1) GETTING A HANDLE ("YAD") ON THE GRAIN
QUESTIONS: Rav Menashya bar Gada (13b) states that stalks of grain that were cut in order to be used as Sechach for a Sukah are not considered "Yados." Normally, stalks of grain are considered "Yados," or "handles," for the Shibolos (the edible part of the grain), since they enable the Shibolos to be moved or bundled easily. An object that is considered a Yad is Mekabel Tum'ah and may not be used as Sechach. However, when one cuts grain to be used for Sechach, the stalks are not considered Yados for the Shibolos, because the person has no intention to tie together the Shibolos and use the stalks to handle them. In fact, he is not interested in the Shibolos at all; for him to keep the Shibolos is counterproductive, because the Shiboles is considered a food and, if the quantity is large enough, can invalidate all of his Sechach (Rashi 13b, DH ha'Kotzer). Therefore, in this case the stalks are not Mekabel Tum'ah and may be used as Sechach.
The Gemara challenges Rav Menashya's ruling from a Beraisa in which the Tana Kama says that stalks of wheat are valid for Sechach, while Acherim say that stalks of wheat are not valid for Sechach, because they are Yados. According to Rav Menashya, why do Acherim consider them Yados?
The Gemara answers that the Beraisa is discussing wheat that one harvested with intention to use for eating, and afterward he decided to use the wheat for Sechach instead. In addition to the change in intention, the person also performed an action of treading upon the wheat (according to Rebbi Yochanan). Such an action shows that he wants to separate the stalks from the Shibolos, as he has no use for the Shibolos in the Sechach (since it is edible and therefore Mekabel Tum'ah). In such a case, the Tana Kama and Acherim argue whether the stalks still have the status of Yados or not.
The Gemara says that the reason of the Tana Kama for why the stalks do not have the status of Yados is because the person shows that he does not want the stalks to be connected to the Shibolos. Why, though, do Acherim say that the stalks are still considered Yados?
Even Rebbi Yosi -- who says that trampling upon the grain does not remove the status of Yados -- says that only about grain cut for eating, but not about grain cut for Sechach. When one treads on grain that he cut for eating, he shows that he wants to soften the stalks but not break them off; he still needs the stalks to be connected to the grain in order to facilitate turning over the grain with a pitchfork. In contrast, when one treads on grain in order to use it for Sechach, he has no intent to leave the Shibolos connected to the stalks; he intends to break them off entirely. Why, then, should the stalks be considered Yados according to Acherim?
The Gemara answers that there indeed is a purpose in leaving the Shibolos connected to the stalks even when one intends to use the grain for Sechach. When one removes the grain from the Sukah when the festival is over, he lifts it by taking hold of the stalks. (Even though he preferred to have no Shiboles on his Sechach in the first place, nevertheless some Shiboles always becomes mixed with the Sechach and is placed atop the Sukah. It is that Shiboles which the person now wants to take down by using the stalk as a handle.)
There are two points in the Gemara's answer that need clarification.
(a) If one wants the stalk to serve as a handle for the Shiboles when he takes it down from the Sukah, then why does Rav Menashya say that it is not a Yad? He should say that whenever grain is harvested to be used for Sechach, the stalk is a Yad because one intends to use it to pull down the Shiboles from the Sukah.
(b) Moreover, why does the Gemara say that the stalks are needed for when the Sechach is removed? Since the Gemara's goal is to find a usage for which one would want to leave the stalk attached to the Shiboles (to explain why the stalks are considered Yados according to Acherim), the Gemara should mention the usage that it mentions earlier (13b): when the stalk is attached to the Shiboles, the combined weight keeps the grain from flying off the Sukah. Why does the Gemara not suggest this reason for why one would want the stalks to remain attached? (RAV SIMCHAH MI'DESVI; CHAZON ISH OC #156, in Hashmatos to OC 629)
(a) The usage that the stalks serve by enabling one to pull down the Shiboles is not an obvious function that a person definitely intends to utilize. It is a marginal usage of the stalks. In order to make an object fit to be Mekabel Tum'ah as a Yad, there must be a clear indication that the person intends to use the item as a Yad. The possibility that he will take hold of the stalk in order to remove the Sechach is not likely enough to attribute the status of Yad to the stalk.
On the other hand, if one originally cut the grain for eating and later decided to use it as Sechach, the stalks already have the status of Yados. In order to remove that status, it is necessary to have a clear indication that one does not want the Shiboles to be connected to the stalk anymore. Since there still exists the possibility that he wants to use the stalk (even after he treads upon the grain) to pull down the Shiboles from the Sukah, there is no clear indication that he does not want it to be a Yad. (Although there is no definite indication that the person intends to use the stalk to pull down the grain from the Sukah, there is also no definite indication that he is not interested in having it serve as a Yad in such a manner.)
(b) Why does the Gemara not suggest that the stalk remains a Yad because the person wants it to remain attached in order to keep the grain from flying off the Sukah? Even though Rav Menashya maintains that such a purpose does not make a Yad in the first place, it should make the stalk remain a Yad when it already was a Yad. Just as the usage of the stalk for pulling down the Shiboles from the Sukah does not render it a Yad in the first place but is enough to allow the stalk to remain a Yad when it already had that status, so, too, a stalk used to weigh down the grain should remain a Yad when it already had that status.
The answer is that usage of the Shiboles to weigh down the stalk is not a usage which can maintain its present status of Yad. Until now it was a Yad because the stalk served the Shiboles by being a handle to it, enabling it to be carried around. When he uses the grain for Sechach, he clearly indicates that he does not want to use the stalk to carry the Shiboles at all. To say that it should be a Yad because he wants the Shiboles to serve the stalk by weighing it down is to suggest a completely new reason to make it a Yad, and we already know that it is not enough of a reason to make something a Yad in the first place according to Rav Menashya. This is why the Gemara attempts to find a way for the original form of Yad to remain even after it was trampled upon (i.e. the stalk served as a handle to carry the Shiboles). (M. Kornfeld. See Rav Simchah mi'Desvi and the Chazon Ish (loc. cit.) for other possible answers.)
2) AGADAH: A PRAYER AND A PITCHFORK
Rebbi Elazar says that the reason why the prayer of a Tzadik ("Atirah," as in Bereishis 25:21) is compared to a pitchfork ("Atar") is to teach that just as a pitchfork is used to turn over bushels of grain and move them from place to place, the prayer of a Tzadik "turns over" the attributes of Hash-m from the attribute of strict justice to the attribute of kindness. (Although the word "Atar" is an Aramaic word that does not appear in Tanach, the root of "Atar" is found in Tanach to connote turning over or reversing; see Rashi and Tosfos in Ta'anis 20a, DH v'Na'ataros.)
In Yechezkel (8:11), the word "Atar" is used to describe the Ketores. The verse there says, "A thick cloud (Atar) of Ketores rose up."
The Ketores reflects the Atar's ability to turn things over and its power to "reverse" the wrath of Hash-m and transform it into mercy and kindness. Indeed, the verse compares Ketores to prayer: "May my prayer be accepted like Ketores before You" (Tehilim 141:2), which implies that Ketores is even more effective in reversing Hash-m's anger than is prayer. The Chachamim teach that "Ketores has the ability to stop plagues" (Shabbos 89a).
This may explain why the name of Mordechai ha'Tzadik is hinted to in the Torah in the Parshah of Ketores ("Mor Deror," Shemos 30:23, Chulin 139b). Mordechai was unique in his ability to reverse the fate of the Jews through the power of his prayer, as the Gemara says, "[Mordechai was called] 'ben Ya'ir' because he lit up the eyes of the Jews with his prayer, [he was called] 'ben Shim'i' because his prayer was heard by Hash-m, [he was called] 'ben Kish' because he knocked on the gates of mercy and they were opened for him" (Megilah 12b). Through Mordechai's prayer, the prayer of a Tzadik compared to a pitchfork, the Divine decree against the Jews was reversed ("v'Nahafoch Hu," Esther 9:1) and Hash-m's mercy was aroused to save the Jews. (M. Kornfeld)
3) A FOUR-TEFACH BOARD THAT EXTENDS BEYOND THE SIDE OF A SUKAH
QUESTION: The Amora'im dispute whether or not a wooden board that is four Tefachim wide (but less than four Tefachim thick) invalidates a Sukah when it is placed on top of the Sukah on its side. One opinion maintains that the "Gezeiras Tikrah" applies regardless of how the board is placed, while the other opinion maintains that the "Gezeiras Tikrah" applies only when the board is placed flat, in the manner in which it is normally placed on the roof of a house.
The Gemara attempts to prove from a Beraisa that the board invalidates the Sukah. The Beraisa states that when a board that is four Tefachim wide is placed upon the Sukah in such a way that only three of the four Tefachim of its width are on the Sukah, it invalidates the Sukah. The Gemara assumes that the Beraisa refers to a board that is four Tefachim wide and three Tefachim thick, and that the board was placed on its edge. Accordingly, the Beraisa is a proof for the opinion that says that a board placed in such a way invalidates the Sukah.
The Gemara refutes the proof and says that in the case of the Beraisa, the board is placed flat atop the Sukah, but it is at the open edge of the Sukah such that one Tefach of the board extends beyond the Sukah and only three Tefachim of the board actually cover the Sukah. The Beraisa teaches that in such a case, the fourth Tefach joins the other three and all four are considered to be on top of the Sukah and thus invalidate it. The reason the fourth Tefach is viewed to be on the Sukah is because of the principle, "Pesel ha'Yotzei Min ha'Sukah Nidon k'Sukah" -- "Sechach which extends beyond the open edge of the Sukah is considered like part of the Sukah itself."
Why does the four-Tefach board invalidate the Sukah in the case of the Beraisa? A board is considered a "Pesel ha'Yotzei" and is part of the Sukah only when it extends over the open side of the Sukah (when three sides of the Sukah have walls and one side is left open). If that is the case of the Beraisa, however, the rest of the Sukah should be valid even without the unacceptably wide board of Sechach, because there are three walls around the valid Sechach. Even if the space which the board occupies would be left open, the Sukah would be valid; one piece of invalid Sechach at the edge of the Sukah does not invalidate the entire Sukah. (It is not reasonable to suggest that the Beraisa means that only the area beneath the board is not considered a valid part of the Sukah, because the Beraisa compares this case with the case of a Sukah that does not have an area of seven by seven Tefachim, and with the case of a Sukah that does not have proper walls. In both of those cases, the entire Sukah is invalid.)
It must be that the Beraisa's case involves a small Sukah, the area of which is not larger than nine by seven Tefachim, as the BA'AL HA'ME'OR (19a) asserts. In such a case, when the space that the board occupies is subtracted from the nine-Tefach length of the Sechach, the Sukah is left with a width of only six Tefachim -- less than the minimum area of seven by seven Tefachim that a valid Sukah must have. If the board is only three Tefachim wide, then the Sukah is valid, because a three-Tefach-wide wooden board is valid Sechach. If the board is four Tefachim wide, then it is not valid Sechach and thus it diminishes the size of the Sukah and invalidates it.
RASHI, however, does not learn this way. Rashi writes that if the board was placed on a side of the Sukah that has a wall (and it is not a "Pesel ha'Yotzei" hanging over the open side of the Sukah), the Sukah is valid because of the principle of "Dofen Akumah." (The RITVA makes the same comment.) If the case of the Beraisa involves a board of four Tefachim that is placed on top of a small Sukah, how does the principle of "Dofen Akumah" make the Sukah valid? In a normal case, "Dofen Akumah" works because it turns the invalid Sechach into part of the wall of the Sukah and thereby permits one to use the rest of the Sukah (but not the area beneath the invalid Sechah-turned-Dofen). According to Rashi's explanation of the case, if the invalid Sechach (the four-Tefach board) becomes part of the wall, the rest of the Sechach still does not contain the minimum size of a Sukah. "Dofen Akumah" should not make the Sukah valid in this case. (MAHARSHA)
ANSWER: The MAGEN AVRAHAM (OC 632:1) answers that when Rashi mentions the principle of "Dofen Akumah" here, he does not intend to apply it in the way that it normally applies. Rather, Rashi means that "Dofen Akumah" merely "cuts off" the part of the board that extends beyond the side of the Sukah so that it can be ignored. "Dofen Akumah" enables us to view the part of the board on top of the Sukah as though it does not continue past the wall, but rather it bends with the wall at the point at which it makes contact with the wall. Once the board is viewed as only three Tefachim wide one may sit in the Sukah underneath it, because a three-Tefach board is valid Sechach.
The ARUCH LA'NER rejects the Magen Avraham's explanation for several reasons. First, we do not find that the principle of "Dofen Akumah" connects Sechach to the wall while it remains, at the same time, valid Sechach. If it is part of the wall, then it cannot be used as Sechach, and if it is Sechach, then it is not part of the wall (and it joins with the fourth Tefach that extends beyond the wall).
Second, why does Rashi need to mention the concept of "Dofen Akumah" altogether? If a wall is placed underneath a board and it separates the part of the board that protrudes beyond the edge of the Sukah from the rest of the board, then the part that protrudes is not considered a "Pesel ha'Yotzei Min ha'Sukah." That part is not able to join the rest to be considered part of the Sechach of the Sukah due to the wall that separates it from the Sechach. Accordingly, the wall that cuts off the extension of the board and prevents it from being a "Pesel ha'Yotzei" should suffice to prove that the extra Tefach is not part of the Sechach. Why, then, does Rashi need to mention that the principle of "Dofen Akumah" applies to the three Tefachim of board inside the wall to prove that the board that extends beyond the wall is not part of the Sukah?
The YAD EFRAIM (OC 632) offers a beautiful answer to the questions on the Magen Avraham's explanation. He asserts that the Magen Avraham understands that the "Dofen Akumah" is not the three Tefachim of the board that are in the Sukah. Rather, Rashi applies the principle of "Dofen Akumah" to the fourth Tefach, the one which extends beyond the walls of the Sukah. Although that Tefach is connected to the rest of the board, it is viewed as a perpendicular extension of the wall, due to the principle of "Dofen Akumah," and not as a part of the Sechach. "Dofen Akumah" Halachically removes the fourth Tefach from the board, and it thereby transforms the three Tefachim inside the Sukah into valid Sechach, and the fourth Tefach into a wall that is not used as Sechach.
(The MEROMEI SADEH and CHIDUSHIM U'VI'URIM suggest that it is possible that the word "Akumah" in Rashi is a printer's error. However, the appearance of the same expression in the Ritva makes it unlikely that it is a printer's error. See also ARUCH LA'NER and CHIDUSHIM U'VI'URIM who offer more complex explanations for Rashi.)