It’s All About The Clouds
‘Have You Seen My Slave, Tabi?’
The Tanna Kamma of the mishnah says that someone who sleeps under a bed in a sukkah does not fulfill the mitzvah of dwelling in a sukkah because he is not beneath valid sechach. To substantiate this halacha, the mishnah cites an incident about Rabban Gamliel’s Canaanite slave, named Tabi, who slept under a bed in a sukkah, prompting Rabban Gamliel to praise his slave’s Torah scholarship (Tabi’s choice of a sleeping spot indicated that he was aware of the fact that Canaanite slaves are exempt from the mitzvah of sukkah).
When a Jew purchases a Canaanite slave, the slave undergoes a conversion process through which he acquires the status of Israelite, albeit with certain conditions. Like women, Canaanite slaves are exempt from time-related mitzvos (like dwelling in a sukkah).
An Unusual Slave Retreats Under The Bed
The Yerushalmi (Sukkah 2:1) notes that even though women and Canaanite slaves are exempt from dwelling in a sukkah, they are still permitted to perform the mitzvah. Indeed, the Ran (to Sukkah 20b s.v. “U’le’inyan halacha”) says that women or Canaanite slaves who dwell in a sukkah should recite a blessing because they are fulfilling a mitzvah. Why, therefore – the Yerushalmi asks – did Tabi sleep under a bed? The Yerushalmi answers that there were many scholars in the sukkah and Tabi wanted to make room for them (since they were obligated in the mitzvah). He didn’t leave the sukkah entirely because he wanted to listen in on the scholars’ Torah discussions as he had an unquenchable thirst for Torah.
Quid Pro Quo
The Gemara (Shabbos 23a; Megillah 4a) states that women are obligated to kindle Chanukah lights and hear the Megillah even though these are time-related mitzvos since women, too, benefited from the miracle of Chanukah and Purim. Based on this logic, Tosafos (Pesachim 108b s.v “hayu be’oso ha’nes”) ask why women are exempt from dwelling in a sukkah. After all, they too were protected by the Clouds of Glory in the desert.
Sign Of Forgiveness
The Vilna Gaon (in his commentary to Shir HaShirim 1:4), however, explains that we are commanded to dwell in a sukkah (not to recall being protected in the desert, but) to commemorate the return of the Ananei HaKavod after Bnei Yisrael were forgiven (on the 15th of Tishrei) for the sin of the Golden Calf.
The Chasam Sofer (Otzar Mefarshei HaTalmud to Sukkah 10b) remarks that according to the Vilna Gaon, Tosafos’s question is answered. Chazal tell us that while the men donated golden ornaments for the making of the Golden Calf, their wives righteously refused to participate (see Midrash Tanchuma, Ki Tissa 19; Targum Yonasan to Shemos 23:3; and Rabbenu Bachya to Shemos 35:21). The Chasam Sofer suggests that since the women did not take part in the sin of the Golden Calf they never lost the protection of the Ananei HaKavod. Therefore, unlike men, they have no reason to celebrate the return of the Ananei HaKavod on the 15th of Tishrei.