The Mitzva to Dwell in a Sukka (2) The Difference Between Sukkot and Pesach

  • Rav David Brofsky

 

the laws of THE FESTIVALS

THE LAWS OF SUKKOT

by Rav David Brofsky

 

Shiur #20 – The Mitzva to Dwell in a Sukka (2)

The Difference Between Sukkot and Pesach

 

 

Introduction

 

Last week, we discussed the nature of the mitzva of dwelling in the sukka. We noted that the Talmud (Sukka 27a) distinguishes between the first night and the rest of the festival. On the first night of Sukkot, one must eat in the sukka just as one must eat matzot on the first night of Pesach. Regarding the remaining days of Sukkot, the gemara says, “Just as there [Pesach] the first night is obligatory and from then on it is optional, so too here [Sukkot] the first night is obligatory and from then on it is optional.”

 

We examined the nature of the mitzva to eat in the sukka on the first night, and questioned whether the gemara learns that one must fulfill the mitzva of dwelling in the sukka on the first night, or whether the gemara demands that one actually “eat” on the first night, just as one must eat on the first night of Pesach. We noted that some Rishonim equate these two mitzvot, and even apply some of the other laws of the first night of Pesach to the first night of Sukkot. We then explored the nature of one’s obligation to dwell in the sukka during the rest of the festival, and grappled with whether the mitzva of dwelling in the sukka during the rest of the festival should be regarded as a mitzva kiyumit, a mitzva that one chooses whether to be obligated in, similar to tzitzit, or whether one must truly dwell in the sukka for the entire seven days.

 

This week we will discuss the blessing recited upon entering a sukka and confront the question raised by many Rishonim: Why is this blessing of “leishev ba-sukka recited for the entire festival of Sukkot, while the berakha said over matza, “al akhilat matza,” is said only on the first night of Pesach?

 

The Blessing of Leishev Ba-Sukka

 

            The gemara (Sukka 45b) teaches that “upon entering [the sukka] to dwell in it, one says, ‘asher kideshanuleishev ba-sukka.’” The Rishonim discuss two central issues regarding this blessing: When should one recite this berakha, and why is this berakha recited for the entire festival of Sukkot, while the blessing over the matza is only recited the first night.

 

The Rishonim debate when one should recite his blessing.

 

            The Rif (22a), citing the gemara, simply writes, “upon entering [the sukka] to dwell in it, one says, ‘asher kideshanu… leishev ba-sukka’” (see also R. Hai Gaon, as cited by the Rosh, and Orchot Chayim, Hilkhot Sukka 39). The Rambam (6:12) concurs, although he implies that one should recite the blessing before sitting down. He writes:

 

Every time he enters to sit in the sukka all seven days, before he sits down, he recites the blessing, "Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to sit in a sukka." On the night of the first festival, he recites a blessing over the sukka and afterwards he recites a blessing over the season [she-hechiyyanu], and he arranges the blessings over a cup [of wine]. Thus, he recites the kiddush standing, recites the blessing, "to sit in a sukka," sits down, and afterwards recites the blessing over the season. This was the custom of my rabbis and the rabbis of Spain to stand for the recitation of Kiddush on the first night of Sukkot, as we have explained.

 

The Rambam rules that one should recite the blessing “prior to its performance” - before sitting down. Although some question the Rambam’s focus on “sitting” (see Rosh 4:3 and Torah Temima, Vayikra 23:42, who proposes that according to the Rambam, one who eats in the sukka while standing has not fulfilled the mitzva), the Rambam most likely believes that “sitting” both reflects the formulation of the berakha and constitutes a demonstrative performance of the mitzva.

 

            Rabbeinu Tam disagrees and rules that one should only recite the blessing of leishev ba-sukka before eating in the sukka. Regarding sleeping, the Rosh (Berkahot 1:13; see Rosh Sukka 4:3 and Tosafot Berakhot 11b, s.v. she-kevar) records:

 

The Ri asked Rabbenu Tam whether one must recite a blessing over sleeping in the sukka, for the laws governing sleeping are more stringent than those governing eating, for one is permitted to snack outside the sukka, whereas napping outside the sukka is forbidden.

 

The Ri suggested that “one does not recite a blessing over sleeping [in the sukka] because perhaps he will be unable to fall asleep." In other words, theoretically one should recite the blessing before going to sleep, but we do not, lest one does not fall asleep. Rabbeinu Tam, apparently not concerned that one may not fall asleep, explains "[whatever elements of] the mitzva of sukka that a person fulfills between one meal and the next - for example, sleep, enjoyment, and study - the blessing 'to dwell in a sukka' that he had recited over the meal exempts him from reciting [another] blessing over them."

 

            The position of Rabbeinu Tam remains somewhat enigmatic. Does Rabbeinu Tam believe that the blessing of leishev ba-sukka was only instituted to be recited when eating, or does he simply think that it is more appropriate to say the blessing before eating, the primary expression of “dwelling?” Furthermore, the Shulchan Arukh (629:8) concludes, “It is customary to recite a blessing over the sukka only at the time of eating.” Does the Shulchan Arukh mean that it is customary to follow the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam or that it is customary to prefer reciting the blessing before one eats?

 

The Taz (639:20) writes that one who does not intend to eat bread during the day, and certainly one who is fasting, should recite the blessing of leishev ba-sukka upon entering the sukka. He apparently believes that although it may be customary to recite the blessing before eating, the basic halakha remains that one who enters the sukka should recite the blessing. Similarly, the Mishna Berura (639:48) cites the Taz and quotes the Chayyei Adam (147:15), who writes, “When one leaves the sukka completely after eating and then returns to the sukka, but will not eat until the evening… in this case all would agree that he should recite the blessing.” According to this interpretation, Rabbeinu Tam only meant to restrict the blessing to eating le-khatchila, as eating is the most demonstrative form of dwelling. However, one who does not intend to eat should certainly still recite the blessing.

 

R. Mordecai Karmi (1749–1825) disagrees in his commentary to the Shulchan Arukh, the Ma’amar Mordekhai (639:8). He explains that Rabbeinu Tam believes that the blessing was only instituted upon eating, and one may not recite the blessing over any other activities. When the Shulchan Arukh writes, “It is customary to…” he means that it is customary to follow the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam, who held that the blessing must be recited upon eating.

 

Due to this debate, it is customary to eat an item upon which one recites the blessing “borei minei mezonot” in order to be able to recite “leishev ba-sukka” according to all of the opinions (Mishna Berura 46). Some Acharonim, however, including R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (see Sefer Ha-Sukka Ha-Shalem, p. 654) and the Chazon Ish (see Piskei Teshuvot 639, nt. 91) were accustomed to recite the blessing of leishev ba-sukka upon sitting or sleeping in the sukka, even without eating.

 

The Ritva (45b) brings two other opinions regarding the proper time to recite leishev ba-sukka, which, although they are not accepted as the halakha, are worth noting. First, he cites the Chakhmai Tzarfat (Scholars of France), who assert that one should recite the blessing upon performing any of the activities mentioned in the gemara, such as eating, drinking, learning, etc. Apparently, they believe that the blessing was instituted upon any obvious act of dwelling, somewhat similar to the view of Rabbeinu Tam. He also relates that some believe that one should recite the blessing once each day, upon entering the sukka. As mentioned above, the Shulchan Arukh relates that it is customary to follow the ruling of Rabbeinu Tam and to recite the blessing only upon eating.

 

The Rishonim (see Rosh 4:3) record that the Maharam Mi-Rotenburg would say leishev ba-sukka before reciting the blessing on the bread. The Meiri (Berakhot 40b) attributes this to fear of interrupting between the blessing over the food and the act of eating. The Rosh explains this custom in accordance with the view that one should really say leishev ba-sukka immediately upon entering the sukka. The Shulchan Arukh (643:3) rules in accordance with the majority of Rishonim, who maintain that it is customary to recite the blessing of leishev ba-sukka after saying ha-motzi (or borei minei mezonot) and before eating.

 

The Difference Between Sukkot and Pesach

 

The Talmud (Sukka 45b) records a difference of opinions regarding the blessing of leishev ba-sukka.

 

R. Yehuda citing Shmuel stated, “[The blessing is recited over] the lulav for seven [days] and over the sukka only on one day.” What is the reason? In the case of the lulav, where the nights form breaks between the days, each day involves a separate commandment. In the case of the sukka, where the nights do not form breaks between the days, all seven days are regarded as one long day. Rabba bar Bar Chana, however, stated in the name of R. Yochanan, “[The blessing is recited over] the sukka for seven days and over the lulav but one day.” What is the reason? For the sukka, which is a Biblical commandment, [the benediction must be recited all the] seven [days]; in the case of the lulav, which is but a Rabbinical enactment [in our day], [a blessing on] one day suffices. When Ravin came, he stated in the name of R. Yochanan, “[The blessing is recited over] the one as well as the other [all] seven [days]. R. Yosef ruled: Lay hold fast to the decision of Rabba bar Bar Chana, since with regard to sukka, all the Amoraim adopt the same position as he.

 

While R. Yehuda believes that the blessing should be recited only on the first day, the gemara concludes, in accordance with Rabba bar Bar Chana, that one should recite the berakha for all seven days.

 

            This, of course, must be understood in light of the gemara (27a) that teaches, “Just as there [Pesach] the first night is obligatory and from then on it is optional, so too here [Sukkot] the first night is obligatory and from then on it is optional.” The passage equates eating matza and dwelling in the sukka, and asserts that although the first night is obligatory, afterwards it is optional.

 

Last week, we discussed how to understand the mitzva of sukka in light of this passage. Is sitting in the sukka merely a means of avoiding eating a meal outside of the sukka, does eating in the sukka constitute a mitzva kiyumit, or is one truly obligated to carry out most of one’s daily activities in the sukka? We must now discuss how this question affects our understanding of the halakha that demands that one recite the blessing of leishev ba-sukka throughout the week. Why do we not recite the berakha of al akhilat matza upon eating matza throughout Pesach?

 

The Rishonim question why the blessing recited upon sitting in the sukka, which is said for all seven days of the festival, should be different from the blessing said upon eating matza, which is only recited on the first night of Pesach.

 

Seemingly, this question should depend upon how we understand the mitzva of dwelling in the sukka after the first night, as well as whether eating matza after the first night of Pesach constitutes a mitzva.

 

Some Rishonim explain that while there is no mitzva to eat matza after the first night, one who sits in the sukka fulfills a mitzva. Indeed, the Sefer Ha-Ittur (Hilkhot Matza U-Marror) and the Maharil (Minhagim, Hilkhot Chag Ha-Pesach) explain that one who eats matza does not fulfill a mitzva, but “regarding sukka, every moment that one sits [in a sukka], he fulfills ‘and you shall dwell in sukkot for seven days’” (Maharil). Therefore, one recites that blessing over dwelling in the sukka for all seven days, and not before eating matza on the other days of the holiday (Magen Avraham 639).

 

A number of Provincial Rishonim (Sefer Ha-Mikhtam 27a; Orchot Chayyim 26) cite R. Shmuel Shakili, who explains:

 

Rabbeinu Shmuel bar Shlomo ztz"l answered that matza is different, because eating it on the other days is not for the sake of the mitzva of matza, but for the sake of his body to satisfy his hunger, because he cannot fill himself with chametz. It is like someone who fills himself with the meat of a kosher animal because he is unable to eat the meat of a non-kosher animal, but does not recite a blessing, "Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to eat kosher meat." But a person certainly does not dwell in a sukka for the sake of his body or to satisfy his hunger, but only to fulfill the mitzva, and therefore he must recite a blessing.

 

Matza after the first night is viewed as no more than food, consumed to satiate one’s hunger, while we view dwelling in a sukka as a mitzva every night.

 

Others, however, insist that even one who eats matza after the first night does fulfill a mitzva. The Ibn Ezra (Shemot 12:15), for example, insists that the “peshat” of the verse “And you shall eat matzot for seven days” implies that there is an obligation to eat matzot for the entire festival. Similarly, although the Chizkuni (Shemot 12:19) does not suggest that one is “obligated” to eat matzot for the entire festival, he explains that “if one ate matzot for all seven days, he fulfills this verse.”

 

One can possibly find support for this position in the view of the Geonim (Rosh, Responsa 23:3), who explain that one need not lay tefillin during Chol Ha-Mo’ed, as Chol Ha-Mo’ed is itself an “ot” because we dwell in the sukka and eat matza on Chol Ha-Mo’ed (Eiruvin 96b; tefillin, which are also an “ot,” are not necessary on another day described as an “ot”). Reportedly, the Gra (Ma’aseh Rav 185), as well as the Chatam Sofer (Responsa, Yoreh De’ah 2:191), explained that matza is viewed as a “reshut” on the later days in relation to the obligation of the first night, but it certainly is still a Biblical mitzva. The Arukh Ha-Shulchan (475:18) concludes:

 

And you should know that I received the tradition that even though there is no obligation of matza except for the first night, however, there is a mitzva to eat matza for all of the days of Pesach, as it says, “For seven days you shall eat matzot.”

 

According to this approach, we must find another way to distinguish between Sukkot and Pesach to explain why the berakhot over the mitzvot are treated differently.

 

The Ba'al Ha-Ma'or (Pesachim 26b-27a), for example, explains:

 

It may be answered: Because on the other days [of Pesach], a person can go without eating matza and sustain himself on rice and millet and all kinds of fruit. This is not the case regarding a sukka, for a person cannot go for three days without sleep, and so he must sleep in the sukka and enjoy himself there… This is the reason that we recite a blessing over the sukka all seven days, but we do not recite a blessing over matza all seven days.

 

According to the Ba’al Ha-Ma’or, since one must, inevitably, dwell in the sukka throughout the festival, the Rabbis instituted the blessing of leishev ba-sukka for the entire week. The Avnei Nezer (Orach Chaim 376) understands that the Ba’al Ha-Ma’or must certainly believe that one fulfills a mitzva by eating matza, and therefore the distinction between sukka and matza lies in the inevitability that one will dwell in the sukka throughout the week.

 

            Interestingly, even if one views eating matza after the first night as a mitzva, one might view dwelling in a sukka as a more obligatory one, a mitzva chiyuvit which one must perform, and it is therefore worthy of a blessing. Indeed, the Chatam Sofer, in his comments to the Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chaim 639), writes:

 

One is obligated to sit and to live in the sukka each day, only eating in the sukka [is not obligatory] except for the first night… but there is an obligation to dwell and to live in the sukka for all seven days.

 

If so, the distinction, according to the Chatam Sofer, is between a mitzva which one can fulfill and a mitzva which one must fulfill.

 

The Difference Between Pesach and Sukkot

 

Our discussion regarding the mitzvot of sukka and matza leads us to the conclusion that while the focus of Pesach is the first day, Sukkot is more evenly celebrated throughout the seven days. The Talmud elsewhere (Arakhin 10b) also seems to arrive at this conclusion. The gemara, while enumerating the days upon which one says Hallel, states that one recites the full Hallel on all of the days of Sukkot, whereas on Pesach, the full Hallel is only recited on the first day. The gemara explains:

 

Why this difference, that on the Sukkot we complete Hallel on all the days, and on the Passover Festival we do not do so on all of its days? The days of Sukkot are differentiated from one another in respect of the sacrifices due thereon, whereas the days of Pesach, [the days] are not differentiated from one another in respect of their sacrifices.

 

In other words, the mussaf offering remains the same for the entire week of Pesach, which it changes each day during Sukkot. This daily change somehow generates a new obligation, every day, to recite Hallel, in contrast to the other festivals, regarding which one full Hallel is sufficient.

 

            This distinction between Pesach and Sukkot may actually be indicated by the Torah itself. The Torah teaches regarding Pesach:

 

And on the fifteenth day of this month shall be a feast; seven days shall matzot be eaten. (Bamidbar 28:17)

 

Concerning Sukkot, the same section relates:

 

And on the fifteenth day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no manner of servile work, and you shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days. (Bamidbar 29:12)

 

The festival of Pesach, as described by the Torah, is observed on the night of the fifteenth of Nissan. Matzot, however, are eaten for seven days. The festival of Sukkot, however, is celebrated for seven days. This distinction emerges again in Devarim (16:3, 13) and earlier in Vayikra (23:6, 33-40). In fact, R. Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (1816 – 1893) explains in his Ha-Emek Davar (Vayikra 23:6) that “Chag Ha-Matzot, in the language of the Torah, refers only to the first day, unlike Chag Ha-Sukkot, which in the language of the Torah lasts for seven days.”

 

            It seems that one can describe Pesach as having one focal point: the evening of the fifteenth of Nissan. Although as a festival, Pesach is observed for seven days, those remaining days appear as the “wake” of the first day. Sukkot, however, is one long festival of seven days, reflected both in the mitzva of sukka, which is observed for the entire week, and the different korbanot offered each day, each reflecting another, new, day of the festival.

 

            To what can we attribute this distinction? Seemingly, Pesach commemorates a onetime historic event, which occurred on and is commemorated on the fifteenth of Nissan. All Pesach rituals are performed on the night of the fifteenth of Nissan, the night that the Jewish people left Egypt. Sukkot, however, commemorates the day to day providence bestowed upon the Jewish People during their travels in the desert (see Sukka 11b), and, of course, the continued Divine protection of the Jewish People, who leave their secure homes and live outside, exposed to the elements. Therefore, the entire festival, day after day, is observed as if each day is another, new day of the festival.