The obligation of sleeping in the Sukkah and why many [including Chabad Chassidim] are lenient

Sleeping in the Sukkah:[1]

The obligation-Letter of the law: Part of the Mitzvah and [Biblical] obligation of dwelling in a Sukkah, is to sleep in the Sukkah throughout all seven days of Sukkos, both by day and night, just as one does in his home throughout the year.[2] It is forbidden to sleep outside of a Sukkah, even for a mere nap.[3] Despite this obligation and prohibition, today the custom of the world is to be lenient and not sleep in the Sukkah, with exception to those who are meticulous in Mitzvos.[4] [Likewise, the Chabad practice is not to sleep in the Sukkah, due to reasons to be explained.] The following are the cases of exceptions and reasons of leniency for why many no longer sleep in the Sukkah:[5]

Rain:[6] During times of rain, even if it is only a mere drizzle, one is not obligated to sleep in the Sukkah, being that it is uncomfortable to sleep there.[7] If the rain stopped, then if he did not yet lie down to go to sleep in his home, he is obligated to return to sleep in the Sukkah. If, however, he already laid down in his house to go to sleep, then he is not required to return to the Sukkah. However, once it is past Alos then if one wakes up and notices the rain has ended, he must return to the Sukkah if he desires to continue sleeping.[8]

Insects-Mosquitos:[9] If one is disturbed by mosquitos in the Sukkah, he is exempt from sleeping in the Sukkah. 

Hot weather:[10] During times of heat, one is not obligated to sleep in the Sukkah, if it is uncomfortable to sleep there.

Cold weather:[11] In cold climate areas, in which it is painful [i.e. uncomfortable] to sleep inside the Sukkah, and one does not own enough blankets and sheets to properly warm himself up[12], then he is not obligated to sleep inside the Sukkah.[13] [If he does own warm enough blankets to protect him from the cold inside the Sukkah, then he must enter them into the Sukkah and sleep there, unless one of the following other exceptions apply.]

Not enough room in the Sukkah for a bed:[14] Even if one owns enough blankets to keep him warm in the Sukkah, if [the Sukkah is small and] one is unable to set up his sleeping quarters in the Sukkah for all seven days of the festival, in a way that he will not need to remove the [bed and] sleeping accessories from the Sukkah during meal times [in order to make space], then he is exempt from sleeping in his Sukkah. This however only applies if removing and setting up the sleeping quarters [daily] is considered an extra burden, and one is distressed by this burden to the point that if he had such a burden in his home he would not [enter the bed and accessories into the bedroom and] sleep there [but would rather sleep in one is obligated to rejoice his wife during the festival and since the wife does not sleep in the Sukkah they sleep with the wife in the house, and hence since one is involved in one Mitzvah he is exempt from another Mitzvah. Nevertheless, it is proper to be stringent to build a Sukkah in a way that one can sleep there together with his wife and hence fulfill both Mitzvahs.[15] the room that the bed and accessories is currently located in].[16]

One who is married:[17] Some Poskim[18] suggest, in defense of those who do not sleep in the Sukkah, that a married man is exempt from sleeping in the Sukkah [at night[19]] if he desires to sleep with his wife in the same room [and his wife does not want to sleep in the Sukkah, or the Sukkah does not provide enough privacy[20]].[21] This applies even if his wife is a Nida.[22] This exemption applies during the nighttime [however not during the day[23]]. Nevertheless, [despite the above suggestive justification] it is proper to be stringent to build a private Sukkah in which one is able to sleep there [even at night] together with his wife.[24]

The custom today:[25] Today, the custom of the world is to be lenient and not sleep in the Sukkah [and so is the Chabad custom[26]], with exception to those who are meticulous in Mitzvos.[27] Some[28] have learned merit for their practice based on the fact that [it is too cold to sleep in the Sukkah[29], or alternatively] regarding married men, due to the fact a married person may sleep at home with his wife [as explained above].

 

Summary:

It is an obligation to sleep in the Sukkah, and it is forbidden to sleep even a mere nap outside of the Sukkah. Despite this obligation and prohibition, today the custom of the world is to be lenient and not sleep in the Sukkah, with exception to those who are very particular in Mitzvos. The Chabad practice is not to sleep in the Sukkah, due to reasons to be explained. The following is the exceptions of cases in which one is exempt from sleeping in the Sukkah:

The exceptions:

1.       Rain: One is not obligated to sleep in the Sukkah when it is raining even slightly.

2.       Mosquitos: One is not obligated to sleep in the Sukkah, if he feels uncomfortable to sleep there due to mosquitos.

3.       Hot: One is not obligated to sleep in the Sukkah, if he feels uncomfortable to sleep there due to the heat.

4.       Cold: If one feels cold in the Sukkah, due to the cold weather and lack of blankets, then he is exempt from sleeping in the Sukkah.

5.       Space: If one is unable to set up his sleeping quarters in the Sukkah without needing to remove the furniture from the Sukkah during meal times, in a way that he would not trouble to do so in his house, then he is exempt from sleeping in his Sukkah.

6.       Married: Some learn that married men are exempt from sleeping in the Sukkah at night if he desires to sleep in the same room as his wife in order to rejoice her.

Noise:

One who is unable to sleep in his Sukkah due to noise, is exempt from doing so and may sleep in his home.

The Chabad custom:[30]

The custom: The custom of many[31] Chabad Chassidim is not to sleep in the Sukkah even if one of the above listed exceptions do not apply, due to the reason to be explained below. This custom dates back to the Alter Rebbe[32], and was instructed by the Mittler Rebbe to the Chassidim.[33] The Rebbe, Rebbe Rayatz and Rebbe Rashab did not sleep in the Sukkah, but rather at home.[34] This custom was also practiced by other Chassidic groups and Chassidic masters, who followed the ways of the Baal Shem Tov.[35] This was the widespread custom of the world in the times of the Rama, as quoted above.[36] Nonetheless, despite this custom and its justification, there are Chabad Chassidim who sleep in the Sukkah[37], and the Rebbe instructed that those who did so until this point are to continue to do so despite the custom and its justification.[38] Furthermore, the Rebbe instructed that one may only follow the custom to not sleep in the Sukkah if the reason to be explained is applicable to him, or if one of the other previous mentioned exceptions apply to him. However, one who feels the reason to be explained is not applicable to him, and also does not have any of the other exceptions apply to him, is obligated to sleep in the Sukkah as is required from the letter of the law, even if he is a Chabad Chassid.[39] [Unfortunately, some have understood the Chabad custom to dismiss the obligation of sleeping in a Sukkah, or even prohibit it, all together. This is clearly a distortion of the custom, and the intents of those who justified it.[40] In addition, some troubled individuals have unfortunately used this custom as a platform to attack the legitimacy of Chabad Chassidim, and spread slander, baseless hatred and transgress various prohibitions of the Torah, which are too many to enumerate. The custom has clear Halachic basis, was defended and instructed by the greatest of Poskim, and was practiced by all Jewry for one reason or another. Those who attack the custom are in truth attacking all those Poskim and the longstanding tradition of Jewry.[41]]

The reason and application:[42] The reason behind the custom is due to another aspect of the exception of Mitztaer/distress, which exempts one from sleeping in the Sukkah, and was not listed above. This aspect of Mitztaer is explained as follows: The Sukkah contains a sublime level of holiness, or G-dly revelation, called Makifim Debina.[43] Chabad Chassidus emphasizes the study of Chassidus which internalizes the knowledge of the above level of Divinity. One who has knowledge of this holiness contained in a Sukkah, will naturally be disturbed to perform any action that is unbefitting of the holiness it contains. Now, since during sleep one is unable to be conscious of the holiness of the Sukkah, as well as the act of sleep in it of itself can be viewed as a disrespect to the holiness of the Sukkah, therefore there is distress involved in sleeping in the Sukkah. Accordingly, since sleeping in the Sukkah causes one spiritual pain, he is exempt from doing so, as anyone who is in pain upon dwelling in the Sukkah is exempt from the Mitzvah. This reason especially applies to those Tzaddikim and Chassidim who are on a level that they could feel the holiness of the Sukkah, and therefore simply cannot fall asleep. Furthermore, it even applies to those who do not feel this level of holiness, if they are nevertheless distressed over the fact that they know it contains this holiness, and are disturbed to act in a disrespectful way towards it, such as to sleep in it. Furthermore, it even applies to those who are not disturbed to sleep in the Sukkah due the holiness of the Sukkah, but simply due to the fact that this is the custom of their Rebbe, and they are distressed to not follow in their Rebbe’s custom. As stated above, if none of these reasons, or other exceptions, are applicable, and one hence finds no disturbance at all in his sleeping in the Sukkah, then he is obligated to do so.

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[1] Admur 639:5 and 7-9

[2] Admur 639:5; Michaber 639:2; Rama 639:1; Mishneh Sukkah 20b; Braisa Sukkah 26a

[3] Admur 639:7; Michaber 639:2; Braisa Sukkah 26a

The reason: Although it is permitted to eat a mere snack outside the Sukkah [and only a set meal is forbidden], nevertheless, regarding sleep, even a temporary sleep is forbidden, as there is no reason to differentiate between a temporary sleep and permanent sleep. The reason for this is because at times a short nap suffices [to power and reenergize a person just like a regular sleep and] therefore it is considered like a complete sleep [Shinas Keva] for which one is obligated to enter into a Sukkah to perform. [Admur ibid; M”A 639:4; Taz 639:5; Rava Sukkah ibid]

Other opinions: Some Poskim write one may sleep up to 100 Ama worth outside the Sukkah. This is approximately 54 seconds. [See 639:2; Piskeiy Teshuvos 639:6]

[4] Admur 639:9; Rama 639:2; Darkei Moshe 639:3; Mordechai Sukkah

[5] The Rama ibid brings the exceptions of cold weather and being married as explanations behind the leniency. Admur ibid however only brings the custom in 639:9, after explaining the exception of cold climates in 639:8, and only brings the reason of marriage as justification.

[6] Admur 639:22; Rama 639:7; Mahariy Viyal 191

[7] The reason: Although regarding the exemption of eating during rainfall we require the food to become ruined due to the excessive rain [in order to grant an exemption], regarding sleep one is not required to measure the amount of rain to this point, as even a mere drizzle disturbs ones sleep, and anyone who is uncomfortable with his dwelling in the Sukkah is exempt from doing so. [Admur ibid]

[8] Admur 639:26

[9] Admur 639:22; M”A 639:15; Or Zarua Sukkah 305; Hagahos Ashri Sukkah 2:20; Yerushalmi Sukkah 2:5

[10] Admur 639:22; M”A 639:15; Or Zarua Sukkah 305; Hagahos Ashri Sukkah 2:20; Yerushalmi Sukkah 2:5

[11] Admur 639:8; Rama 639:2 in first justification of the custom to not sleep in the Sukkah; Bach 640 regarding Russia; Mordechai 741

[12] Admur ibid; M”A 639:7; Levush 640:4

[13] The reason: As anyone who is uncomfortable with his dwelling in the Sukkah is exempt from doing so, as explained in 640:5. [Admur ibid]

[14] Admur 639:8; Levush 640:4

[15] Admur 639:9

[16] The reason: As anyone who is uncomfortable with his dwelling in the Sukkah is exempt from doing so, as explained in 640:5. [Admur ibid] This means to say as follows: If one is troubled by the necessity to remove the table and enter the mattress and blankets for sleeping time and then remove the bed and accessories reenter the table during the time of the meals, then if one would not trouble himself this amount to sleep in his house, he is exempt from sleeping in the Sukkah as everyone who has pain from dwelling in a Sukkah is exempt from the Mitzvah. [ibid]

[17] Admur 639:9

[18] Rama 639:2 “To me it appears…”; Taz 639:9; M”A 639:8; Shlah

[19] Implication of Admur ibid and Taz ibid “Therefore he is exempt from sleeping in the Sukkah at night

[20] Rama ibid

[21] The reason: The reason a married man is exempt from sleeping in the Sukkah if he desires to sleep in the same room as his wife is because a husband is obligated to rejoice his wife during the festival and since women are exempt from [dwelling and sleeping in] the Sukkah [and they thus sleep at home] therefore, if the husband does not desire to sleep elsewhere and separate from his wife, it is considered that he is doing a Mitzvah, and whoever is involved in one Mitzvah is exempt from another Mitzvah, as explained in 640:18. Therefore, he is exempt from sleeping in the Sukkah at night. [Admur ibid; Taz ibid] Alternatively, the reason is because the Mitzvah of Sukkah is fulfilled by dwelling in it as a family, which includes one’s wife, just as one dwells in his home the entire year. Accordingly, if one does not have a private Sukkah in which he can sleep with his wife [and his wife thus will be sleeping at home] he is therefore exempt from sleeping in the Sukkah. [Rama ibid] Seemingly this means that one does not fulfill the Mitzvah of Teishvu Keiyn Taduru when one cannot sleep there with his wife as he does the entire year, and hence if he sleeps in the Sukkah alone he does not fulfill any Mitzvah. [See M”A ibid and explanation of Machatzis Hashekel in Rama and M”A who points to this understanding in Rama] Alternatively, [the Mitzvah is potentially fulfilled even when the husband sleeps there alone, however] when a husband cannot sleep with his wife in the same room he is distressed, and one who is in distress is exempt from the Mitzvah of Sukkah. [M”A ibid; See Machatzis Hashekel ibid that this is an alternative reason, and is not an explanation of the reason of the Rama ibid]

[22] Admur ibid; Taz ibid

The reason: As even when one’s wife is not pure it is possible to rejoice her when her husband secludes with her in a single room. [Admur ibid]

[23] Implication of Admur ibid and Taz ibid

[24] Admur ibid; Rama ibid

The reason: As in such a way, one is able to fulfill both Mitzvahs [of dwelling in the Sukkah and rejoicing one’s wife during the festival]. [Admur ibid]

[25] Admur 639:9; Rama 639:2

[26] See Sefer Hasichos 5699 p. 295; Likkutei Sichos 29 p. 211; Igros Kodesh 11:414; Hamelech Bemisibo 1:63; 2:33; Otzer Minhagei Chabad p. 301-302

[27] Admur 639:9; Rama 639:2; Darkei Moshe 639:3; Mordechai Sukkah

[28] Rama ibid; Taz ibid; M”A ibid

[29] Rama ibid

[30] See Sefer Hasichos 5699 p. 295; Likkutei Sichos 29 p. 211; Igros Kodesh 11:414; Hamelech Bemisibo 1:63; 2:33; Otzer Minhagei Chabad p. 301-302; Talk of Rebbe with Rav Tzevi Kahana [printed in Toras Menachem 5750 10th Sivan]; Articles of Rav Chaim Rappaport

[31] Likkutei Sichos ibid “The custom of Kama Vekama [i.e. many]”; See also Igros Kodesh ibid that “Some of Anash in certain areas do not sleep in the Sukkah”

[32] Talk of Rebbe with Rav Tzevi Kahana [printed in Toras Menachem 5750 10th Sivan]

[33] Sefer Hasichos 5699 p. 295 “The Mittler Rebbe stated “How can one sleep in Makifim of Bina”; Likkutei Sichos 29 p. 211

[34] Likkutei Sichos ibid regarding Rebbe Rayatz; Sefer Hasichos 5745 p. 35 regarding Rebbe Rashab

[35] Nimukei Orach Chaim 639 “There are Tzaddikim who do not sleep in the Sukkah” [he himself wonders at this custom]; So was the custom of the following Chassidic groups: Belz, including Reb Ahron of Belz, [Talk of Rebbe with Rav Tzevi Kahana ibid and received in testimony as stated by the Poper Rebbe and Satmar Rebbe; Rav Yoel Deitch testified that he once witnessed the Belzer Rebbe tell a student to leave the Sukkah and sleep under the roof]; Dzikhov and Shndishov [Nezer Kodesh of Ropshitz p. 195]

[36] Rama 639:2 “Today, the custom of the world is to be lenient and not sleep in the Sukkah with exception to those who are very particular in Mitzvos.”

[37] Rav S.Z Gareleck, 1st Rav of Kfar Chabad; Rav Meir Tzevvi Gruzman, and many others; The Tzemach tzedek once directed his Shamash Rav Yosef Mordechai to sleep in the Sukkah even though it was very cold. [Sefer HaToldos Rebbe Maharash p. 70]

[38] Public directive of Rebbe to Rav S”Z Garelick [Rav of Kfar Chabad] that if he slept in the Sukkah until now, he is to continue doing so. The Rebbe told him that this is a directive to the public. [Heard from Rav Eli Landau, son of Rav Yaakov Landau Zatzal] Reb Itche Demasmid slept in the Sukkah even when raining. [Reshimos Devarim 1 p. 287

[39] English letter of Rebbe published in Lechaim # 668, written on the 7th Cheshvan, 5715 [1954] “However, if a Jew feels absolutely certain that his sleeping in the Succah will not in the slightest affect his attitude toward the sanctity of the Succah, and is consequently free from any mental pain that might be caused thereby, he is duty-bound to sleep in it, in accordance with the fullest meaning of Taishvu K’ain taduru, to make his Succah his dwelling place to the utmost.”

[40] See Talk of Rebbe with Rav Tzevi Kahana [printed in Toras Menachem 5750 10th Sivan]; Article of Rav Chaim Rappaport in response to the distorted explanation of one individual in attempt to explain this custom

[41] Talk of Rebbe with Rav Tzevi Kahana [printed in Toras Menachem 5750 10th Sivan]

[42] See Sefer Hasichos 5699 p. 295; Likkutei Sichos 29 p. 211; Igros Kodesh 11:414; English letter of Rebbe published in Lechaim # 668; Otzer Minhagei Chabad p. 301-302

[43] Meorei Or 60 based on Zohar

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