Yesterday, we noted the question raised by the Panim Yafot concerning a comment by the Yalkut Shimoni in Parashat Shoftim (907). The Torah forbids planting a tree alongside the altar in the Mikdash (16:21), and the Gemara (Tamid 28b) establishes that this prohibition includes building a structure in the Temple courtyard, where the altar stood. The Yalkut Shimoni remarks that this applies even to a sukka, which may not be built in the area of the azara. Earlier, however, in the end of Parashat Re’ei, the Yalkut Shimoni comments that kohanim eating sacrificial food during Sukkot must do so in a sukka. The question thus arises as to how kohanim were able to fulfill this requirement when eating those sacrifices (kodashei kodashim) that may not be eaten outside the azara.
Rav Aharon Levine (the “Reisha Rav”), in his Birkat Aharon (Berakhot, 197:6), suggests that these different passages reflect different views regarding the nature of the sukka obligation. In several contexts in Masekhet Sukka, the Gemara notes that the Sages were divided on the issue as to whether the sukka required on Sukkot must be a “dirat keva” – a structure resembling a permanent residence – or a “dirat arai” – a temporary structure. The Gemara (Sukka 7b) points to several different aspects of the sukka’s construction that depend on this debate. For example, the Gemara views the debate in the opening Mishna of Masekhet Sukka as to the status of a very tall sukka (twenty amot or higher) as a reflection of this question. If the sukka is to be a permanent structure, then a very tall sukka is acceptable, whereas according to the view that the sukka must have the qualities of a temporary dwelling, a tall building is invalid, as people do not construct temporary dwellings in such a fashion. (This is, indeed, the accepted ruling, as Halakha follows the opinion that a sukka must be constructed as a “dirat arai.”)
Rav Levine suggests that the question of “dirat keva” and “dirat arai” directly affects the question of whether a sukka may be constructed in the azara. The prohibition against building structures in the azara, Rav Levine writes, applies only to permanent structures; the Torah allows constructing a temporary dwelling in the Temple courtyard. Therefore, it is only according to the view that the sukka must have the qualities of a “dirat keva” that sukkot may not be built in the azara, as according to the view of “dirat arai,” this is permissible. Hence, it is possible that the Yalkut Shimoni in these two passages is expressing the two different views among the Tanna’im in this regard.
Some (including Rav Levine himself, in Ha-derash Ve-ha’iyun, Parashat Emor) have noted that in Sefer Nechemya (8:16), which tells of the first Sukkot celebration held in Jerusalem after the Jews’ return from the Babylonian exile, we read that sukkot were built on people’s rooftops, in people’s courtyards, and “in the courtyards of the House of God.” This seems to imply that sukkot were built in the courtyard of the Beit Ha-mikdash for the kohanim, thus proving that it was, in fact, permissible to construct a sukka in the Temple courtyard.
(See also Rav Asher Anshel Schwartz’s Ma’adanei Asher, Parashat Shoftim, 5768)