The Sukkah and Sleeplessness

The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe displayed two contrasting modes of behavior with respect to dwelling in the Sukkah were observed: He was scrupulous with regard to eating and drinking exclusively in the Sukkah, so much so that he would not even drink water outside it.1 But he slept in his house.2

It would seem that the opposite should have been the case: The obligation to sleep in a Sukkah carries a greater stringency than that of eating and drinking there. For one may eat a light repast (and surely drink water) outside the Sukkah, while even a short nap is prohibited.3

Now, it is true that difficulties resulting from time and place free a person from the obligation to sleep in the Sukkah, as we find the law4 that “where it is painful to sleep in the Sukkah because of the cold … it is not necessary to sleep in the Sukkah … for whoever is distressed by dwelling in the Sukkah is free from the obligation to dwell there.”

Nevertheless, this does not resolve the question concerning the Previous Rebbe’s conduct, inasmuch as difficulties such as these had absolutely no bearing on his eating and drinking. Even when it was raining — during which time one may surely eat in the house5 — he would not eat outside the Sukkah.

The Mitteler Rebbe once asked his chassidim:6 “How is it possible to sleep in Makkifim d’Binah?” This means that the Sukkah is illuminated by an extremely lofty level of holiness. As such, the Mitteler Rebbe expressed astonishment that his chassidim could sleep there, in keeping with the verse:7 “Behold, G‑d is to be found in this place, and I knew it not,” upon which Rashi comments: “Had I known, I would not have slept in so sacred a place.”

So when one is clearly aware of the holiness of the Sukkah, the law allows one to sleep in his home. For when a person knows he will be unable to fall asleep in the Sukkah, he is permitted to sleep in his house.

This is why the Previous Rebbe did not sleep in the Sukkah: While in the Sukkah he felt the tremendous revelation of the holiness. This kept him from being able to sleep there.

However, this only explains the conduct of the Previous Rebbe and other select individuals who were able to actually feel the holiness that manifests itself in the Sukkah. We observe, however, that even chassidim who were unable to feel this tremendous sanctity failed to sleep in the Sukkah.

The explanation is as follows: As loyal and dedicated followers of the Rebbeim, chassidim imitate their behavior.8 Especially so, since their inability to conduct themselves in a manner similar to their Rebbeim would cause them pain — in turn freeing them from the obligation to sleep in the Sukkah.

Particularly so, as the Mitteler Rebbe demanded to know of his chassidim how it was possible for them to sleep in the Sukkah. Therefore a chassid who is close to his Rebbe finds it impossible to sleep in the Sukkah. For although the sacred illumination of the Sukkah does not disturb his sleep, he is pained by this very fact.

And even an individual who is untroubled by his inability to feel the holiness of the Sukkah is pained if the saying of the Mitteler Rebbe does not penetrate him.

Accordingly, the very fact that he is able to sleep without pain in the Sukkah causes him pain. And one who is pained is free from sleeping in the Sukkah.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXIX, pp. 211-219.

The “Aravah-Jew”

Our Sages state in the Midrash9 that the esrog, lulav, haddasim and aravos used during Sukkos to fulfill the commandment to take the “Four Kinds” each symbolize a particular kind of Jew.

The esrog , or citron, which possesses both a tangy taste and fine fragrance, symbolizes the Jew who possesses both Torah learning and good deeds. Since the study of Torah is an intellectual pursuit and is to be enjoyed and savored, it is likened to taste; the performance of mitzvos through the acceptance of the Divine yoke is likened to fragrance — something much less tangible.

The lulav , or palm branch, alludes to those Jews who possess Torah study but not mitzvos; like dates on a palm tree, they possess good taste but lack fragrance.

Haddasim , or myrtles, which have a pleasant aroma but lack taste, are symbolic of those Jews who possess good deeds but lack Torah study.

Finally, aravos , or willow branches, lacking both taste and fragrance, symbolize those Jews void of both Torah study and good deeds.

A cursory reading of the Midrash could lead one to believe that only the “esrog Jew” possesses both Torah and good deeds.

The Rebbe Rayatz, however, in speaking10 of the “aravah Jew,” stated explicitly that “aravah alludes to simple Jews who perform mitzvos out of simple faith.” Moreover, he goes on to state11 that “all Jews are similar in the aspect of the performance of Torah and mitzvos.”

Thus all four categories of Jews possess the performance of Torah study, i.e., Torah knowledge, and the performance of mitzvos.

In fact, this is to be understood from the above-quoted Midrash itself. For he who studies Torah properly also performs mitzvos, inasmuch as Torah study necessarily leads to deed.12 Additionally, he who possesses good deeds must possess Torah knowledge as well, for otherwise he would not know how to perform mitzvos.

We thus understand that the “aravah Jew” also possesses Torah performance and mitzvos.

The difference between these four categories of Jews is merely with regard to the quality of their performance of Torah and mitzvos.

Torah is related to the quality of intellect, and good deeds to the quality of emotion. Herein lies the difference between these four categories. Esrog alludes to those Jews whose performance of Torah and mitzvos is permeated by both intellect and emotion. Lulav refers to those who primarily possess the quality of intellect, and hadas connotes those Jews who chiefly possess the quality of emotion.

Aravah , then, refers to the service of the simple Jew, whose Torah study and performance of mitzvos lack both intellectual and emotional depth; they perform mitzvos out of simple faith.

But the “aravah Jew” also possesses a quality13 in relation to the other three categories, in that — as the Baal Shem Tov stated14 — his simplicity is at one with G‑d’s utter simplicity.15

This quality is also mirrored in the willow branch. Our Sages explain16 that these four kinds were chosen because they all embody an aspect of unity. The branches of the lulav are all attached; the hadas has three leaves growing out of the same stem, the esrog grows on its tree for an entire year — thereby uniting the four disparate seasons — and aravos grow in clusters.

Of these four kinds, only the willow branch is united not only in and of itself, but also with other willows, growing as it does in clusters. The reason for this broader unity is because it is permeated with a greater simplicity than the other kinds.

In fact, the revealed qualities of the other kinds — intellect, emotion, or the combination of both — may work against them. For revealed qualities tend to conceal the essence. The “aravah Jew” who performs mitzvos out of simple faith may thus be more in touch with his soul’s essence — “a part of G‑d above”17 — than are Jews whose revealed qualities are manifest.

Based on Likkutei Sichos , Vol. XXIX, pp. 223-225.