Women are not obligated to dwell in the Sukkah - why?

He spread a Cloud for a cover, and a Fire to light up the night

Professor Gerald Aranoff, | updated: 11:50

Judaism Prof. G. Aranoff
Prof. G. Aranoff
INN:GA

Why are women not obligated to dwell in the Succah nor to wave the lulov/esrog ?

Talmuic Tractate Sukkah 28a: “Women, slaves and minors are free from the obligation of sukkah, ” but the reason women are exempt has no connection to that of slaves and minors, although they are mentioned in the same sentence..

Women are exempt from certain positive precepts from which there is definite time.  Women are fully obligated to sanctify the Sabbath, the holidays, and “are subject to the obligations of tefillah and mezuzah and grace after meals” (Berachoth 20b) etc.  Passover night women must drink 4 cups and eat matzah and bitter herbs etc. Yet women are not obligated to dwell in the Succah nor to wave the lulov/esrog. Why is that?  

The answer if fitting and beautiful.. Women did not sin the sin of the golden calf and so did not lose the radiance of His Shechinah and His Cloud upon them as did the men.

We read on the first day of Succoth:

“Mark אך, on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in באספכם the yield of your land את תבואת הארץ, you shall observe תחגו the festival of the Lord [to last] seven days: a complete rest on the first day, and a complete rest on the eighth day. On the first day you shall take ולקחתם לכם the product of hadar trees פרי עץ הדר, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees עץ עבת, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. You shall observe it as a festival of the Lord for seven days in the year; you shall observe it in the seventh month as a law for all time, throughout the ages לדרתיכם. You shall live in booths בסכות תשבו seven days; all citizens in Israel shall live in booths ישבו בסכת, in order that future generations דרתיכם may know that I made the Israelite people live הושבתי in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 23:39-43).

There was a Cloud to cover the Jews that was separate from the Cloud to guide them along the way.

When the Jews left Egypt, the Bible records the Cloud of Glory to guide them along the way:

“They set out from Succoth, and encamped at Etham, at the edge of the wilderness. The Lord went before them in a pillar of Cloud by day, to guide them along the way, and in a pillar of Fire by night, to give them light, that they might travel day and night. The pillar of Cloud by day and the pillar of Fire by night did not depart from before the people.” (Exodus 13:20-22).

Psalms notes the Cloud meant to cover the Jews:

“He spread a Cloud for a cover, and a Fire to light up the night.” (Psalms 105:39).

The Malbim says “a Cloud for a cover, and a Fire to light up the night” was in addition to the “pillar of Cloud by day, to guide them along the way, and in a pillar of Fire by night, to give them light, that they might travel day and night.”

Talmudic Tractate Sukkah 5a on the Cloud for a cover: “But is it not written, 'He maketh him to hold on מאחז to the face of His throne, And spreadeth His Cloud over him' (Job 26:9)" R. Tanhum said: This teaches that the Almighty spread some of the radiance of His Shechinah and His Cloud upon him [R. Tanhum explains the word "spread," Parshez as a notarikon, an abbreviation for Paras Shaddai Ziw, The Almighty spread the radiance of]. That was at a level lower than ten handbreadths. But in any case is it not written, 'He maketh him to hold on ' to the face of His throne' - [the throne, surely, is in heaven]?”

The women did not sin the sin of the golden calf

In the midrash when Moses went up to Mount Sinai to receive the 10 Commandments, at the end of 40 days, the mixed multitude ערב רב [fake news crowd] induced the people to thinking Moses was dead.  Moses was enraged at the sin of the Golden Calf: “As soon as Moses came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, he became enraged; and he hurled the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain.” (Exodus 32:19).

According to the midrash, the men sinned the sin of the Golden Calf and not the women.

In the midrash on Yom Kippur God forgave the Jewish people for the sin of the Golden Calf and for all their sins: “This shall be to you a law for all time: to make atonement for the Israelites for all their sins once a year. And Moses did as the Lord had commanded him.” (Leviticus 16:34).  

At the sin of the golden calf---His Cloud departed 

When the people sinned the sin of the Golden Calf, the Clouds of Glory, His Cloud of cover, departed from the people and the people went into mourning. “When the people heard this harsh word, they went into mourning, and none put on his finery” (Exodus 33:4).

Mechilta Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai 13:20:

““They set out from Succoth מסכת, and encamped at Etham, at the edge of the wilderness (Exodus 13:20)'. Rabbi Akiva says not Succoth but Clouds of Glory as it says 'the Lord will create over the whole shrine and meeting place of Mount Zion Cloud by day and smoke with a glow of flaming fire by night. Indeed, over all the glory shall hang a canopy חפה(Isaiah 4:5)'. Verily in the coming future 'which shall serve as a pavilion for shade from heat by day and as a shelter for protection against drenching rain” (Ib. 6).'" 

The reference is “The Israelites journeyed from Raamses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, aside from children” (Exodus 12:37). The Mechilta explains that God carried all those freed from Egypt in an extraordinary and miraculous manner.  Rashi cites here: “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Me” (Exodus 19:4). 

The Clouds of Glory returned on Succoth

 On the 11 of Tishrei Moses gave the command to bring to build the Mishkan. On the 15th day of the 7th month, the Clouds of Glory returned. Then they stayed for all the years in the desert until Aaron’s death.

Men need the mitzvah of dwelling in a Succah with a roof that symbolizes those returned Clouds of Glory.

Women did not sin the sin of the golden calf and so did not participate in the mourning over the loss of the Clouds of Glory.  The women were always under the Clouds of Glory. They were always close to the radiance of the Shechinah and to God’s Will more so than the men.

Women were fully part of the miracle of the Exodus from Egypt and so are obligated for all the Passover rituals. Women had nothing to do with the Golden Calf. The temporary loss of the Clouds of Glory and their return did not relate to them. Men, seems, have a different evil inclination than women have.  Men need the mitzvah of dwelling in a Succah with a roof that is Clouds of Glory.

King David prays to God: “One thing I ask of the Lord, only that do I seek: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, to frequent ולבקר His temple. He will shelter me יצפנני in His pavilion בסכה on an evil day, grant me the protection יסתרני בסתר of His tent אהלו raise me high upon a rock.” (Psalms 27:4-5).

We pray, speedily in our time, for Isaiah’s prophecy for Clouds of Glory to cover us on Mount Zion with the Holy Temple rebuilt: “I will bring them to My sacred mount And let them rejoice in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices Shall be welcome on My altar; For My House shall be called A house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:7). For all mankind, men and women alike.





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