Perfect Practice: Some Opening Thoughts on Masechet Sukkah

Masechet Sukkah holds a special place in my heart, being the first tractate I learned cover to cover. Its topics are interesting, wide-ranging, joyful (by and large), and offer some fascinating historical insight into the religious schisms that afflicted the Jewish people at the end of the second Temple period.

Sukkot: No Pain, No Gain

The Talmud classifies sukkah as a mitzvah kalla, a light and easy mitzvah. Where one must be almost deathly ill before one is permitted to eat on Yom Kippur or to violate many other Torah prohibitions, such is not the case with the sukkah. Here, a little discomfort—some rain, very hot weather, a few bees—and one may leave the sukkah; "mitztaer patur misukah", one who is uncomfortable is exempt from the mitzvah of sukkah.

Sukkot: Leaving Home

"And you shall take for yourself on the first day a beautiful fruit of the tree, an unopened palm frond, myrtle branches, and willows and you shall rejoice before G-d for seven days" (Vayikra 23:40). The halacha stipulates a number of ways to fulfill the mitzva of rejoicing (simcha); eating meat, drinking wine, buying new clothes, learning Torah, sharing our blessings with others. Yet ultimately, simcha is achieved through feeling the presence of G-d: "and you shall rejoice lifnei Hashem, before G-d".
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