Rabbi Meir Mazuz, head of the Kisei Rahamim Yeshiva, discussed how the rodents plaguing the city of Bnei Brak affect the residents' obligation to fulfill the Torah commandment to "live in the sukkah (tabernacle)" for seven days.
According to Rabbi Mazuz, anyone whose sukkah is visited by rodents is exempt from sleeping in it.
"In Bnei Brak there is a unique plague, the plague of mice," Rabbi Mazuz said during a Torah class. "The mice are especially rampant this year - you can't sit in a sukkah with the mice."
"So long as a person is alert, it is okay, as it says, 'A living person does not need to be kept safe from mice, a sleeping person - you must guard him from the mice,'" Rabbi Mazuz explained, quoting the Talmud. "The mice will eat him. A person will sleep in a sukkah and mice will come and bite him here, and here...what kind of life is that?! Is that a sukkah?! You cannot sleep that way."
At the same time, Rabbi Mazuz noted that while a man is exempt from sleeping in the sukkah, he still has an obligation to recite the "Kiddush" and eat in it.
"In Bnei Brak, it is a plague on a national scale. And so if a person has a sukkah in a low area, where the mice come into it, he is exempt from sleeping in it, but he must recite Kiddush and eat in it. It's as simple as that," he concluded.
Last month, Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer Stern, a top rabbi in Bnei Brak, ruled hat, "If by the holiday of Sukkot we are not rid of the plague of mice, people will not be able to fulfill the obligation to sit in a sukkah in places which are on the ground floor, in the streets, in courtyards, and in any place where the mice could reach, as per the law regarding one who will be pained [by sitting in the sukkah]."
"According to halakha (Jewish law -ed.), if someone builds a sukkah in a place where there are wild animals, or any other reason why people would be afraid to sit there, even if he himself is not afraid, the very fact that most people cannot sit in such a place means that he has not fulfilled the obligation to sit in the sukkah.
"Regarding the first day of the holiday of Sukkot, if he has no other option, it is permitted to use such a sukkah," the rabbi added.
For several months, the city of Bnei Brak has suffered from mice and rats.
In June, a girl two-and-a-half years old was bitten by a rat and required hospitalization. The girl's mother heard her cries during the night, and upon examining her daughter, discovered that she was bleeding in several places on her body. The child was then taken for medical care at Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center, where staff said that the injuries were caused by rat bites.
In April, a toddler was bitten by a rat in a Bnei Brak childcare center. Parents at the nursery claimed that they contacted the municipality several times and warned about rats on the premises, but were ignored.
The nursery where the child was bitten stated that after receiving no response from the municipality, they privately exterminated the rodents in the building, but the infestation is so severe that even this method is no longer helpful.