Taken from the Shiurim of Rav Michael Rosensweig


In categorizing a mitzvah, there are two general ways that we can look at it. The first approach is to see it as a mitzvah chiyuvit - it is obligatory and must be done regardless of the conditions. The second possibility is that it is a mitzvah kiyumit - one fulfills a commandment by performing the mitzvah, but does not lose out if they do not perform it, and does not have to create the circumstances wherein they would be required to perform it. An example of the first type would be eating matza on the first night of Pesach, which one has to do; an example of the latter is tzitzit, which one has to do only if he is wearing a four-cornered garment, but one does not have to wear such a garment simply for the purpose of fulfilling the mitzvah. Where does Succah fall in this dichotomy? Is it possible for one to go seven days and not have to be in a Succah at all?

Let us suppose that a person decided not to eat over Succot. Since he would not be doing any action that would obligate him to enter a Succah, it would seem that he could get away without actually entering the Succah during the course of the holiday. Is this so, or would we make a person go in to a Succah whether or not he was eating, since one must spend time in a Succah on Succot? In a broad sense, the question is moot, since one cannot go an entire week without eating, and thus would have to go into the Succah sooner or later. However, what about a person who had been traveling during the holiday (and thus was free from any obligation), and returned home on the last day of Succot. Would he have to go into the Succah, or would he be free of any obligation, since it is physically possible to go one day without eating? Rashba seems to feel that one could avoid the Succah entirely, while an unnamed individual who posed this question to Rashba felt the opposite way, namely that there is some form of positive pressure to enter the Succah during the holiday. While this is not an outright obligation, it does shed light on the nature of the commandment of Succah. While it may, at heart, be only a mitzvah kiyumit - if you eat, then you must do so in the Succah - there is an underlying notion that one should try as hard as possible to spend time in the Succah. What exactly does this tell us about the relationship that we are supposed to have with the Succah during Succot?


One of the most crucial figures in our discussion is Rabi Eliezer, who presents a series of five laws pertaining to Succah that will shed a significant amount of light on this topic. The first two laws are in the mishna on 27a. First he states that one must eat fourteen meals in the Succah on Succot (i.e. two per day). He then states that if one does not eat the meal on the first night, he must make it up on the last day (whether this refers to the seventh day or to Shmini Atzeret is a matter of some discussion and will be omitted here for space reasons). In the ensuing gemara, we find Rabi Eliezer's three other laws. First, one may not go from one Succah to another during the holiday. Second, one may not make a Succah on Chol HaMoed (the intermediate days of Succot; although one may re-erect his Succah if it fell down). Finally, he rules that one may not fulfill his obligation using another's Succah. How are we to make sense of these laws?

At first glance, we can break them down into two categories - those in the mishna, which relate to the meals that one must eat, and those in the gemara, which relate to one's relationship with HIS Succah. With regard to the requirement for fourteen meals, while it is possible to say that Rabi Eliezer is merely doing the math for us, it is perhaps more likely that his law implies something more than simply the fact that since one eats two meals a day (as was the norm in those days) therefore one will eat fourteen meals in the Succah. Perhaps he is focusing on a bigger picture approach to the entire mitzvah and concept of Succah. This notion is further supported by the next law, namely the fact that one would have to make up one of these meals if he missed it. Why would this be so? Since when do we require a person to "double-up" on meals in a manner similar to the way that we make a person make up prayers that he missed saying? There are even views that state that this make-up is done on Shmini Atzeret, i.e. after Succot itself has ended! Again, it is quite possible that it is not the meal itself that is the key, but rather the idea that is manifested through the meals.

Turning our focus now to the rulings given in the gemara, they seem to be rather strange. What does it mean that one cannot go from one Succah to another? What is wrong with having two Succot and using them on alternate days? Why can one not fulfill his obligation in my friend's Succah? Does this mean that one cannot be a guest on Succot? Other than the fact that we obviously want a person to have his Succah built before the holiday, what would be wrong with a Succah built during Chol HaMoed?

The answer may perhaps lie in how we relate to the mitzvah of Succah and the entire Holiday of Succot. What we are dealing with is not merely a holiday that happens to last seven days. Rather, Succot is some form of one, long , extended celebration wherein we move our headquarters from our house to our Succah. As such, the meals take on a special importance, as they serve as a demonstration of this relocation to the extent that failure to eat one of these meals would mean that something was lacking in our expression of this idea. As such, Rabi Eliezer does not merely inform us that there are fourteen meals to be eaten on Succot, but rather lets us know that each one of the fourteen meals is crucial in that it contributes to this overall view of the holiday.

This idea carries over easily to the other three laws. While we do not rule like Rabi Eliezer in the cases discussed in the gemara, it seems clear that he is advancing the view that one needs to have the full seven-day experience of being in HIS Succah (there is a law that a Succah must be able to last seven days in order to be kosher). The mitzvah of Succah entails a unique relationship between the individual and the specific Succah and the individual and his Succah within the specific time frame of seven days. As such, Rabi Eliezer does not want a person to use another's Succah, or even to have more than one Succah for himself, as that would diminish the special nature of his relationship to his Succah. Beyond that, Rabi Eliezer does not allow one to build a Succah once the holiday has started, as that would lessen the period of time in which the Succah would be sued, again diminishing the force of the overall experience.


We return now to the verses that discuss Succot. As we noted, our biggest problem was why the Torah in Vayikra divides the verses discussing Succot into two sections, and seemingly de-emphasizes the actual mitzvah of Succah. The Netziv notes a number of things, both textually and halachically, that distinguish Succot from Pesach. In the verse discussing Succot, the phrase "La-Shem" - to God - appears in various parts of the sentence, sometimes earlier and sometimes later. He claims that this alludes to the fact that, unlike Pesach, every day of Succot is important as part of the holiday and is not just a lingering continuation of the "real" holiday that occurs on the first day (more on this to follow). He then notes that, again unlike Pesach, there is a specific idea to bring a lot of thanksgiving sacrifices (korbanot todah) on all of the days of Succot. In Bamidbar, he points out that the verses by Succot seem to imply a concept of Chol HaMoed, something that is not so clear by Pesach. He also notes that while on Pesach we say the full Hallel only on the first day, it is said on every day of Succot. While the gemara in Erchin says that this is because each day of Succot has a different Mussaf sacrifice, the Netziv claims that it is because on Pesach only the first day is a holiday, while every day of Succot is equally a holiday. Rav Soloveitchik similarly suggested that Pesach is one long day with regard to its holiness, while each day of Succot has its own holiness. Combining these two views, we can perhaps come to the position that on Pesach only the first day matters, and the other six days are the lingering aftermath of that, while on Succot every day has its own significance, and are integral parts of a seven-day holiday.

What about the de-emphasis of the mitzvah of Succah? Based on all that we have said, plus on the fact that both the mishna and Rambam severely de-emphasize the actual obligation to sit in the Succah (they stress the Succah itself, but not one's obligation), we can perhaps conclude that sitting in the Succah per se is not the real focus here. What is really our issue is the larger idea of BEING in the Succah. Sitting there or eating there or sleeping there just happen to be various manifestations of that notion. While sitting in the Succah is the actual mitzvah, it is more or less a function of the Succah itself. What is crucial is the overall experience of being in the Succah, of MAKING a seven-day holiday of Succot.

Why is this the case? Again, we resort to our contrast to Pesach. Pesach commemorates a single and singular event - the Exodus from Egypt. That event happened at one point in time, and thus really only needs a one-day holiday to commemorate it. However, we have an additional six days that emanate from the experience of the first day. Not so with Succot. On Succot we commemorate something that took place on a daily basis for forty years, namely the Jews being sheltered while in the desert. In order to properly convey that particular message, we celebrate for an entire week, and in this case the entire week is important, every single day of it. Even further, we strive to achieve a situation of teishvu k'ein taduru - sitting in the Succah as if we are actually living in it. It is not enough to step inside the Succah for a few moments to eat a cookie and then to leave. While that technically may do the job, it does not accurately reflect the experiences of our ancestors millennia ago. One must strive on Succot to dwell in the Succah, to live in the Succah, and to relate to his Succah in a way that is meaningful and that meaningfully memorializes Hashem's protection of the Jews in the desert.

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