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Halachot of Succah


Rabbi Dovid Horwitz

Mitzvah of Succah

1. It is a Mitzvah to dwell in the succah for seven days. There are two reasons why we were given this mitzvah. According to Rebi Eliezer, we sit in the succah to remember the miraculous succot that we dwelled in during our exodus from Egypt. These dwellings were built by Hashem Himself with His “Clouds of Glory” to protect the Jewish people in the desert. According to Rebbe Akiva, who was of the opinion that the succot that they dwelled in were, in fact, man-made, the reason for this mitzvah is to remember our miraculous existence in the desert when all of our sustenance came from Hashem. In both these ways, the mitzvah of succah helps to instill within us a sense of gratitude for all of our material sustenance.

2.  Since the Torah goes out of its way to tell us the reason for this mitzvah, one should be conscious when entering the succah that one is fulfilling this mitzvah as a remembrance to Yetziat Mitzrayim and the Clouds of Glory.

Dwelling in the Sukkah

1. The mitzvah of dwelling in the succah includes eating, sleeping, and relaxing in the succah. Many authorities maintain that a person is obligated to live in the succah even if one is not engaged in any activity. In other words, one should “hang out” in the succah if there is no pressing reason to be elsewhere.

2. One should attempt to make the succah as comfortable as possible so that it is more conducive for people to spend time there.


3. Since it is also part of the mitzvah, one should make a great effort to sleep in the succah for the entire seven days of the festival.

Eating in the Succah

1. Any bread product consumed during Succot, whether as a snack or meal, must be eaten in the succah and the brachah of lei’shev ba’succah recited.

2. Noodles, oatmeal and cereals whose brachah is mezonot must also be eaten in the succah. If they are being eaten as a meal, then a brachah of lei’shev ba’succah is recited. If they are being eaten as a snack, then the brachah of lei’shev ba’succah is not recited.

3. Cake and cookies are considered closer to the bread family than noodles and therefore the custom is to recite a brachah of lei’shev ba’succah even if they are only being eaten as a snack.

4. Since there are some opinions which reason that one should not recite lei’shev ba’succah on cake eaten as a snack, the Mishnah Berurah writes that a person should have in mind to linger in the sukkah after finishing to eat so that the brachah will be additionally warranted by the act of dwelling in the succah.

5. Fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, and the like can be eaten outside of the succah if they are being eaten as a snack. If one makes a meal out of these foods, it is preferable to eat in the succah although a brachah is not recited. 

6. A person who is in the middle of a meal, which obligates one to eat in the succah, must be careful not to eat or drink anything, even water, outside of the succah. Even water must be drunk in the succah if it is being consumed during a meal.

First night of Sukkot

1. There is a mitzvah to eat a k’zayit of bread on the first night of Succot just as there is a mitzvah to eat a k’zayit of matzah on the first night of Pesach.

2. Like the mitzvah of matzah, one should eat the bread on Succot night with an appetite. Therefore one should not eat bread from three hours before sundown on erev Succot in order to be hungry when beginning to eat in the succah.

3. The bread should be eaten alone, in order to properly savor the taste of the bread. It should be consumed within two to four minutes.

4. One should also have in mind the reasons for this mitzvah, as mentioned above, when consuming the first measure of bread.

Brachah of Lei’shev Ba’sukah

1. The brachah of lei’shev ba’succah can extend to more than one meal, as long as one has not left the succah for a significant duration of time.

2. For example, if a person makes the brachah over breakfast and then remains in the sukkah until lunch, the person does not need to make a new brachah over lunch since the brachah that was said with breakfast is still valid.

3. If one left the succah between breakfast and lunch for an hour or so, than one would make a new brachah with lunch.

4. Since some authorities rule that one is obligated to make a brachah on the succah whenever one enters it with the intent of spending time there, it is preferable to eat a piece of cake upon entering the succah, in order to recite the brachah.

5.  If one forgot to make the brachah of lei’shev ba’succah at the start of the meal, one can still make it during the course of the meal. Even after the completion of the meal, the brachah can still be made as it extends to the act of dwelling in the succah as well.

Women

1. As the mitzvah to live in the succah is both positive and time-bound, women are not obligated.

2. The prevailing custom is that women do make a brachah if they desire to eat in the succah.

Children

A boy who is already five or six years old is obligated in succah. Therefore, he must not eat bread and mezonot outside the succah. He is also obligated to sleep in the succah.

Traveler

Although a man on a journey is exempt from the mitzvah of succah, this is only true for one who must travel to make a living. A man who is on a pleasure trip or vacation certainly cannot rely on this leniency, and must vacation only in places where he will have the use of a succah.

Lulav & Etrog

1. On Succot, it is a mitzvah to shake the Four Species, Lulav, Etrog, Hadasim and Aravot every day of the festival aside from Shabbat.

2. The Lulav, Hadasim and Aravot must be tied together in order to fulfill the mitzvah.

3. Since women are not obligated in the mitzvah of Lulav, a man over the age of Bar Mitzvah should tie the three species together. If one uses a “Lulav holder”, a man should place the Hadasim and Aravot into the holder.

4. With the spine of the Lulav facing the person, the species should be arranged so that the Hadasim  are on the right side, slightly higher than the Aravot on the left. The upper spine of the Lulav should extend beyond the tip of the Hadasim by eight to ten centimeters.

Shaking the Lulav & Etrog

1. Since the brachah of Al N’tilat Lulav should be recited before the Lulav and Etrog are held together, the custom is to pick up the Etrog upside down, recite the blessing, and only then to turn it right side up, holding it together with the Lulav.

2. A right-handed person takes the Lulav in the right hand and the Etrog in the left.

3. A left-handed person holds the Lulav in the left hand and the Etrog in the right.

4. After the brachah is recited and the Lulav and Etrog are being held together, they should be shaken in all six directions, making sure that they are touching each other while being shaken.

Chag sameach!





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