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Traveling and Daytrips on Sukkos


As the Sukkos festival approaches, this article will address the issue of eating and sleeping outside the Sukkah during trips taken during Chol Ha-Mo’ed.

The short time period of Chol HaMo’ed provides many with an opportunity for a family daytrip, and outings are likewise organized by youth groups or by other organizations.

Can sandwiches be taken and eaten on such trips during Sukkos, even where there is no Sukkah in which to eat them? If the trip extends overnight, is there an obligation to find a Sukkah in which to sleep? Is it lechatchilah to arrange such trips at all?

These questions, among others related to the general issue, are discussed below.

Exemption for Travelers

The primary source for the matter of eating outside the Sukkah is a passage in the Gemara (Sukkah 26a):

“The Rabbis taught: Those travelling during the day are exempt from Sukkah during the day and obligated at night; those travelling during the night are exempt during the night and obligated during the day; those travelling during both the day and night are exempt both during the day and at night.”

Early halachic authorities, including the Rif and the Rambam (Sukkah 6:4), cite the Talmudic ruling, and it is likewise mentioned Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 640:8).

The basis of the exemption for travelers is the principle of “teishvu ke’ein taduru.” The obligation of dwelling in the Sukkah corresponds to the general nature of dwelling in one’s home. Living in the Sukkah need not be more demanding than living in one’s home – where it is more demanding, the obligation of dwelling in the Sukkah does not apply.

For instance, the Gemara teaches that a mitzta’er – somebody for whom dwelling in the Sukkah causes suffering or discomfort – is exempt from the mitzvah (Sukkah 25b-26a). It is not the norm to live at home under conditions of discomfort (such as when rain drips in), and therefore there is no obligation to dwell in the Sukkah under such conditions.

For travelers, Rashi thus explains: “For it is written, ‘Live in Sukkos,’ as one lives in his home. Just as during the rest of the year one would not refrain from going on a business trip, so during the Chol HaMo’ed the Torah did not require that one refrain from travelling.”

Just as living at home does not restrict a person from travelling, so the obligation to dwell in the Sukkah cannot prevent a person from making a trip.

Trips on Sukkos

Based on the above principle, it appears that it is permitted to arrange a trip during Sukkos, even if it involves neglecting the mitzvah of dwelling in a Sukkah. A person would not refrain from going on a trip merely because it involves eating, drinking, and sleeping outside his home – and the same applies for a Sukkah.

It is noteworthy that Rashi makes specific mention of a business trip, which could be understood as a qualification of the halachah: It is only permitted to travel for business needs, and not merely for a ‘pleasure trip.’

Yet, the more simple understanding is that Rashi means to give an example (and to contrast with somebody travelling for the purpose of a mitzvah), and not to qualify the reasons for which it is permitted to travel. When Tosafos and other rishonim summarize the words of Rashi, they likewise do not mention the reason for the trip.

Thus the Mishnah Berurah (39) explains (based on the Ran and others) that travelers are exempt from the mitzvah because “it is known that during the rest of the year a person does not refrain from going on a trip for some matter, and leaves his home – and the same is true for the Sukkah.” This will apparently be true even of recreational trips.

However, as we will see below, halachic authorities, and first and foremost Rav Moshe Feinstein, are not so liberal in addressing the question of trips on Sukkos.

Rav Moshe’s Ruling on Trips

Addressing the question of journeying on Chol HaMo’ed, RavMosheFeinstein (Iggros Moshe, Orach Chaim Vol. 3, no. 93) writes as follows:

“With respect to the idea of going on a trip for pleasure to a place where no Sukkah will be available, my humble opinion is that this is forbidden. This is because the travelers mentioned in the tractate of Sukkah… refers to a case of business and other situations where there is a strong need. This is also the accepted practice: Everybody leaves their home for this purpose… but going on a trip for pleasure is not necessary.”

Rav Moshe’s primary argument is that one may not refrain from fulfilling the mitzvah of Sukkah because of enjoyment. If one suffers pain one is exempt from the mitzvah, but the mitzvah cannot be neglected one for the sake of enjoyment and pleasure.

The second reason Rav Moshe gives for this ruling is that travelling to a place where a Sukkah is not available effectively exempts a person from the mitzvah. It is only permitted to create this exemption where there is a concrete need.

The idea of travelling as exempting oneself from the mitzvah of Sukkah is also raised by Rav Ovadya Yosef (Yecheveh Da’as 3:47), who compares the case to one who frees himself from the mitzvah of tzitzis. Although there is no obligation to  constantly fulfill the mitzvah of tzitzis, and somebody who does not wear a four-cornered garment is exempt, the Gemara still states that “in a time of anger he will also be punished” (Menachos 41a).

The Rambam (Tzitzis 3:11) thus rules: “Even though one is not obligated to buy a tallis and wrap himself in it in order to affix tzitzis to it, a pious person should not absolve himself from this mitzvah. Rather, one should always try and wear a garment that is obligated in tzitzis in order to fulfill this mitzvah.” The Rosh (Tosafos HaRosh Niddah 61b) writes that this obligation applies to every G-d-fearing person.

The Mitzah of Dwelling in the Sukkah

As part of the above discussion, we can suggest that the mitzvah of Sukkah is a continuous seven-day mitzvah, which we fulfill by establishing the Sukkah as our dwelling place for the duration of the festival. As the Sages explained, “for seven days leave the permanent above and dwell in a temporary above” – fulfilling the Biblical decree “you shall dwell in the Sukkah for seven days.”

Once a person makes this legal definition – which he does by means of the mandatory Sukkah meal of the first night – he fulfills the mitzvah even when he is not physically present in the Sukkah. For the duration of the seven days, he has moved his abode into the Sukkah. Even if he is not actually present in the Sukkah at any given moment, such as during prayer-time or while on a journey, he continues to fulfill the mitzvah for all seven days, since for the duration he has established his abode as the Sukkah.

The only way of transgressing the mitzvah is by performing an action that contradicts this seven-day definition of the Sukkah as his dwelling place – such as by willfully eating a fixed meal or sleeping outside the Sukkah.

Yet, according to the explanation above (as based on Rav Ovadya Yosef) we see that this is not the true definition of the mitzvah. Rather, even during the seven days of Sukkos if a person goes on a trip he ceases to fulfill the mitzvah of Sukkah, and fulfills it again only upon his return. The same will be true of going to daven or any other interruption of physical presence in the Sukkah: A person ceases to fulfill the mitzvah when leaving the Sukkah, and fulfills it again upon returning.

However, it is possible to explain the ruling of Rav Moshe even if we assume the mitzvah is a continuous fulfillment for seven days. Although one fulfills the seven-day mitzvah continually even upon leaving the Sukkah, it remains wrong to leave the Sukkah without good need, thereby refraining from expressing the mitzvah by being actually present therein.

Rav Moshe however is not a unanimous opinion, and it is cited from Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (He’aros p. 114) that he disputed the ruling, and argued that it is permitted to go on trips even for the sake of pleasure.

Scheduling Trips for Other Times

Trips during Sukkos can also be discussed from a different angle, even though Rav Moshe does not mention this reason.

The Or Zaru’a (Hilchos Sukkah no. 299) discusses the mitzvah of Sukkah following the medical procedure of blood-letting:

“There are some who, after they let blood during the holiday, eat outside the Sukkah. They say they are no different than those who feel pain in their eyes or have headaches [and, as sick people, are exempt from eating in the Sukkah]. They are mistaken, for one who lets blood is not sick; on the contrary, he is happy and eats and drinks much. Furthermore, he did not have to choose to let blood during the holiday. Even with regard to a mourner, whose suffering is due to causes outside his control, we say that he must calm himself and fulfill the mitzvah [of Sukkah]. Certainly, the same should apply to these [who let blood], for they should not have chosen to let during the holiday.”

The Or Zaru’a thus offers two reasons why one who lets blood remains obligated to fulfill the mitzvah of Sukkah: (1) he is not really sick, and (2) he should have scheduled the bloodletting for another time.

It seems from the second reason that the exemption of a mitzta’er does not apply where the source of the sickness is within the person’s control (even though it stemmed out of a non-ideal situation). If one creates pain for oneself during the festival, he is still obligated to live in the Sukkah, unless he is in physical danger.

The Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim 640:4) rules in accordance with this idea: “According to this reason one who drinks a laxative is still obligated in Sukkah, even though he is great pain, for he should have done this before the holiday or afterwards. Therefore he should not time this for the holiday.”

Based on these rulings, one could argue that a daytrip on Chol HaMo’ed is problematic because it could have been scheduled for before or after Sukkos, and it therefore does not exempt its participants from Sukkah.

However, most rishonim do not mention ruling of the Or Zaru’a, and many later authorities do not mention the ruling of the Magen Avraham, implying rather that halachic praxis does not follow the opinion (see especially Taz 640:3 and Mishnah Berurah 640:12).

In addition, there are certainly some trips that are difficult to schedule outside Chol HaMo’ed, and in this case the rulings of the Or Zaru’a and Magen Avraham will not apply. As we mentioned at the outset Rav Moshe did not bring this reason.

Travelling and Fulfilling the Mitzvah

A point that still requires clarification is the issue of fulfilling both needs: Travelling on the one hand, and the mitzvah of dwelling in the Sukkah on the other.

It is clear that the exemption for travelers applies specifically when it clashes with fulfilling the mitzvah. When the traveler has two options before him – either staying at home and fulfilling the mitzvah of Sukkah, or travelling and forgoing it – it is permitted for him to travel and to forgo the mitzvah. If, however, one is able to achieve both travelling and living in the Sukkah, one obviously should.

For example, if one travelled to a city where there is a restaurant or hotel which has a Sukkah, one would definitely have to avail himself of it (assuming that the person in question would spend money on going to a hotel/restaurant during the year). Similarly, if one travelled to a place close enough to home that he would normally return to eat and sleep after travelling, he would certainly have to return home to his sukkah.

The principle, once again, is that for the duration of the Sukkos festival a person has to move his abode from home to the Sukkah. If a person is far from home, he dwells in other places; when home is relatively nearby, he makes the effort to come home.

The Sefer Ha-Mikhtam (Sukkah 26a, followed by the Orchos Chaim, Hilchos Sukkah 33, as cited by the Beis Yosef) therefore rules: “Since day travelers are obligated in Sukkah at night, we suggest that those who travel to villages collecting debts on Chol HaMo’ed must return home at night to eat in the Sukkah if the village does not have one. Even though one can maintain otherwise, one who follows this stringency will be blessed.”

The Rema cites this ruling, which implies that although there is some room to exempt the traveler even at night, the principle halachah is that because he is able to come ‘home’ to the sukkah, he must do so.

There is therefore no doubt that where a Sukkah is available for the traveler, he must avail himself of it. The question, however, is the halachah where a Sukkah is not readily available: How much effort must be made for find a Sukkah?

Building a Sukkah at Night

The above-mentioned passage of the Gemara states that those who travel by day (but not by night) are exempt from the mitzvah in the day, but obligated to dwell in a Sukkah at night. The question is: How far does the night obligation extend?

In fact, the Meiri cites an opinion that once a person comes to a stop he is obligated to build a Sukkah, and cannot rely on the fact that there is no Sukkah to sleep/eat in. However, the Meiri himself rejects this idea. “There is no such obligation, for the mitzvah only applies if there already is a Sukkah where the person stops. One is not required to build one. This is likewise the accepted practice.”

According to the Meiri, even resting at night is part of a person’s travels. If a Sukkah is readily available, the traveler is obligated to dwell therein – just as he would spend the night at home if he could. But where a Sukkah is not available, there is no obligation to build one – just as a camper does not build a home for himself at night.

The halachic ruling on this subject is disputed by later authorities. The Levush agrees with the Meiri, ruling that there is no obligation to build a Sukkah, whereas the Magen Avraham (640:15) writes that a person is required to build a Sukkah at night. The Chayei Adam (147:42) sides with the Levush, explaining that it is not the way of travelers to occupy most of their nights with building a home, and this is also the ruling of the Mishnah Berurah (43). However, if one plans to stay in one place for a few days the Mishnah Berurah (45) rules that one must build a Sukkah.

The Mishnah Berurah notes that the wording of the Rema also implies the ruling of the Levush. Commenting on the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch that day-travelers are obligated to dwell in the Sukkah at night, the Rema notes that this applies specifically where a Sukkah can be found; where no Sukkah is found, the exemption applies even at night. This seemingly implies that there is no obligation to build one’s own Sukkah.

It is noteworthy that even according to the Magen Avraham, if a person is on a business (or other) trip, and dinner time arrives with no Sukkah available, it is permitted to eat: By the time one builds the Sukkah dinnertime will be long over, and there is no obligation to go hungry.

Trouble beyond the Call of Duty

Another example of trouble beyond the call of duty is given by the Rema (640:4, based on Terumas Ha-Deshen).

Considering a case where the Shabbos candles went out in the Sukkah, he rules that it is permitted to move into the house where a candle is lit, and there is no obligation to go to his friend’s Sukkah if this involves a great deal of trouble.

What degree of inconvenience is required to exempt a person from moving in with his friend? The yardstick, as we have already seen, will be the parallel concept for a person’s home. If, under similar but non-Sukkos circumstances, one would not go to a friend’s home, the obligation will not apply for Sukkos, too.

Conclusion: Trips on Sukkos

We have seen that it is permitted to go on certain trips during Chol HaMo’ed, even if this will involve eating or sleeping outside the sukkah.

It is certainly permitted to go on business trips, where refraining from doing so will involve a financial loss; it is likewise permitted to go on trips for medical reasons, even where there is no Sukkah.

If a Sukkahis available, but reaching it involves some trouble – for instance, it is possible to come home for the night, to reach a friend’s sukkah, and so on – then where the inconvenience is not great, one must avail oneself of the option. During Sukkos one ‘lives in the Sukkah,” and one must invest no less effort in reaching a Sukkah than one would invest in reaching home.[1]

Concerning trips for the sake of Yom Tov pleasure, Rav Moshe is stringent if they will involve eating or sleeping outside the Sukkah – though others are more lenient.

[1] This definition remains somewhat vague, because the comparison to one’s home is unclear. In general, people don’t care at all to sleep away in a hotel, even if the hotel is near one’s home. The yardstick of comparing a hotel to home (how much effort is a person prepared to invest in returning home from a hotel) is therefore not relevant for the obligation of Sukkah. Rather, the Sukkah is considered a ‘desirable home,’ and the yardstick is the trouble one will be prepared to undergo in order to return from an undesirable home to one’s preferred abode.

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