Sukkah 17: No Walls
"For G-d is bringing you to a good land...a land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates; a land of olive oil and date honey" (Devarim 8:7-8). This verse not only describes the bounty of the land of Israel, but reflects many aspects of Jewish law, from that of tumah and taharah, the prohibition of a nazir drinking wine...Continue Reading »
Sukkah 14: Open Your Heart
The halachic system, like all legal systems, is on based on verifiable actions. What one may think when signing a contract is of little bearing; “matters of the heart are not matters” (Kiddushin 49b). While there are instances where our thoughts create moral obligations, it is rare that such can create a change in legal status. Rare--but not unheard of. The central aspect of the sukkah is its s'chach, the...Continue Reading »
Sukkah 11: If You Build It...
While the Jerusalem Talmud rules that one makes a bracha upon construction of a sukkah (Sukkah 1:2), our practice is not to do so, seeing the making of the sukkah as only a hechsher mitzvah, a necessary (and laudatory) preparatory stage to the mitzvah itself, that of dwelling in a sukkah. When all is said and done, it matters little who makes the sukkah. The Gemara (Sukkah 9b) allows sukkot ...Continue Reading »
Sukkah 6: What's in a Letter?
In 1878, Yehuda Leib Gordon published a poem, Kotzo shel yud, in which he pokes fun at the technicalities of halacha. In his poem, a young beautiful woman is destined to remain an agunah for her entire life as, after finally receiving a get from her faraway husband, it is deemed invalid because the husband's name is missing the tiny letter yud. For those looking to...Continue Reading »
Sukkah 4: Reach for the Top
The Gemara derives the minimum height of a sukkah from two separate and very distinct sources. In fact, the first “source” is no source at all. Rather it is based on simple logic. A sukkah less than ten tefachim, handbreadths (approximately three feet) tall is not fit for habitation as “it is a dira serucha, a smelly dwelling, and a person does not live in a smelly dwelling” (Sukkah 4a). No textual...Continue Reading »