Rain on Sukkot is common and involves many halachos. What do we do when it rains in on Sukkot? What is the difference between a rainstorm and a light drizzle? How is the first night of Sukkot different from the rest of the holiday? Are the laws of the second night the same as those of the first (outside of Eretz Yisroel)? What happens in freezing weather, scorching heat, or a sudden mosquito invasion? Is a succa kosher if sitting there will always be unbearable? Is a small, crowded succah considered unbearable? How is the mitzva of Sukkot observed in an Alaskan succah where the food freezes at the table? Should heating and air conditioning be installed in a succah? How soon are we obligated to return to the succah after it stops raining? Of this and more in the coming article.
Suffering in the Succah – Part II
Last week we discussed the mitzva of dwelling in the succah and what it entails. This week we will examine the mitzva of Succos from the opposite angle – when one is exempted from the mitzva.
One who suffering by dwelling in the succah is termed in halacha a “mitzta’er”. A mitzta’er is exempted from dwelling in the succah. When is this exemption invoked and why don’t we just overcome the discomfort and ignore it?
Reason for Exemption
The mitzva of Sukkot, as we learned last week, obligates us to make the succah our home for the week of the holiday. All domestic activities are done in the succah. Decorations and furnishings are also brought into the succah.
This halacha results in other halachos: permanent eating and sleeping outside the succah is forbidden. Only extenuating circumstances permit eating and sleeping outside the succah – circumstances, which if occurred at home would cause one to leave his house.
The Halachic Home
What is considered a person’s home? To be halachically considered one’s home a place need not be his mailing address – one’s “home” can be anywhere he plans on eating and sleeping on a particular day. A guest’s “home” is where he plans on sleeping for the night. This definition of home has a variety of halachic ramifications — Shabbos, Chanukah candles, and others.
There are, nevertheless, cases in which one would eat and sleep outside his “home” – in these cases, one who sleeps and eats outside his succah does not violate the mitzva of dwelling in the succah.
A succah built where dwelling it in always causes suffering is not kosher (Rama OC 640:4).
Mitzta’er is when one suffers in the succah and is permitted to leave it. The exemption of mitzta’er is because anyone would change locations if the place he is in is unbearable. Just as one would take his meal from the dining room to the kitchen if there was a sudden mosquito invasion, a mosquito onslaught on Sukkot allows for leaving the succah and going to eat elsewhere. The same is true for when it rains etc. Leaving the succah does not change one’s permanent weeklong residence – it temporarily changes his position for those activities which cannot take place in the succah (Rashba responsa, volume 4 chapter 78).
Mitzta’er is invoked when one would leave his place even if it is a temporary dwelling. Therefore, the Rama rules (OC 640:4) that a crowded Succah is not considered mitzta’er, and Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach explains (HaSuccah, 28) that crowding is normal in a temporary abode and therefore not considered mitzta’er.
The classic example of mitzta’er is raining. Chazal describe the amount of rain that qualifies for mitzta’er as enough to ruin a fava-bean dish (Succah 2:9; Shulchan Aruch OC 639:5). The Rama (ibid) explains this does not mean that one must be eating fava beans or for the rain to have actually ruined the food. Rather, this indicates the amount of rain that sends people searching for a dry place (Rama).
The poskim write (Eshel Avraham 640:4) that only if one would move from a large dining room to a small, cramped storage space due to the circumstances should one leave the succah.
If the rain does not drip through the schach one should remain in the succah, and a blessing is recited on the mitzva of dwelling in the succah (Mishna Brura 639:33). However, those who are known to be supersensitive to even the slightest drizzle can leave the succah in a drizzle (ibid).
One who finds it hard to determine if he would leave his home in such conditions or not and remains in the succah merits a mitzva but no blessing is recited (Mishna Brura 639:33).
A Sukkot heatwave can be just as uncomfortable as rain. One who would leave his living space in search of a cooler spot is considered suffering in the heat. Therefore if a heatwave is predicted, one should take steps to make his succah is as comfortable as possible (Mishna Brura 639:31).
The same is true for the cold – if the weather is so freezing that one would leave his living room at home in search for a warmer spot, leaving the succah is permissible. However, if one can put on a coat or cover himself with a quilt, he should do so and not leave the succah (MB 639:31). An important note: heating in the succah is recommended only if done safely and there is no danger involved. Just as Chazal see lighting candles in a small succah as a fire hazard, so too with heating (MB, ibid).
The same is true when flies or bugs suddenly overrun the area – if one would leave his living room for a bug-free place, one can leave the succah (MB 639:31).
Another example is winds – when the wind is strong enough that it causes pieces of schach to fall into the succah, one who is bothered by it to the extent he would leave his living area if it happened at home is permitted to leave the succah. It is important here to note that one who is bothered by dust and schach debris should be careful to build his succah in a wind-free area (MB 639:31).
Returning to the Succah
After starting to eat outside the succah when eating inside was impossible, one is not obligated to move back, even after the cause has disappeared (Shulchan Aruch 639:6).
If the cause disappears before starting to eat, even after the table has been set, one must move his meal back to the succah. Once he sat down, though, even if hasn’t yet begun eating, he is not obligated to move back to the succah. However, the Mishna Brura (639:38) notes the opinions that do require moving.
Question: Living in Fairbanks, Alaska, we are used to freezing weather. We dress accordingly and have no problem dwelling in the succah, but the soup often freezes in the succah and eating it is really difficult. Can the soup course be eaten inside?
Answer: You should begin eating your meal in the succah, where you should eat the courses that do not freeze so quickly. Then, when you reach the soup, you may come into the house to eat it. Then you can finish the rest of the meal inside. Even if the final courses are not of the sort that freeze so quickly, you are no longer obligated to return to the succah. Additionally, changing your regular meal sequence is unnecessary.
However, the Mishna Brura writes that if the pot of soup can be easily placed in a bucket of hot water (or thermos) to keep it warm one must do so, and not leave his succah.
One who finds certain things disconcerting, even if others don’t normally experience discomfort from them is not considered mitz’ta’er, and is not permitted to leave the succah for it (Rama, 640:4). A known highly sensitive person, though, may leave the succah (MB, footnote 29). The elderly, too, who find certain things distressful due to their age are permitted to leave the succah when those causes are present (Eshel Avraham 640:4).
The First Night of Succos
After learning the general rules of mitz’ta’er, let us touch upon the halachos unique to the first night of the holiday (and the second night, outside of EY).
Chazal (Succah 27a) derive that the mitzva of eating bread in the succa is required on the first night of Sukkot is equal just like one is required to eat matza on the first night of Pesach. For the rest of the holiday — just as eating matza all Pesach is non-compulsory and only one who wishes to eat bread must do so with unleavened bread, so too on Succos: one is not obligated to eat bread or grain-based foods in the Succah on Sukkot. Only if he wishes to do so is he obligated to do so in the Succah.
Since the source of the mitzva is derived from the mitzva of matza, there are several other similarities:
The Rishonim disagree as for how much bread must be eaten in the succah. The disagreement revolves around the nature of the mitzva: The mitzva of matza requires eating a minimum of 30 cubic centimeters of matzah (according to the more stringent opinions), but to fulfill the mitzva of dwelling in the succah on a regular day one must eat a meal, which is between 50-100 cubic centimeters of bread (depending upon the different opinions).
The Mishna Brura rules (639:19) that on the first (and second) night of Sukkot a kezayis of bread must be eaten in the succah. However, it is recommended to be stringent and eat slightly more than an egg-size portion (50-100 cubic centimeters).
Cakes Instead of Bread
The Mishna Brura deduces several halachos from the previous halacha (639:19): while all Sukkot one is permitted to eat less than an egg-size portion of grain-based food outside the succah, on the first night doing so outside the Succah is forbidden. Additionally, only one who eats a kezayis of bread on the first night of Sukkot can recite the bracha upon performing the mitzva of dwelling in the succah.
The following question was sent by a community where the only succah was the one built in the shul courtyard. While they would usually gather there for kiddush and a small challah roll after maariv, one year the shul wanted to exchange the challah rolls with cake. Was that possible?
The Mishna Brura (639:21) writes that since the mitzva is a biblical one, we should be stringent and fulfil it specifically with bread.
The Rama rules that while kiddush can usually be recited even before the stars come out (times appear on local calendars), on the first night ofSukkot one should be careful not to make kiddush any earlier.
It is important to make sure to eat before midnight, just as matza should preferably be eaten before midnight. Nevertheless, one who didn’t manage to eat before midnight should do so even afterwards. However, one who is only going to eat a kezayis, if it is past midnight he should not recite the blessing of “leishev ba’succah” (MB 639:26, Sha’ar Hatziyun).
On the second night, the Mishna Brura allows for leniency in making kiddush any time after sunset, but notes the opinions that require waiting until the stars are out, just like on the first night.
Just like the mitzva of eating matza should be completed within a specific time limit, so too the first kezayis of bread on Sukkot night. The Mishna Brura writes (639:22) that the first kezayis of bread should be eaten within two to four minutes. While this time span is more difficult for matza, eating bread or challah at this rate is quite easy and only demands our attention not to eat too slowly. Rabbi Pinchas Scheinberg adds (Kovetz Hamoadim, Succos p.707) that even one who is stringent to eat a meal size of bread on the first night of Sukkot (egg-size) needs to eat only a kezayis within 2-4 minutes.
In eating bread on the first night of Sukkot, one must specifically intend to fulfill the mitzvah of eating bread in the succah. The Chida (More Be’Etzba, 9:290) and Mate Efraim (625:53) require specific intention for this mitzva, and not just the general mitzvah of dwelling in the succah. This is also Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach’s opinion (Halichos Shlomo, Succos 9:3).
One who did not necessarily have this mitzva in mind when eating the first peace of challah on Sukkos night but was aware of the mitzva and obligation to do so has fulfilled his obligation (MB 475:34, according to Shulchan Aruch OC 475:4).
Rain On the First Night
While raining during Sukkot exempts one from eating in the succah, on the first night of Sukkot the mitzva is not cancelled in the rain.
The Rishonim are disputed if one is obligated to eat the first kezayis of bread in the succah despite being mitzta’er (Trumas Hadeshen, psakim 160), or if one who eats while suffering does not fulfil the mitzva because that is not how one would eat at home (Rashba, IV, chapter 78). The Mishna Brura writes that the Shulchan Aruch doesn’t give a decisive ruling on this matter.
The Rama rules (639:5) that if it rains on the first night of Sukkot one should make kiddush and eat a kezayis of bread in the succah, then go back home for the rest of the meal. This satisfies the opinions that require eating in the succah on the first night of Sukkot, even if it is raining. However, when eating in the rain no blessing should be recited. If it stops raining, one should return to the succah and again eat a kezayis to fulfill the mitzva according to all opinions.
The Mishna Brura (639:35) notes the Chayei Adam and Bikurei Yaakov (volume III, 45) who maintain that waiting too late to eat violate the mitzvah to enjoy the Yom Tov. The Elya Raba and Pri Megadim require waiting only one or two hours. One who suffers even from this wait (because he is hungry or tired), should not wait at all (Mishna Brura, Sha’ar Hatziyun footnote 67). Instead, he should go into the wet succah, make kiddush and eat a kezayis, then continue his meal in the house. If the rain stops one should go into the succah and eat another kezayis. One who has poor or hungry guests is forbidden to postpone his meal — inviting poor or hungry guests creates a pledge for tzedakah. Since they are hungry now and the food is ready, not serving them transgresses a Torah prohibition of “Bal te’acher” – Do Not Postpone.
Raining on the Second Night (Outside EY)
On the second night the Mishna Brura writes to only wait a little bit to see if the rain stops, and not more. If the rain doesn’t stop, kiddush should be recited in the house. If the rain doesn’t let up until the end of the meal, one should go out to the succah and eat a kezayis of bread in the succah without a bracha in the rain. If it stops raining after the meal has ended, and the schach is no longer dripping, one should go out to the succah and eat a little more than an egg-size of bread with a blessing.
Have a very enjoyable Succos