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Discomfort as an Exemption Part II, The Nature of the Exemption

  • Rav Mordechai Friedman


In the last shiur, we explored the source of the exemption of a mitzta'er from dwelling in the sukka. We saw that a number of practical halakhot may depend on what the exact source is. In this shiur, we will build on the previous material in order to further define the exact nature of this exemption.


The gemara (Sukka 27a) states:


"... It is stated here (in the parasha of sukka) 'chamisha asar' (the fifteenth day of the month) and it is stated 'chamisha asar' in [the parasha of] Pesach. Just as there [on Pesach], the first night is obligatory and the rest are non-obligatory, so too here [on Sukkot], the first night is obligatory and the rest are non-obligatory."


The Ran (Alfas 12b) summarizes two prevalent views found among the Rishonim as to the exact obligation derived from Pesach:

a) to eat a minimum measure of bread in the sukka on the first night;

b) to do so even in the event of rain.


This second opinion is held by the Rosh (Berakhot 49b), the Michtam (on Sukkot, in the name of Rav Shelemya of Lunel), the Terumat Ha-deshen (95), and Mahari Weill (191).


The Rashba (Responsa IV:78) refutes this opinion of the Rosh:

"We say 'teshvu ke-ein taduru' - and the Torah never obligated us to eat in the sukka aside from the way a man would do so in his home! And if this opinion were true (i.e. that we must eat in the sukka on the first night even if it is raining), it would be impossible not to have clearly stated it in the Gemara."


As mentioned in the first shiur, the rule of "ke-ein taduru" is the generally accepted source of mitzta'er. In explaining the Rashba, the Gra (OC 640) says, "A sukka, when it rains, is not a sukka." This brings the issue to a sharper focus. The sukka as an OBJECT is defined as a place where one could live in a fashion similar to his house. The Rashba's question is on the mark. How could the Rosh see an obligation to sit in the sukka in the rain if the definition of the mitzva is to dwell in the sukka in the way one would dwell in his home? Surely, a person would leave his home if the roof literally leaked like a sieve!


The opinion of the Rosh (and others) can be understood if they view "ke-ein taduru" not as a criterion of the OBJECT, but rather as a description of the mode of obligation upon the PERSON. A person is obligated only to carry out normal home living in the sukka. Then, the derasha of "chamisha asar" can come to ADD an additional obligation of eating in the sukka even though it is in an abnormal, non-"ke-ein taduru" fashion.


We have so far seen that while the Rosh understood that "ke-ein taduru" exempts the PERSON from eating in a wet sukka, the Rashba viewed "ke-ein taduru" as disqualifying the OBJECT. The gemara (29a), however, poses a problem for the Rashba:


"Our Rabbis taught in a beraita: If one was eating in the sukka and it started to rain, and he left the sukka [and then it stopped raining], the Halakha does not trouble him to return [to the sukka] until he finishes his meal."


Until now, we have only seen cases where one is considered to be mitzta'er while dwelling in the sukka. Now we have a case where one is mitzta'er before entering the sukka - and this is caused only indirectly by the sukka!


It is easy to understand how the Rosh would read this gemara. "Ke-ein taduru" focuses on the obligation of the person. A person need not interrupt his meal to return because he would not do so in a parallel situation involving a return to his house. If, however, mitzta'er is only a disqualification of the object of the sukka when it rains, as we explained the Rashba, then as soon as it stops raining - the sukka becomes a sukka once again. One should be required to return IMMEDIATELY to the sukka! (Interestingly, the Yerushalmi [ad loc.] relates that Rabban Gamliel and Rabbi Eliezer would leave and return all night long as a result of the rain. This would be in keeping with our explanation, thus far, of the Rashba.)


I believe that there are two possible ways to explain the Rashba:

1. The Rashba believes that there are really two facets to the law of mitzta'er. The first, as we explained, is a disqualification of the sukka as a viable abode. The second is in accordance with the Rosh. In other words, the Rashba agrees with the understanding that mitzta'er is an exemption of the person's obligation but ALSO believes it to be a disqualification of the object. Thus, both halakhot - rain on the first day disqualifying the sukka, as well as the exemption from interrupting a meal once the rain stops - are explained by these two facets of mitzta'er.


2. It is possible, however, to explain both of these halakhot as stemming from ONE basic understanding of "ke-ein taduru." Until now, we assumed (as the Gra hinted) that the Rashba interpreted "ke-ein taduru" as disqualifying a sukka during rain from the point of view of its definition as an object. All the Rashba actually wrote was: "We say teshvu ke-ein taduru - and the Torah never obligated us to eat in the sukka aside from the way a man would do so in his home." It is therefore quite possible to explain that "ke-ein taduru" defines a person's required relationship to the sukka during these seven days. One's true obligation is not simply to perform the isolated acts of sitting, eating and sleeping in the sukka, but rather "ke-ein taduru" refers to the sum of all these acts - "All seven days, one makes his sukka a permanent abode and his house a temporary one." These are the very words cited by the gemara following the mishna about leaving the sukka due to rain.


We can now understand the other halakha of not needing to interrupt a meal in the house as soon as the rain stops. To do so would be unnatural behavior. Any use of the sukka in an abnormal fashion gives does not contribute to his relating to the sukka as a permanent abode.


According to the Rosh, if it rains on the first day, one is nevertheless obligated to remain in the sukka because "ke-ein taduru" limits a person's obligation to individual acts of normal living; it does not define his overall relationship. Therefore, the derasha of "chamisha asar" can add to the person's obligation at the point where "ke-ein taduru" left off.


The Rashba, however, sees "ke-ein taduru" not as a limitation, but rather as a definition of the basic nature of the mitzva. "Chamisha asar" can only add to the existing obligation - but cannot redefine the whole act of the mitzva.


This "holistic" approach would consider rain, interruption of a meal to enter the sukka, mitzta'er, choleh, and properly furnishing the sukka not as five individual halakhot learnt from "ke-ein taduru," but rather as five manifestations of the basic definition of the mitzva of sukka: to make the sukka your permanent abode for seven days.


To summarize what we have seen thus far:

A) The Rosh and others view "ke-ein taduru" as a limitation of the person's obligation.

B) The Rashba either 1) accepts the above but adds on an additional law learnt from "ke-ein taduru" - a disqualification of the object of the sukka (as in the case of rain), or 2) sees "ke-ein taduru" as a master definition of the mitzva of sukka - to relate toward the sukka as your permanent abode for seven days.


We have seen one very practical halakhic difference:



The Rema (OC 639:5) follows the Rosh: one must eat a ke-zayit of bread on the first night in the sukka, even if it rains. The Shulchan Arukh, by omitting this point, seems to follow the Rashba.


The following are additional practical halakhic differences:



According to the Rashba, one never needs to eat in the sukka during the rain. What is the halakha after it stops? Must one return to the sukka to finish his meal or to sleep?


This would depend on the two possible explanations we offered.

A) If we see "ein taduru" as teus two separate halakhot, then the object's disqualification ends once the rain stops. At that point, there should be no difference between the Rashba and the Rosh (who sees "chamisha asar" as overriding the other facet of "ke-ein taduru").

B) If we accept the "holistic" view that the mitzva is to relate to the sukka as one would his home, then interrupting one's meal or sleep to re-enter the sukka would not contribute to this fulfillment.




According to the first explanation of the Rashba, that a sukka in the rain ceases to be considered a sukka - a person sitting in the rain is accomplishing nothing beyond getting wet. (What about other forms of discomfort? There are two possibilities: 1) even cold or flies void the object as a sukka; or 2) we can differentiate between rain, which universally disqualifies the sukka as a shelter or home, and wind, which, since some people would not be mitzta'er, cannot be seen as an objective disqualification of the object.)


According to our second explanation, as well, it would be futile to use the sukka in an unnatural way that does not contribute to relating to it as your home.


However, according to the Rosh, "ke-ein taduru" merely exempts a person from sitting in the sukka; but if he chooses to remain, it is still a kosher sukka and the physical act of sitting there IS the act of the mitzva.


With regard to this question, the Hagahot Maimoniot (Sukka ch. 6) quotes the famous Yerushalmi: "Anyone exempt from something who nonetheless does it is called a simpleton." Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer I:39) disagrees and says that this rule applies only when his actions will bring about some leniency. In this case, the Yerushalmi's stricture would apply only if his "oneg yom tov" (mitzva of having pleasure on Yom Tov) is adversely affected. Otherwise, he may stay and fulfill the mitzva.




If one's lights go out on Yom Tov or Shabbat and he finds himself in the dark, is he considered a mitzta'er? The Rema quotes the Terumat Ha-deshen who holds that:

a) to eat in the dark is mitzta'er;

b) to go to your neighbor's sukka is also mitzta'er because of the embarrassment and discomfort.


If a person nonetheless decides to go next door to eat, can he make a berakha of "leishev ba-sukka?" It might depend on considerations explained above. The Mishna Berura quotes the Elya Rabba who says that unless he is comfortable being in his friend's sukka (and is therefore not mitzta'er), he should not say a berakha. The Chayei Adam holds that one should overcome his discomfort, go to his friend happily and comfortably, and say the berakha. When in doubt, the rule is not to say the berakha.


Part III: An Inherently Uncomfortable Sukka


At the end of part I of this shiur, we cited an interesting pesak of the Rema (in the name of the Mordechai, who follows the Yere'im):

"If he initially constructed [his sukka] in a place that makes him a mitzta'er regarding eating or drinking or sleeping; or if he cannot perform one of these functions due to fear of thieves when he is in the sukka; then he does not fulfill [his obligation] in that sukka at all - even the functions that he is not mitzta'er for - since this is not 'ke-ein de'era' (similar to normal living), because he cannot perform all his [normal] needs."


The Chakham Tzvi (ch. 94) disagrees with this pesak and feels that "ke-ein taduru" does not necessitate an all-purpose type of sukka. A sukka which serves one function is sufficient. He proves his point from the accepted halakha that a sukka on the bow of a boat and a sukka seven tefachim (approx. 65 cm.) by seven tefachim are both kosher, despite the fact that a person would be mitzta'er when trying to sleep there. (The Rema, however, holds that a sukka seven by seven tefachim does NOT make one mitzta'er regarding sleeping!)


What is the root of their dispute? The words of the Chakham Tzvi are revealing: "'Teshvu ke-ein taduru' does not refer to the style of the sukka or to how it is constructed, but rather to the way it should be properly used; on this [point], it is said that it should be 'ke-ein dira' (similar to normal dwelling)."


The Chakham Tzvi seems to align himself with the Rosh, who feels that one must eat a measure of bread in the sukka on the first night even if it rains. He disagrees with the Yere'im, whom he understands as believing that "ke-ein taduru" (at least in one facet) qualifies the definition of the OBJECT. (In other words, he thinks that the opinion of the Yere'im is identical to the Gra's understanding of the Rashba, who rejected the notion of sitting in the rain.) It is possible, however, to explain the view of the Yere'im in accordance with our second explanation of the Rashba. Namely, "ke-ein taduru" does not qualify the OBJECT, but rather defines the way one must relate to his sukka (i.e. as a permanent residence). Since we normally have one house for ALL functions (eating, sleeping, etc.), we can only regard a similar type of sukka as our permanent abode for the duration of the holiday.


In truth, the words of the Yere'im are: "Initially, [this type of one-purpose structure] is not a sukka (lo havi sukka), since it is set up to cause tza'ar (discomfort)."


It is also possible, if less likely, that the Rashba disagrees with the Yere'im's assumption that the sukka must be able to satisfy all our normal living functions. To the contrary, our modern houses are structured in such a way that each room serves a separate function; thus, having every function in one room or sukka is not "ke-ein taduru!"




The Yere'im's disqualification of a sukka constructed uncomfortably, seemingly even bi-she'at ha-dechak (when one is hard-pressed), is followed by the Mordechai, Rema, Magen Avraham and Levush. This would require a person to a) select his site carefully, and b) construct a warm and secure sukka. The Pri Megadim, Mishna Berura, and Arukh Ha-shulchan say that if there is no possible alternative, one can use it and make a berakha.


I conclude with a challenge for our readers. The Rema holds like the Rosh that one must sit in the rain to eat a ke-zayit - and make a berakha - on the first night. This indicates a rejection of the view that there is a law of "ke-ein taduru" which disqualifies the OBJECT. Yet, the Rema also holds like the Yere'im who disqualifies a sukka that is not multi-functional!


I welcome any solutions and hope to send out some, unedited, to readers of the YHE-Halakha list. Chag sameach.