before eating less than an egg-bulk. And he ate it outside the sukka and did not recite a blessing after eating it. He holds that one is not required to recite a blessing after eating less than an egg-bulk, as it is not satisfying, and it is written: “And you shall eat and be satisfied and bless the Lord your God” ( 8:10).
The Gemara objects that it seems odd to find that the Mishna would bring stories of Sages who insisted on eating even small amounts of food in the sukka immediately after presenting the rule that such foods can be eaten outside of the sukka. The Gemara responds that the Mishna is teaching that such behavior is an accepted stringency, and that such behavior is not considered yuhara – haughtiness.
Rabbi Aryeh Leib Yellin in his Yefe Einayim explains that there is no yuhara in this case because it is not evident to people why he is not eating a small amount outside – perhaps he is simply not hungry! In any case, there are people who even during the year will eat and drink only in their own homes, so there is no clear indication that they have accepted this stringency upon them.
The Me’iri suggests that the reason these stories were placed together in the Mishna was to emphasize that stringency may be lauded, but leniency is also acceptable, as long as it is within the framework of what halakha accepts, since we see that among the Sages of the Mishna both positions were considered normative.
Rabbi Tzadok’s behavior is subject to a difference of opinion between Rashi who says that he took the food in a napkin because of his fastidiousness, while Tosafot explain that his religious devotion was such that he treated all food as though it were teruma, so he refrained from touching food lest it become ritually defiled. In any case, it is clear that the baraita tells Rabbi Tzadok’s story in order to emphasize that just as there were Sages who were stringent upon themselves, there were also those who made a point of emphasizing that it was appropriate to stick to the letter of the law without stringencies. In this story, Rabbi Tzadok was lenient with regard to sukka, ritual hand washing and the blessing after food.