02. Treating the Sukka Respectfully

All seven days of the festival, one must make the sukka his permanent residence, and the home temporary, as it is written: “You shall dwell in sukkot seven days” (Vayikra 23:42). Therefore, one must bring his good table and chairs into the sukka, and a good bed and sheets, so that he can reside in the sukka as he resides at home all year round. That is, it is not enough to eat and sleep in the sukka; the sukka must be his primary residence. The house should serve only as the kitchen and storage area, helping to meet sukka needs (Sukka 28b).

The Sages tell us that regular Torah study should take place in the sukka. However, if one is studying particularly difficult material, it is preferable for him to do that at home or in the beit midrash, because it is easier to concentrate there (Sukka 28b; SA 639:4). If one finds it difficult to concentrate in the sukka due to heat or noise, even ordinary study material may be taken inside, as Torah study is not something normally limited to the home. Similarly, if one who is learning Torah needs many different books and it would be difficult to lug them to the sukka, he may study in the beit midrash or in his library even le-khatḥila.

Even though one must treat his sukka like his home, there is a difference between them. In a home one does everything necessary, whether dignified or undignified. But we show respect for the sukka by not doing demeaning things there. The sukka must be treated like the nicest and most respectable room in the home. Thus, one may not leave workaday things there, like a bucket or dishpan or anything else one would not leave in the nicest room of the house. One may not wash dishes in the sukka nor change diapers there (Sukka 28b; SA 639:1; AHS ad loc. 4).

After finishing a meal, one must clear away all the dishes as quickly as possible, because it is not respectful to leave dirty dishes sitting in the sukka. However, cups may be left, because they do not look as dirty, and someone may want to drink even after the meal is over. People who normally bring pots to the table may do so on Sukkot as well; but in places where this is considered disrespectful, they should not be brought into the sukka (Sukka 29a; SA 639:1; MB ad loc. 3-6). A garbage can may not be left in the sukka, but a paper recycling bin may be, as one would leave this even in an elegant room in the home.[2]

One should not leave dirty clothes in the sukka. However, someone sleeping in the sukka may take off his clothes and leave them on a chair in the sukka, and take off his socks and shoes there, as he would do at home.

There is no problem with speaking about mundane matters in the sukka. Therefore, if one wants to talk with his friend (in person or on the phone), he should converse in the sukka as he would at home, for whenever he is in the sukka, he fulfills a mitzva (SA 639:1). Similarly, people who want to play chess or Monopoly or other games should play in the sukka. (See Responsa Mahari Weil §191; Darkhei Moshe 639:1.) Some are careful not to engage in mundane matters in the sukka (Shlah; Kaf Ha-ḥayim 639:5-6; see MB ad loc. 2). However, if this leads one to spend less time in the sukka, it is not an enhancement of the mitzva; one who wants to engage in mundane matters should do so in the sukka and thus fulfill a mitzva.


[2]. According to Rabbeinu Mano’aḥ, Raavad, and Rabbeinu Yehonatan, if there are dirty dishes in a sukka it is rabbinically invalid. Thus, one who eats in it may not recite the berakha of Leishev. However, most poskim maintain that even if one demeans the sukka, it remains kosher and the berakha may be recited there (Rabbeinu Tam; Ha-ma’or; Ramban; Ran; Baḥ; MA; Pri Megadim; and others). Nevertheless, le-khatḥila one should show concern for the stringent position (Ḥayei Adam; MB 639:6; SHT ad loc. 13).

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Translated By:
Series Editor: Rabbi Elli Fischer

The Laws of Shabbat (1+2) - Yocheved Cohen
The Laws of Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Women’s Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Pesach - Joshua Wertheimer
The Laws of Zemanim - Moshe Lichtman

Editor: Nechama Unterman