07. Sleeping and Dozing Off in the Sukka

Sleeping in the sukka is obligatory, whether one is going to sleep for the night (sheinat keva) or taking a nap (sheinat ara’i). In this, sleeping differs from eating; akhilat ara’i is permitted outside the sukka because people snack outside the home all year long (explained above, section 4). Sleeping is stricter because even sheinat ara’i is significant, as even a short nap can be refreshing, and people generally do not nap outside the home. Therefore, even sheinat ara’i must be in the sukka (Sukka 26a; SA 639:2).

Some people tend to doze off unintentionally while traveling or during lectures. This type of involuntary dozing off is not considered sheinat ara’i and is not prohibited outside the sukka. The difference between the cases is clear: In the case of sheinat ara’i, one puts his head down on a desk or some other support in order to sleep for a little while, and many people are careful not to sleep like this in public. In contrast, one who is dozing off actually wishes to remain awake but dozes off involuntarily and jolts awake periodically.[11]

There are additional issues when it comes to sleeping in the sukka. For a variety of reasons, some people find it hard to sleep in a sukka. The question is: At what point are they considered mitzta’arim who are exempt from sleeping in the sukka? To clarify this basic law, we must first explain the status of a mitzta’er.


[11]. If someone is dozing off during the Torah reading, Ben Ish Ḥai (Haazinu §8) states that he should be woken up. Others maintain that one is not required to wake up someone who dozed off involuntarily in the sukka, since one who is asleep is exempt from performing mitzvot (Halikhot Shlomo 9:17). Others say that the reason one should not wake him up is because he has the status of mitzta’er (Maharil Diskin; Ḥazon Ovadia, p. 201). Some maintain if the dozing off is brief (less than the amount of time it takes to walk 100 amot, which some estimate at 54 seconds), there is no prohibition involved. (See MB 639:11, which states that this is implied by R. Yitzḥak ibn Gi’at.) It would seem the primary distinction in practice is between one who intends to take a nap and puts his head down, who should be woken up since he is neglecting a Torah commandment, and one who dozes off involuntarily while sitting up; his sleep is not considered sheinat ara’i because he does not intend to sleep.

If one is traveling to perform a mitzva or to avoid a financial loss, he may lie down on a bench to sleep a little if this is his usual practice, because his travel is for a permissible purpose, the status of the sukka is the same as the status of the home all year long, and some people regularly nap while traveling. However, if one is on a trip or traveling for another non-mitzva reason, he may not sleep a sheinat ara’i outside of a sukka (as explained below, section 14), though involuntary dozing is not forbidden. See Rema 640:3 and Harḥavot.

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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