I'm a bit of a nagger, but I think the question is legit:

I start with an assumption that the formulation of the Mishnah was purposeful and not circumstantial, that Rebbe did put much thought in right wording.

We know that a Succah must be taller than a meter and up to 10 meters high (approx). This fact could be formulated in two ways, a positive - whats's required, or a negative - what's forbidden.

The starting Mishnah in Succah is a par-excellence example of a negative formulation:

"סֻכָּה שֶׁהִיא גְבוֹהָה לְמַעְלָה מֵעֶשְׂרִים אַמָּה, פְּסוּלָה.
רַבִּי יְהוּדָה מַכְשִׁיר. וְשֶׁאֵינָהּ גְּבוֹהָה עֲשָׂרָה טְפָחִים, וְשֶׁאֵין לָהּ שְׁלֹשָׁה דְּפָנוֹת, וְשֶׁחַמָּתָהּ מְרֻבָּה מִצִּלָּתָהּ, פְּסוּלָה."

A sukkah taller than twenty cubits is invalid. Rabbi Yehudah validates it. And one which is not ten hand-breadths tall, or does not contain three walls, or whose [area of] sun is greater than its shade is invalid.

Rebbe could easily formulate it in a positive way [my proposition]:

איזוהי סוכה כשרה? כל שהיא גבוהה עשרה טפחים ולא יותר על 20 אמה.
שיש לה ג' דפנות וצילתה מרובה בחמתה.

What Succah would be Kosher? One that's higher than a meter and up to 10 meters, has 3 walls and has more shadow than straight sunlight.

Please note, that my version is not lengthier and covers exactly the same amount of information.

This negative approach is very common with the Mishnah, for example, "לוּלָב הַגָּזוּל וְהַיָּבֵשׁ, פָּסוּל. שֶׁל אֲשֵׁרָה וְשֶׁל עִיר הַנִּדַּחַת, פָּסוּל. נִקְטַם רֹאשׁוֹ, נִפְרְצוּ עָלָיו, פָּסוּל.". Sometimes the Mishnah does speak in a positive way (RA"S 3,2): "כָּל הַשּׁוֹפָרוֹת כְּשֵׁרִין חוּץ מִשֶּׁל פָּרָה, מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא קֶרֶן."

Personally, as a father and a Mechanech, I'm a big fan of the Positive Psychology approach to education, namely instead of repeatedly reciting the forbidden activities, I prefer to strengthen the desired behavior.

Did someone research on that specific point - how does the Mishnah benefit from such formulations?

  • The mishna is a masked drasha on pesukim. It is not an autonomous codex. Mishna is a conclusion of learning. As the Maharal says, a summary of Gemara learning
    – kouty
    Sep 27, 2018 at 17:56
  • And how would you incorporate Rabbi Yehudah's opinion that above 20 Amos is Kosher? Sep 27, 2018 at 18:09
  • @Salmononius2 ורבי אומר אף ארבעים וחמישים. As long as this is one scale, מכלל הן אתה שומע לאו.
    – Al Berko
    Sep 27, 2018 at 18:17
  • @kouty Please develop your idea, I can't see how it's connected to the formulation.
    – Al Berko
    Sep 27, 2018 at 18:17
  • 1
    @AlBerko If we're only going by word count, your formulation is now 2 words longer (3 if you write out Rabbi Yehuda instead of just Rebbi). And probably more, if you write out Rabbi Yehuda's opinion in a way that limits it only to the height restriction. Sep 27, 2018 at 18:41

1 Answer 1


Every case is different, look at the first 2 Tosafos' at the beginning of Sukkah:

מאי שנא גבי סוכה דתני פסולה ומאי שנא גבי מבוי דתני תקנתא. והא דלא פריך מאי שנא גבי הדס דתני פסולה ותקנתא דתנן בפרק לולב הגזול (לקמן סוכה דף לב:) או שהיו ענביו מרובין מעליו פסול ואם מיעטן כשר דלא פריך אלא מסוכה ומבוי שדינם שוה לענין גבוה ושינה לשון משנתו ועוד דגבי הדס אצטריך למיתני תקנתא דס"ד אמינא כיון דגדולו בפסול תו לית ליה תקנתא:

Where they infer from the exact wording various other rules. If the Mishnah was just telling us the simple rule, it should have said in what shape the 3 walls have to be and what size, do they have to be rectangular? What length do the walls have to be? How far apart can they be? I can't say a general explanation for why some Mishnah's speak in the positive (Chiuv) and others speak in the negative (Shlila) each case has its own reasoning. If your question is specifically on the Mishnah in Sukkah, then you should ask a separate question, but if you go to the Gemara there and the first two Tosafos', you will notice that based on the exact wording of the Mishnah, we have various other questions regarding if the height of a Mavoi is the main height, and Sukkah is learned out from that, or the other way around etc...

So: There's no blanket-all-in-one reason why some Mishnahs speaki n the chiyuv and others in the shlila, each one has its own reasoning, and should be asked as a seperate question for each case

  • +1 Thanks for the source. Practically, because two things are mutually exclusive we could learn the same things from any wording. Tosfos speculates on similarities between different Mishnayos but does not set a rule for all.
    – Al Berko
    Mar 7, 2019 at 19:20

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