How Was it Muttar to Sleep at the Simchas Beis Hashoeiva?

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By Rav Avrohom Dovid Waxman 

The Gemara in Sukkah (53a) relates that Rav Yehoshua Ben Chananya testified that during the great simcha of the simchas Beis Hashoeiva in the Beis Hamikdash, the Yidden did not sleep, as they were completely involved the entire day and night with Avodas Hashem and simcha. The Gemara asks, that a person who swears that he will not sleep for three days is oiver the lav of shvuas shav- as it impossible to go three days without sleep. How is it possible that they did not sleep on Sukkos?! The Gemara answers that Rav Yehoshua ben Chananya meant that they merely dozed momentarily on each other’s shoulders- “minamni akasfa dihadadi”- but did not actually go to sleep properly.

The Achronim are bothered: There was certainly no sukkah in the part of the Beis Hamikdash that the simchas beis hoshoeiva was taking place. If so, how was it permitted to sleep even a shinas aray- a temporary sleep- out of the sukkah, when the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim, siman 639:2) paskens “vein yisheinim chutz lisukkah afilu shinas aray”?

The Tashbetz (siman 100) is mechadesh that the issur shinas aray is only midrabanan, and in this situation they were not goizer. The reason to be goizer is that through a temporary sleep out of the sukkah, this may lead to a shinas keva chutz lisukkah, as well- gezeira shema yimshoch achar shulchano. Perhaps the Tashbetz means that since the slept standing, resting on each other’s shoulders, the gezeira does not apply, as it would be farfetched that this would lead to a shinas keva.

However, this explanation remains difficult to understand in light of the Gemara’s statement that Rava concludes ein keva lishina (Sukkah 26). This implies that a shinas aray has the same status as a shinas keva and would forbidden for the same reason midoraysa, not because it is merely a gezeirah. (See Rav Ashi’s opinion in Sukkah 26. It would seem that Tashbetz rules according to this opinion- ayein sham).

Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank (Mikraei Kodesh, Sukkos, chelek 1, siman 33) suggests based on the Gemara’s description that they were “misnamnem,” that although shinas aray is assur, it is indeed muttar to doze off for a short time, as this is not considered a shinas aray. This concept is found in Hilchos Tefillin (Orach Chayim, siman 44) where some maintain that sleeping with Tefillin for a shiur that it takes to travel one hundred amos is not considered a shinas aray and is muttar. Indeed, the Mishna Berurah (siman 639:11) quotes the Pri Megadim that “efshar” sleeping less than shiur hiluch meah amah would be permitted by Sukkah, as well. The Shaar Hatziyon adds that this is the mashmaus of the Ritz Geyus.

This concept, that a shinas aray of less than the shiur hiluch meah amah is permitted out of the sukkah, is debated by the Sfas Emes (Sukkah 26), and he remains mesupek. The Bikkurei Yakov (siman 639:2), however, concludes that all forms of sleep are assur chutz lisukkah, as the shiur hiluch meah amah is specific to hilchos tefillin, and is not relevant to sukkah. This is implied by the Baal Hamaor (Sukkah 27), as well.

Other Achronim suggest that although normally sleeping out of the sukkah is problematic, while being oisek in the mitzvah of being mekabel pnei HaShechinah in the Beis Hamikdash, they were pattur based on the klal of oisek bimitzvah pattur min hamitzvah, as we find that someone who is going to be mekabeil pnei rabo is pattur from the Sukkah (Chashukei Chemed, Sukkah 53a).

Another possible resolution is based on the chiddush of Rav Elazar Moshe Horowitz (Sukkah 26) that the issur to sleep a shinas aray out of the Sukkah is only if the person intentionally goes to sleep. However, if he dozes off unintentionally, there is no concern. Since the Gemara describes the participants of the simchas beis hashoeva as minamni akasfa dihadadi, we can assume that they did not go to sleep bidaas, and there is no issur to sleep a shinas aray chutz lisukkah in this manner.

It should be noted that this chiddush seems to be a matter of debate in the poskim, as the Ben Ish Chai (Haazinu) writes that someone who falls asleep chutz liSukkah should be woken. It seems that he maintains that a shinas aray is indeed assur even if the person dozed off unintentionally. However, the Bikkurei Yakov (siman 639), brought by the Mishna Berurah, instructs a person who falls asleep chutz liSukkah to move to the Sukkah as soon as he wakes up. This implies that although the person should relocate to the Sukkah upon awaking, there is no need to wake up the sleeping person.

It is interesting to note that the Rogatchaver Gaon (Tzafnas Paneach al HaRambam, Hilchos Sukkah 6:3) suggests that the halacha of sheina is only an issur of chutz lisukkah, but not an actual kiyum of the chiyuv asei like eating and drinking. The din of sheina may therefore have this leniency to refrain from waking the person.

This contrast between sleeping and the other chiyuvei Sukkah like achilah and shtiyah is apparent from the Gemara (Sukkah 28b), where the Braysa enumerates how a person should live in his Sukkah- teishvu ki’ein taduru- but makes no mention of sleeping in the Sukkah. This, too, implies that sheina is not a chiyuv like the enumerated examples of teishvu ki’ein taduru, but merely an issur to sleep out of the sukkah.



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