Sukka on Shmini Atzeres?
Different minhagim come to the forefront this time of year, and growing up spending many a Yom Tov among Jews of all stripes, in various kosher hotels, makes this author uniquely suited to address this annual Sukkos “battle”. Not the proper order of nanuim with the Lulav and Esrog, nor the correct order of the Ushpizin. Rather, I’m referring to sitting in the Sukka on Shmini Atzeres. Is it an obligation or recommendation? Prohibited or permitted?
Not a recent question, the Gemara in Sukka (46b - 47a) deals with this very subject: How Shmini Atzeres is viewed in halacha. The Torah states that the day following the weeklong holiday of Sukkos (which we know colloquially as Shmini Atzeres) is a holiday as well, and technically not part of Sukkos. This means that on this day there is no obligation to do any of the Mitzvos exclusive to Sukkos, whether shaking the Lulav or eating in the Sukka.
As long as the Sanhedrin in Eretz Yisrael established the New Month (Rosh Chodesh) based on eyewitnesses, Jews in far away places who did not receive messengers in time would keep two days of Yom Tov instead of one. This was due to the uncertainty of which day Rosh Chodesh truly was, and consequently when the Yomim Tovim actually fell out, all to ensure that they did not unwittingly transgress any Biblical prohibitions. Later, in the times of Rabbi Elazar ben Pedas, when much calendar confusion reigned (due to the subversive efforts of the Cutim), Chazal decreed that in Chutz La’aretz (the Diaspora), “Yom Tov Sheini” is always observed.
The outcome of this is that in Eretz Yisrael where there never was a safek yom or “day in doubt”, only one day of Yom Tov is celebrated, exactly as it is written in the Torah, while in Chutz La’aretz each day of Yom Tov has become a “two-day Yom Tov”. Which brings us back to our dilemma: What should we do on Shmini Atzeres in Chutz La’aretz? Do we treat it as part of the preceding holiday of Sukkos, or does it maintain its exclusive status as a separate holiday?
As previously mentioned, this issue is debated in the Gemara, which famously concludes that on Shmini Atzeres “Meisiv Yasvinan, Bruchi Lo Mevorchinan”. In other words, we eat in the Sukka, but we don’t make the regularly mandated bracha of “leisheiv baSukka”. The Rosh explains that since Sukkos and Shmini Atzeres are separate and different holidays and have different sets of Mitzvos, we can’t do all of them as it would be ‘tarti desasri’, an outright contradiction. Rather, we do what we can lechumra, meaning eating in the Sukka, but not making the blessing. We also do not wave the Arba Minim on Shmini Atzeres. This dual ruling is duly codified in halacha by the Rambam, Tur and Shulchan Aruch.
Yet, something seems to be lacking in the application of this halacha. Forif this is the proper conclusion, why are there divergent customs? And there most definitely are divergent customs here! There are those who sleep in the Sukka on Shmini Atzeres; those who don’t even step foot in the Sukka; those who only make Kiddush in the Sukka but eat the majority of their meals inside, and those who only eat in the Sukka but don’t sleep there. Which is correct?
To Sleep or Not to Sleep?
It is known that the Vilna Gaon was very makpid on not only eating but even sleeping in the Sukka on Shmini Atzeres. The Chayei Adam relates that the Gr”a once made the whole yeshiva sleep in the Sukka on a freezing Shmini Atzeres night, just to show the rest of the city the importance of following this halacha. Several authorities rule like the Gr”a, saying that one must sleep in the Sukka on Shmini Atzeres, as they maintain that the last day of Sukkos is the most important. However, many authorities do not agree with this reasoning and maintain that although one must eat in the Sukka on Shmini Atzeres, nevertheless, one does not (and some say nor should not) sleep in the Sukkah. The Chasam Sofer famously did not sleep in the Sukka on Shmini Atzeres. This is also the conclusion of the Mishna Berura, who states that the “Minhag HaOlam” is not to sleep in the Sukka on Shmini Atzeres.
Not to Eat
However, there were many great authorities who ardently defended the minhag of not eating in the Sukka on Shmini Atzeres, including the Sfas Emes, the Aruch Hashulchan, the Kozeglover Gaon, and the Minchas Elazar. Many of them are based on the Korban Nesanel who writes that since eating in the Sukka on Shmini Atzeres is only mesafek - therefore in places where it is cold and windy, one does not have to do so. Others understand that the Gemara meant that one may eat in the Sukka on Shmini Atzeres without the bracha of “leisheiv baSukka”, but not that one is obligated to. Either way, different minhagim of not exclusively eating in the Sukka on Shmini Atzeres have earned staunch support.
I know, readers in Israelare saying that’s all very nice, but this doesn’t affect them; they only keep one day! No safek yom here! But actually it just might concern them. For what is a “Chutznik” or two-day Yom Tov keeper who happens to be in Israel for Sukkos (quite commonly yeshiva bochurim) to do? Since they are only temporarily in Eretz Yisrael, they must (according to the majority halachic consensus) keep the second day of Yom Tov in Israelas well. Must they still sit in a Sukka on Shmini Atzeres or do as the Romans…err, Israelis do?
Contemporary halachic decisors are divided as to the proper halacha, with no clear cut ruling. The Tukachinsky Luach, Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach, the Minchas Yitzchak, and the Shmiras Shabbos K’hilchasa rule that a “Chutznik” should not eat in a Sukkah in Israel on Shmini Atzeres, as one should not be stringent on a safek yom that does not apply where they currently are, especially as the whole rule of keeping two days in Eretz Yisrael is a matter of dispute. Additionally, sitting in a Sukkah publicly when the locals do not might be of halachic concern.
Others, including Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, Rav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner and the Debreciner Rav, rule that someone who always keeps Yom Tov Sheini must continue to keep it to its full extent - even in Eretz Yisrael.
A third opinion, that of Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul, Rav Ovadia Yosef, and the Betzeil HaChochma is that the Chutznik should eat in a Sukka, unless he is dependant on locals for his meals. This means that a bochur eating at relatives who are eating their Yom Tov seudah inside may eat with them, as he is not obligated to cause them hardship. As with any other halachic question, one should ask his own Rabbinic authority which opinion he should personally follow.
Whatever your minhag on Shmini Atzeres, enjoy the protection of the zecher l’ananei hakavod, and feel the embrace of Hakodosh Baruch Hu all Yom Tov long!
Vayikra (Parshas Emor) Ch. 23 verse 36.
See Rambam Hilchos Kiddush HaChodesh (Ch.3, 11 & Ch.5, 4).
See Gemara Beitzah 4b; Rosh Hashana 21a; Yerushalmi Rosh Hashana Ch. 2, 1; R’ Y.M. Tukachinsky’s Ir HaKodesh V’HaMikdash Vol. 3, Ch. 19; and the forward to Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried’s classic Yom Tov Sheini K’Hilchaso at length.
Rosh - Sukka Ch.4, end 5.
The reason being that if it were a separate holiday and waving the Arba Minim would be deemed unnecessary, then they would be muktzah. Therefore Chazal would not rule that we do something that would be a safek mitzvah/safek aveirah, and especially not to make a bracha on it! Another interesting outcome based on this ‘tarti desasri’ is that the vast majority of halachic decisors argue on the Taz (668, 1), and rule that one may not be mekabel Yom Tov early on Shmini Atzeres.
Rambam (Hilchos Sukka Ch.7, 13), Tur / Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 668, 1).
See Tur (O.C. 668), Beis Yosef (ad loc.), Magen Avraham (ad loc. 2), Ba’er Heitiv (ad loc. 3), Shaarei Teshuva (ad loc. 3), Mishna Berura (ad loc. 6 & Shaar HaTzion 4 - 8), and Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 5) who cite these various minhagim.
Maaseh Rav (222), Chayei Adam (153, 5), Shaar HaTzion (663, 4). This is also the mashmaos of the Beis Yosef (ad loc. s.v. v’ochlin), and Elyah Rabba (ad loc. 4), although strangely absent in the Shulchan Aruch, that poskim do not make a distinction between eating and sleeping in the Sukka on Shmini Atzeres.
Including the Bikurei Yaakov (668, 4, citing proof from the Rashba), the Divrei Malkiel (Shu”t vol. 1, 32) and Ben Ish Chai (Year 1, Parshas V’Zos HaBracha 13), who rule that one must also sleep in the Sukka on Shmini Atzeres.
This is opinion of the Ravyah (562, cited by the Mordechai in his glosses to Sukka 772) which is defended by the Rema (Darchei Moshe 663, 3) and Levush (ad loc.) from the Beis Yosef’s challenge. The Maharil (Seder HaTefillos Chag HaSukkos 13) held this way, as did many later Acharonim including the Noda B’Yehuda (Shu”t Kama O.C. 40), Ksav Sofer (Shu”t O.C. 120), Divrei Yisrael (Shu”t vol. 1, 200), and Maharshak (Haghos Chochmas Shlomo to O.C. 668), who prove that the Ravyah is correct, and one does not sleep in a Sukka on Shmini Atzeres. The Minchas Ani (Shu”t 25, 1), although ruling that one should treat being in the Sukka on Shmini Atzeres the same as the rest of Sukkos, nevertheless was upset at those who held that one should be more stringent regarding the Sukka on Shmini Atzeres, as eating in the Sukka on Shmini Atzeres is a derabbanan m’taam safek, as opposed to the rest of Sukkos.
Shu”t Ksav Sofer (ibid. s.v. vchein ra’isi). See also Shu”t Hisorerus Teshuva (vol. 1, 18 & vol. 2, 25) who defends this shitta of his grandfather.
Mishna Berura (668, 8). See however, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (138, 5) who also acknowledges that the Minhag HaOlam is not to sleep in the Sukka, yet still concludes that it is proper to do so anyway.
Sfas Emes (Sukka 47a s.v. maysiv; cited in Piskei Teshuvos vol. 6, pg. 455 footnote 3), Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 668, 2 & 3), Shu”t Eretz Tzvi (vol. 1, 98), and Shu”t Minchas Elazar (vol. 4, 31). Others who defend this minhag include the Elef L’Magen (O.C. 625, 45), Shu”t Chedvas Yaakov (Tinyana, 127), Shu”t Bais Yisroel (107), Shu”t Chok Moshe (27), Shu”t Maharshag (vol. 1, 35), Shulchan HaTahor (Heichal Bracha al HaTorah, commentary to Parshas Emor Ch. 23 verse 36), Shu”t Divrei Yaakov (77), Otzar Chaim (Mitzva 326), and Sha’arim Metzuyanim B’Halacha (138, 3). Even the Chayei Adam (ibid.) and Maharsham (Daas Torah, 668 s.v. chutz) cite minhagim to eat only partially in the Sukka. See also Shu”t Kiryas Chana David (vol. 1, O.C. 81), who writes that the inyan of Sukka on Shmini Atzeres is not a chiyuv but rather chavivus hamitzva.
Korban Nesanel in his Glosses on the Rosh ibid. 7.
See at length Yom Tov Sheini K’hilchaso (Ch. K’veeyus Sheim Ben E”Y U’Ben Chu”l, ppg. 156 - 208).
Tukachinsky Luach (Shmini Atzeres), Shu”t Minchas Shlomo (Kamavol. 1, 19, 1), Shu”t Minchas Yitzchak (vol. 9, 54), and Shmiras Shabbos K’hilchasa (old print Ch. 31, 40; new print Ch. 2, 22).
Shittos of Rav Y.S. Elyashiv, Rav S. Wosner, and Rav C. P. Scheinberg are cited in Yom Tov Sheini K’Hilchaso Ch. 2 footnote 48; Shu”t Ba’er Moshe (vol. 7, pg. 315, 4 - Dinei Bnei E”Y & Chu"l). The Ba’er Moshe held that even so, a Chutznik need not sleep in the Sukka on Shmini Atzeres in Eretz Yisrael. However, the Steipler Gaon is quoted as holding that a Chutznik should even sleep in the Sukka.
Shitta of Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul is cited in Yom Tov Sheini K’Hilchaso Ch. 2 footnote 49; Shu”t Yechaveh Daas (vol. 2, 76); Shu”t Betzeil Hachochma (vol. 5, 146). However, it should be noted that Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Rav Elyashiv explicitly disagreed with this rationale (Yom Tov Sheini K’Hilchaso ibid.).
Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.
L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R' Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R' Boruch Yehuda, and l'zchus for Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam and her children for a yeshua teikef u'miyad!