The mitzva is for one to reside in his sukka during the seven days of the festival in the manner that he normally resides in his home, as we read, “You shall dwell in sukkot seven days” (Vayikra 23:42). In Sukka 28b, the Sages expound: “‘You shall dwell (teshvu)’ – akin to how you reside (taduru).” Thus, one should have his bed, linens, and utensils in the sukka. But what is not normally done in the home need not be done in the sukka (SA 639:1-2).
There are four parts of the mitzva do dwell in the sukka: a) things that must be done in the sukka; b) things it is a mitzva to do in the sukka; c) things there is no mitzva to do in the sukka; d) things it is forbidden to do in the sukka.
- Things that must be done in the sukka: Anything one generally does at home, he must do in the sukka. Thus, one must eat all proper meals (se’udot keva) and sleep in the sukka, as a home’s primary function is as a place to eat and
- Things it is a mitzva to do in the sukka: It is a mitzva to engage in activities that one sometimes does at home and sometimes elsewhere, like studying Torah, reading books, and chatting with friends, in the sukka, but doing them outside the sukka is not sinful. Nevertheless, since doing them is a mitzva, one should try to do them in the sukka. One who leaves the sukka without a good reason and does these things at home shows contempt for the mitzva.
This category also includes impromptu eating (akhilat ara’i). Technically, there is no obligation to eat fixed meals on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, so it is possible for one to eat only snacks and irregular meals outside the sukka throughout Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. But if he can eat in the sukka without difficulty, then eating at home shows contempt for the mitzva. If it is difficult for him to eat in the sukka (for example, because it is a little cold), snacking at home does not show contempt for the mitzva. Nevertheless, since eating in the sukka fulfills a mitzva, it is proper to be fastidious and eat there. Some even say that there is a mitzva to eat two se’udot keva with bread in the sukka each day.
- Things there is no mitzva to do in the sukka: Activities that are always done outside the home, like praying with a minyan and attending Torah classes, need not be moved to the sukka and may be done le-khatḥila in the synagogue or beit midrash.
- Things it is forbidden to do in the sukka: Demeaning things, like changing a baby’s diaper, may not be done in the sukka. (See note 2 below.)
Women are not obligated in the mitzva of sukka, because it is a time-bound positive commandment. Nevertheless, women fulfill a mitzva by dwelling in the sukka, and the custom of Ashkenazic women and some Sephardic women is to recite the berakha of Leishev Ba-sukka if they eat in the sukka. The custom of most Sephardic women is not to recite the berakha since they have no obligation (SA 589:6; Peninei Halakha: Women’s Prayer 2:8 n. 9).