09. More on the Status of Mitzta’er

If a large number of flies or mosquitoes are in one’s sukka, he has no way of getting rid of them, and they are causing him pain or discomfort; or if there is a bad smell in the sukka; or if it is extremely hot in the afternoon, cold at night, or windy, and clothes are not enough to alleviate the discomfort – if his discomfort is severe enough that if it were to happen in his home, he would move into a significantly less comfortable place he has nearby, he is exempt from sukka. This is on condition that his leaving the sukka will alleviate his discomfort. However, if he would suffer from the mosquitoes or the bad smell even in his home, then he must remain in the sukka (SA and Rema 640:4).

In a situation where particularly sensitive people suffer discomfort, while most people do not – for example, when a wind blows some leaves from the sekhakh onto the table – the people in the majority must remain in the sukka, while those who are sensitive are exempt. However, one cannot maintain that he suffers from something that even sensitive people normally do not mind. When someone is at such an extreme, we say that his personal disposition is disregarded in light of the norm, and he must eat and sleep in the sukka (Rema 640:4; MB ad loc. 28-29).

If someone was derelict and built a particularly rickety sukka, he may not then claim during the festival that he suffers from being in it, even though it does not adequately protect him from the vagaries of the weather. Since he put up this rickety sukka, he obligated himself to live in it during Sukkot without complaint. If he nevertheless complains and claims that he is suffering, it becomes clear retroactively that he sinned and abrogated the mitzva by putting up an inadequate sukka. He must immediately make efforts to reinforce his sukka so it does not cause him discomfort. (See above, 2:14, and below, end of section 13.)

If the lights went out in the sukka on Friday night but there is light in the home, one may eat at home, since eating in the dark is a discomfort. If it would not be too much trouble to eat in a neighbor’s sukka, he should do so, but if it would be very unpleasant or difficult, then he is considered mitzta’er and exempt from sukka (Rema 640:4; MB ad loc. 22-23).

If one is exempt from sukka because of the discomfort entailed by eating there – for example when it is raining – but he nevertheless insists upon eating there while being rained on, he is not performing a mitzva. Rather, he is doing something foolish. There is even a sinful aspect to it, for one must honor the festival, and it is forbidden to cause oneself suffering on it. However, it is different if one began his meal in the house because it was raining, and then the rain stopped. While he is not required to return to the sukka, if he does so he is rewarded for it, since his sitting in the sukka does not entail discomfort (BHL 639:7 s.v. “hedyotot”).

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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