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Do I have to sleep in the sukkah?

Do I have to sleep in the sukkah?

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The Talmud tells us that during sukkot a man is obligated to sleep in the sukkah.1 This is quoted as binding in the latter Halachic works as well.2

However, it appears that that at least since the 13th century the common practice is to sleep indoors. There are a number of different suggestions why this is so. All of them are based on the fact that the obligation to dwell in the sukkah does not apply if it makes a person at all uncomfortable.3

The thirteenth-century sage, Rabbi Mordechai ben Hillel Ashkenazi, writes that most people of his time did not sleep in the sukkah and suggests that this is because the cold weather made it uncomfortable—and therefore unnecessary.4

Rabbeinu Manoach ben Yaakov (13th-14th centuries) adds the additional concern that sleeping in the sukkah puts the person and his belongings in danger of being robbed.5

Rabbi Mordechai Jaffe (1530-1612) writes that even if a person would be able to keep warm in the sukkah, if it is inconvenient to shlep bedding to and from the sukkah every night, he does not need to sleep in the sukkah.6

Rabbi Moshe Isserles (1520-1572) feels that the dispensation not to sleep in the sukkah has nothing to do with weather and writes that it is because the sukkah is not private enough for a man to sleep there with his wife.7

Rabbi David HaLevi Segal (c. 1586-1667) takes this one step further by writing that sleeping alone is not a very festive way to celebrate the holiday. Celebrating the holiday with one's wife is a mitzvah which trumps the obligation to sleep in the sukkah.8

Nevertheless, in modern times and particularly in warmer climates, it has become more common in some communities to make the effort to sleep in a sukkah.

Interestingly, the Chabad custom—which is quite stringent with regards to the other sukkah-related obligations—is to not sleep in the sukkah. Read The Sukkah and Sleeplessness to find out why this is so.

Please let me know if this helps.

Yours truly,

Rabbi Menachem Posner

Footnotes
1.

Mishna, Sukkah 20b

2.

Code of Jewish Law 639

3.

Code of Jewish Law 640:4

4.

Mordechai Sukkah 741

5.

Rabbeinu Manoach Commentary to Rambam 3:6

6.

Levush 640:4

7.

Ramo 639:2

8.

Taz 639:9

Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for Chabad.org.
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Anonymous September 22, 2010

To Sleeping in the sukka If that is what the Ramah says (and I dont know, I havnt looked it up) it would seem to mean that the if the sukka CANNOT be slept in then it cannot be eaten in. That does not mean that a sukkah that CAN be slept in (due to size and other factors I presume) but was not slept in is not kosher for eating in. Gut Yom Tov and a Gut Yur. Reply

Anonymous April 24, 2009

whats the final law I live in a very warm climate and I made my first sukkah last year and was all excited when I was told that I shouldn't sleep in it because the rebbe said that it was too holy of a place to sleep in. I can understand that if the rebbe felt the shechina in his sukkah he wouldn't want to sleep there. I am not a tzaddik and I don't yet perceive the shechina in my sukkah. I also am not a firm believer in "because the rebbe did it" Sure many of his behaviors should be emulated by his followers due to his high level of wisdom and his way of knowing whats best for everyone, but if he was offered some peanuts to eat and it happened that he was allergic and turned them down, does that mean, as far as chabad is concerned, peanuts aren't kosher? Bottom line, can I attend a chabad shule and adopt many of their customs but still sleep in my sukkah if I feel like I am able to perform this mitzva? Reply

Menachem Posner, author October 28, 2008

Thank You! Thanks to the helpful suggestions of the posters who felt that this article seemed too one sided, I have made some changes which hopefully represent a wider spectrum of Jewish observance today. Reply

Anonymous NEve Daniel, Israel October 19, 2008

selective sources Rabbi Posner conveniently forgets to quote the " baal hatanya " who was the founder of the chabd movement who says one should sleep in the succah.

Let not get confused, sleeping in the Succah is an absolute requirement if reasonable conditions prevail. Reply

Zalman October 19, 2008

Important Paragraph Missing The presentation of sources does a great job of enlightenning people of the halachic basis for not sleeping in a sukkah. Notwithstanding that and the Chabad custom, which has its firm roots in halachah and kabbalah, it would still be appropriate to add a paragraph that acknowledges those that DO sleep in a sukkah. Before mentioning Chabad custom and its rationale, the answer should read, "Nevertheless, in modern times and particularly in warmer climates, it has become common custom in most communities to make the effort to sleep in a sukkah." The way the article currently reads without this paragraph, it almost seems like one who sleeps in the sukkah is 1500 years out of touch, which is certanily not the case and I don't think it was the article's nor the Rebbe's goal to dissuade people from sleeping in a sukkah. Chabad custom can stand well enough on its own. Reply

George October 16, 2008

Huh?! Rabbi Posner did indeed quote the Ramo (Rabbi Moshe Isserles) who wrote that you do not need to sleep in the sukkah since it is not fit for men and women together. Reply

Anonymous dayton, OHIO October 15, 2008

sleeoing in the succah Rabbi Posner does not mention the opinion of the Rame. Who was the final decision maker for askenazic Jews. He says that someone who uses a succah thats cannot be slept in also cannot perform the Mitzvah of eating in the Succah. Without any external reasons as cold weather or mosquitoes it is completely obligatory to sleep in the succah. Saying otherwise is changing the Jewish way Reply

An Editor October 12, 2008

Re: Lax??? The wording has been changed. Thanks for pointing this out. Reply

Ephraim FL October 12, 2008

Re: HABADNIKS NOT SLEEPING IN THE SUKKA You write (and you base your entire comment on):

"all the exemptions cited, to justify not sleeping in the sukka, are based on discomfort and danger, in Europe..."

Did you actually READ what Rabbi Posner wrote??? Reply

Anonymous October 12, 2008

Lax???? "is lax in this case" implies that the Chabad custom is looking for a loophole. Furthermore, by not citing the actual reasons here, it makes it seem even more like this is the case.

I think both of these issues should be corrected in this response. Reply

Yaakov Fogelman jerusalem, israel October 11, 2008

HABADNIKS NOT SLEEPING IN THE SUKKA all the exemptions cited, to justify not sleeping in the sukka, are based on discomfort and danger, in Europe;obviously, where there is no discomfort or danger, the mitzvah applies; the Baal Hatanya wrote that one must indeed make his sukkah comfortable for his wife too; when the late rebbe wrote to justify Habad ignoring this law, he did not give any of these reasonable factors; instead, he claimed a mysterious spirit of bina in the sukka, which prevents sleep there- this is not found in Tanach or Talmud; I believe that Rebbe Dov Ber invented this, to prevent his simple hassidim from from despondancy, when they could not sleep in the sukka. A custom not to sleep in the sukka due to these factors is irrelevant, when conditions change for the better, or can be bettered. I urge all Habbadniks, as did Rav Gorelick of Kfar Chabad and other Chabad leaders, to sleep in their sukkot, in warm, safe Israel, where we should all be living. Reply

Tzvi Hauser Los Angeles, CA October 10, 2008

Re: Dear Moishele Huh? Me thinks you are not too versed in halachah...

Minhag Yisroel Torah (a Jewish custom is "Torah"). Minhag mivatel din (a Jewish custom supercedes a Jewish law). If a community has a "custom" not to sleep in the sukkah (which the Rama, the halachic desicor whom all Ashkenazi Jews follow, confirms that this is common practice), then we follow it. Period.

There are numerous such instances, but let me suffice with one. Look in the Talmud and the Rishonim, and see that tehre is a CLEAR halachah (based on a verse in Ezekiel, no less!) that a mourner has to cover his mustache. Have you ever seen that done? NBow, please go ask your rabbi whether someone should be "stringent" and cover teh mustach as per Talmudic law... Reply

Anonymous October 10, 2008

Dear Moishele, All these reasons are to defend the custom not to sleep in the sukkah. If you don't mind shlepping your bedding back and forth, sleeping without your wife, and risking having your stuff stolen, you certainly *should* sleep in the sukkah Reply

Zev October 8, 2008

Lax? I appreciated the well researched article.
Whilst reading it, I was anticipating the final paragraph, which I assumed would have a take on Chabad policy.
However, I didn't like the phrase "is lax in this case', and it is actually a contradictory expression from one line earlier - "which is actually quite stringent".
Even though you made reference to another article dedicated to expounding upon this 'surprising' custom, yet I think you should've been quite clear, albeit in your short few lines, about the Chabad stance.
Chabad may seem to be lax in this area, but really, they have a very profound rational for why they explicitly do not sleep in the Sukkah. Reply

Moishele Fort Dix, NJ October 7, 2008

Fine job! Brilliantly researched!

But why then do some Jews insist on sleeping in the sukkah? Reply

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