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Is It Proper To Read A Secular Newspaper Or Book In The Sukkah?

 

Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier
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The Torah commands us to sit in the sukkah for 7 days, and the Gemara explains “Teshvu ke’ein taduru – sit in the sukkah as you normally sit in your house.” The Gemara deduces from there that one should treat the sukkah as he does his house. Eating should be done in the sukkah, sleeping should be in the sukkah, where one spends his day should be in the sukkah. Basically, a person should treat the sukkah during the days of Sukkot as his home, spending as much time there as possible.

That being said, certainly the sukkah is a holy place; the Mishnah Berurah says that one should try to engage in holy activities there. However, if there is a choice to leave the sukkah to do something secular like business or reading, one should choose to remain in the sukkah. The bottom line is that if one is going to be reading a secular book or doing something of that nature, it should definitely be in the sukkah, one should not leave the sukkah to do it.

– Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier is founder of The Shmuz and author of 10 Really Dumb Mistakes That Very Smart Couples Make (available at theshmuz.com).

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We have a principle on Sukkot of “ Teshvu ke’ein taduru,” we are supposed to dwell in the sukkah as we live in our homes year-round. This would imply that if we normally watch movies or read newspapers in the home, then we should do so in the sukkah on Sukkot. This is the view of the Rema (Darchei Moshe, Orach Chaim 639:1), citing Mahari Weil and Maharil, who rule that people who want to play dice or shmooze should do so in the sukkah.

There are authorities, like the Shelah HaKadosh, who say that one should refrain from mundane activities in the sukkah (See Mishnah Berurah 639:2). However, this hardly means that one should make sure to engage in such activities in the house! Rather, one should remain in the sukkah, minimize mundane pursuits, and engage in sacred pursuits.

It seems clear, though, that if one will anyway read the newspaper, it should be done in the sukkah.

– Rabbi Elli Fischer is a translator, writer, and historian. He edits Rav Eliezer Melamed’s Peninei Halakha in English, cofounded HaMapah, a project to quantify and map rabbinic literature, and is a founding editor of Lehrhaus. Follow him @adderabbi on Twitter or listen to his podcast, “Down the Rabbi Hole.”

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Jewish law stipulates that just as we live in our homes, we must also live in the sukkah, “ke’ein taduru.” Hence it would seem that one would be able to read a secular newspaper or a book in the sukkah since this is what one would do if one were living in their own home.

However, a sukkah is also a holy place. It is one of those unique mitzvot that we are totally surrounded by the mitzvah, similar to a mikvah.

It would behoove one, therefore, to be extra cautious that the material is appropriate. Such material in my mind is learning Torah or the like.

But I must admit that I do read the Jerusalem Post in my sukkah during Sukkot.

– Rabbi Mordechai Weiss lives in Efrat Israel and previously served as an elementary and high school principal in New Jersey and Connecticut. He was also the founder and rav of Young Israel of Margate, New Jersey. His email is ravmordechai@aol.com.

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Rabbi Yehoshua Heber

The Torah commands us to leave our houses for seven days and move into the sukkah. The sukkah is no ordinary hut. In fact, in our tefillos, we refer to the sukkah as the “shade of the holy one.” We leave our homes to be elevated by the close embrace of the Shechinah. This holy environment demands a higher mode of conduct. Just as when one is in the Beis HaMikdash the need to live up to a higher standard is understood, so too when in the holiness of the sukkah. As mentioned by the poskim, there is a special restriction to avoid any lashon hara or other forms of forbidden speech while in the sukkah.

At the same time, the proper way to fulfill the mitzvah of sukkah is not only eating meals there. We are to actually live in the sukkah by spending our days in it just as we spend our time in our homes throughout the year. If we should need to talk with someone it should be in the sukkah. Certainly, there is no problem relaxing or reading in the sukkah, but a higher level should be observed in honor of the kedusha of the sukkah.

Rabbi Yehoshua Heber is Rav of Khal Tomchai Torah at Yeshiva Torah Vodaath and Dayan at Bdatz Mishptai Yisrael

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