Parsha Halacha

Parshat Re’eh / Shabbat Mevorchim Ellul

S’chach Mats

What Makes them Kosher?
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Basher Family Fund

This past shabbos one of my Smicha students, a 55 year old father of 7, had a heart attack and passed away. One of his children has special needs.
He was a wonderful student. Devoted to kashrus (he was a top level mashgiach), Torah and his family.
I and my other students together with his community are trying to raise money for his family to assist them a little bit in the coming years.
Please consider donating and forwarding to a few relevant friends. Thank you so much, in advance, for giving and sharing.
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Mishnayos for Brad Cohen

We are trying to complete the six orders of the Mishnah in memory of Dr. Brad Cohen bu his shloshim, Monday night August 16. If you can study a tractate or two please click here.

Save the Date

The Shloshim of Dr. Brad Cohen is on Monday night, August 16. We are planning for an evening of inspiration in the Young Israel of Bal Harbour, 9580 Abbot Ave, Surfside Fl 33154 at 8 pm. Special guest speaker: Rabbi Yissachar Frand
In the Torah portion of Re’eh we read the section about the holidays in the Jewish year. Regarding Sukkot it says (Deut. 16:13) חַג הַסֻּכֹּת תַּעֲשֶׂה לְךָ שִׁבְעַת יָמִים בְּאָסְפְּךָ מִגָרְנְךָ וּמִיִּקְבֶךָ  “You shall make for yourself the Festival of Sukkot for seven days, when you gather in the produce from your threshing floor and from your wine-press.”

When You Gather
The commentaries offer various explanations as to why the Torah says that the holiday should be made “when you gather in the produce from your threshing floor and your vat.”
  • Schach Matter
Rashi explains (based on Sukkah 12a) that the Torah writes “when you gather in the produce from your threshing floor and your vat” to teach us that the s’chach (covering of the Sukkah) must be made with the remainders of the barn and the wine-press, i.e. with non edible vegetable matter that has not been fashioned into any kind of utensil.
More specifically, we learn four things from the verse:
The s’chach must grow from the ground (as opposed to metal, stones and the like).
The s’chach may not be from an item that has been fashioned into any kind of utensil.
The s’chach may not be edible.
The s’chach must be detached from the ground.
  • In the Autumn
The Seforno explains that the Torah is simply telling us when to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot– in the autumn when we gather wheat from the fields and wine from the winepress.
  • Rejoice with G-d’s Blessings
The Abarbanel says that the Torah is instructing us to rejoice on Sukkot with the blessings that G-d bestows upon us at that time of year, the blessings of the harvests of the grain and grapes.
  • Remember the Tough Times
The Rashbam explains (on Levit. 23:43) that when we are blessed with the bounty of the harvest, G-d instructs us to go into a Sukkah and recall our humble beginnings as wanderers in the desert living in huts. This increases our appreciation for what G-d has done and is doing for us all the time.
The rest of this article will address the question of using bamboo mats for s’chach.

Mats for Schach
The Mishnah (Sukkah 1:11) says that a reed mat that is made for shade may be used for s’chach, whereas a mat that was made for the purpose of lying on is invalid. The Talmud (Sukkah 20a) explains that the size of the mat would determine whether it was made for the purpose of one or the other.
The Shulchan Aruch HaRav rules (629:9) that “In a place where the custom of most of the townsmen is to use even small mats for shade, such mats may be used as s’chach. This applies even to a small mat of undefined purpose, unless it is known that it was made for lying on.”
As such, it would seem that one would be allowed to use bamboo mats for s’chach as nowadays these mats are not (generally) used for lying on.
There is, however, another issue that must be addressed. That is the fact that some of these mats are held together with metal or plastic wiring which presents another problem — that the s’chach should not be supported (or held together) by something which is not fit for s’chach.
Here is the background on this subject.

Using a Bed to Support the Schach
The Mishnah says (Sukkah 21b) that the sages are of the opinion that one may support the s’chach of their sukkah with a bedframe. Whereas Rabbi Yehudah argues and forbids this. The Talmud goes on to cite two opinions as to why Rabbi Yehudah forbids using a bedframe to support the s’chach. One says that such a Sukkah will have no permanence as it will be dismantled when the bed will be needed for sleeping. Another opinion is that it is invalid as the s’chach is being supported by an article that is susceptible to ritual impurity (and therefore invalid for s’chach).
There are differing opinions among the commentaries as to what is wrong with supporting the s’chach with something that is not suitable for s’chach.
Rashi says that supporting the s’chach with an item that is not fit for s’chach is the same as using such an item for the s’chach itself. This would mean that (according to this opinion) using material to support the s’chach that is not itself kosher for s’chach is completely invaild.
On the other hand, the Raavad, Ritva and Ra’ah write that the issue of using such items to support the schach is that this may lead to using these items for the s’chach itself. According to this opinion, this rule is of Rabbinic origin.

Most Rishonim (early Talmudic commentaries) rule in accordance with the Rabbis who represent the majority opinion that it is not forbidden to support the s’chach with an item that is not valid schach. (See Sha’ar HaTziyun 630:60 who lists the opinions).
The Ran (Sukkah 10a in the pages of the Rif), however, rules in accordance with Rabbi Yehudah (as interpreted by the second opinion above) and says that this is also the opinion of the Rif. As such he writes that it is forbidden to support the s’chach with an item that is not kosher s’chach. The Ran also follows the opinion that this is a Rabbinic enactment lest people think that such items may be used for schach.
In practice, the Magen Avraham (629:9) writes that, in the first place one should be strict in accordance with the opinion of the Ran (and Rabbi Yehudah). But if one already made a Sukkah whose schach is supported by an item that is not fit for schach, it is kosher after the fact (bedieved).
This is the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch HaRav (629:11) and the Mishnah Berurah (629:22). The Mishnah Berurah adds that if one has no other way to make a sukkah without supporting the schach with items that are invalid schach, he may build it in this manner even in the first place.

Here are some examples of this halacha.
  • One should not use metal poles to support the schach.
  • One should not tie the schach in place with plastic zip ties if the schach would otherwise fall down. This is because holding the schach in its place is the same as supporting it.
  • If one is in a friend’s sukkah and they see that the schach is supported by metal or the like, they may eat there as this is considered “after the fact” (note 18 in the Dirshu Mishnah Berurah in the name of Reb Nissim Karelitz).

The Details
Here are several more details about this Halacha:

Support of a Support
Although one may not (in the first place) support the s’chach with an item that is not valid for s’chach, one may support a support with an item that is not fit for s’chach. For example if the schach is supported by a wooden frame which, in turn, is supported by a metal frame, it is acceptable.
In the words of the Shulchan Aruch HaRav (629:12) “if the schach is placed on beams or pegs, and they are placed on an object that is susceptible to ritual impurity (which is not valid schach) it is permitted to do this even as an initial and preferred option. It is of no consequence that the object that supports the s’chach or holds it in place is supported by something that is invalid as s’chach, for the supports for the s’chach of every sukkah in the world are supported by the ground, which is invalid as s’chach.” (See also Mishnah Beruah 629:26.).
The Chazon Ish (O.C. 143:42) is strict regarding this matter and is of the opinion that the s’chach cannot be supported in any way by something that is not valid for s’chach.
The common practice is not to be strict like the Chazon Ish but rather to allow the s’chach to be supported indirectly by an item that is not valid for s’chach (The Brisker Rov, Reb Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Rabbi Yosef Elyashiv in the Dirshu Mishnah Berurah note 20).
Supported by the Walls
The Shulchan Aruch HaRav rules (based on the Magen Avraham and various Rishonim) that one may support the s’chach directly on the walls of the sukkah even if those walls are made out of materials that are not kosher for s’chach. The reason for this is that it will not lead people to think that such items are kosher for s’chach. As he writes, “There is no need to ordain a safeguard for fear that someone might use stones as s’chach; everyone knows that stones are invalid as s’chach, for this would not be a sukkah at all, but a kind of permanent dwelling.”
An Item that Is Invalid by Rabbinic Law
The Mishnah Berurah writes (629:25) that one should not support the s’chach with an item that is susceptible to tumah (ritual impurity) by Rabbinic law. An example of this is wooden utensils that are not containers such as the wooden handle of a broom.
Some are lenient in this regard. (See the Ritva on Sukkah 21b, Biur Halacha beginning of Siman 630 and the Dirshu Mishnah Berurah 629 note 19.)

Added Support
If the s’chach is supported by an item which is acceptable s’chach, one may add an item that is not acceptable s’chach as extra support (Chazon Ish Dirshu note 14).

Based on all of the above we can come to the following conclusion regarding using bamboo mats for s’chach:
  • If the mats are held together by metal or plastic wiring, one should preferably not use these mats. The reason is that these wires are holding the bamboo in place which is the same as supporting it. As such they are not valid to be used in the first place. That being said, if one is in a sukkah where such mats are being used for s’chach one may eat there since this is a case of “after the fact – Bedi’eved.” (See Piskei Teshuvot 629 note 26.)
  • Rav Moshe Feinstein is of the opinion (Igrot Moshe O.C. 1:177 quoted here) that such mats are invalid even bedieved (after the fact) as he holds that the entire mat is considered to be susceptible to tuma (ritual impurity) and thus invalid as schach.
  • It is best not to use a bamboo mat that is held together with a string as some say that string is susceptible to impurity and is thus invalid (see Piskei Teshuvos 629 note 27).
  • If the mats are held together by wood or unspun material, they are acceptable.
  • The Star k rules that a mat that is held together by a monofilament line (unspun fibers)  is kosher as s’chach if it is placed on the sukkah in such a way that the monofilament line is not holding the bamboo in place.
  • A mat that is certified as acceptable by a reliable kashrus agency is acceptable as they are presumably following the guidelines set out above.

May we merit to soon see the rebuilding of the fallen Sukkah of King David!
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom UMevorach, a Chodesh Tov and a Good Sweet Year!

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