By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

The berachah that is recited on the sukkah is “Blessed are You…who has sanctified us with His mitzvos and commanded us to sit in the sukkah.” But what do these words truly mean?

The Rambam

The Rambam (Hilchos Sukkah 6:12) writes that the words are quite literal. They mean to actually sit down. It is because of his understanding that he requires the blessing to be recited while standing—so that he can immediately sit down right before he performs the mitzvah.

The Rosh

The Rosh (Sukkah 4:3), on the other hand, understands the words “Leishev BaSukkah” to mean “remain within” rather than “to sit.” According to this translation of the blessing the remaining refers to every instance of being in the sukkah—not just sitting in it. On account of this, the Rosh writes that the blessing should be recited immediately before the eating, since eating is the means of establishing oneself in the sukkah.

The Ramban

The Ramban has a third interpretation of the words “Leishev BaSukkah.” He understands it to mean “to dwell in it.” This is different than the Rosh’s understanding of “remaining in it.”

So how do we actually pasken? The Shulchan Aruch (OC 643:2) rules in accordance with the Rambam. Yet the Ramah (ibid) states that the custom is to follow the Rosh and to bless while sitting.

The Pri Magadim

The Pri Magadim, however, writes that even according to the custom of reciting the blessing while sitting, it is still a good idea to have the Rambam’s translation in mind when reciting the berachah.

And Now A Question

A yeshiva student has just finished davening and a rigorous learning session. The young man is singularly devoted to his studies. After the learning session he enters the sukkah with some mezonos in hand. He recites the Mezonos. He then recites the leishev baSukkah. But of the 12 words in that latter blessing, he leaves out 4 of them. He leaves out, “asher kid’shanu b’Mitzvosav v’Tzivanu—Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us.”

He recognized his error almost instantly after he has taken his first bite. The question is now what? Has he, post facto, fulfilled his mitzvah of reciting the proper blessing on the mitzvah of eating in the sukkah? Must he repeat that blessing? Must he repeat that first blessing also, the Mezonos?

A Brief Trip Through Hilchos Errors In Berachos

We know the statement of Rabi Yochanan in the Gemara in Berachos (40b) which states that any berachah that does not contain sheim uMalchus—Hashem’s Name and Kingship—is not a berachah. It must also contain the shape and form of a berachah—such as starting with the word “Baruch.”

We also know that the Mishnah Berurah writes (214:3) that if one leaves out the word “attah” [word number 2 in the berachah], the berachah is still valid post facto. The same is true if one leaves out one of Hashem’s Names—Either Hashem or Elokeinu, the berachah is valid post facto.

We also know that if we leave out the word, “HaOlam” after the word, “Melech” that there is a debate between the first Lubavitcher Rebbe (based on Prisha 167:4’s citation of Tosfos) and the Erech haShulchan as to whether that is a fitting description of Hashem’s Kingship, leaving out “of the world” or “universe.” Chabad Chassidim and many others hold that the blessing must be repeated because just plain Melech is not apt enough of a description. Others are more lenient and hold that it is.

We also know that there is a concept of sharing some of the elements of the berachah too. If a berachah is next to another one, it can share the first three elements, but this is not true of a short berachah, only of a long berachah. Long berachos are found in bentching and in Shemoneh Esreh. Only long berachos can share the first three elements.

Shockingly enough, the issue is only first addressed in the Shalmei Todah written by Rabbi Shalom Ben Tzion Fulman, zt’l, of Bnei Brak, a Dayan in Rav Nissim Karelitz’s Beis Din.

Rav Felman’s Psak

Rav Felman, zt’l, cites a ruling of Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, zt’l, that a person who leaves out these four words has not fulfilled the requirement of the blessing because he has left out the ikkar mashmaos ha’berachah—the essential meaning of the blessing. Rav Shteinman ruled that it is a non- berachah.

That being the case, the remaining eight words constitute a hefsek and a new mezonos must also be recited. Before that, however, the young yeshiva student must say the words, “Baruch Sheim Kvod Malchus l’olam vo’ed.” This six word formula can repair the berachah levatala that was recited.

Thus we have the strange mathematical formulation of:

12-4= 27

Explained more fully: If one leaves out the 4 words of Asher kidshanu B’Mitzvosav v’tzivanu, one must:

• say Boruch Sheim Kvod Malchus l’olam vo’ed – 6 words

• re-recite the Mezonos – 9 words

• re-recite the leishev baSukkah – 12 words.

All now totaling 27 words.

Utilizing The Principle Of Safeik Berachos Lehakel

In our case, the yeshiva bachur was unsure of what to do. He reasoned that since whenever there is a doubt as to whether to recite a blessing, one should be lenient, that he should eat the mezonos and not recite a baruch sheim kvod malchuso l’olam va’ed. Although, ultimately, he should have recited the baruch sheim, he did follow the correct halachic protocol of what to do when one does not know what to do.

More Fundamental Aspects

But let us get to the deeper and more fundamental aspects of the question. Why are we here? What is our overall role in the universe? What did the Holy sages of Israel known as the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah mean to do when they made these two types of formulations of blessings—the blessings on foods—generally 9 or 10 words, and the formulation on mitzvos—generally 12 words?

The Jewish nation has been uniquely set aside for higher purposes than the mundane. We are here to live a life of sanctity, of holiness. We are here to fulfill a special covenant that G-d Almighty—the Creator of it all has made with our forebears—with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

We are not here to acquire stuff. We are not here to wallow in consumerism and consumption. We are not here to shop till we drop, so to speak. That is not the goal.

As we were prepared to receive the Torah, Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu (Sh’mos 19:6), “And you shall be a kingdom of priests, a holy nation dedicated unto Me.”

Kedushah is the influence made upon our neshamos when we reach for dveikus—for allowing Hashem into our lives and for cleaving to Him; It is also the means that Hashem chose for allowing all of mankind, ultimately, to achieve holiness and kedushah. Hashem is the Ultimate Giver and wants to give to everyone. But giving without earning is meaningless. We earn our schar by helping bring sanctity and kedushah into the world—by making Kiddush Hashem and not chillul Hashem.

All this is why 12-4=27 and not 8.

There are also some fascinating halachos about the sukkah and its decorations of which some people may be unaware.

Forbidden To Benefit From

Once a sukkah becomes an “official Sukkah” it is forbidden to derive other types of benefit from its parts for the entire Sukkos. If the sukkah fell down, that wood may not be used for other purposes. This is true whether we are discussing the wall panels or the schach (See SA OC 638:1-2 and Ramah).

One may also not benefit from sukkah decorations throughout Sukkos (See SA 667:1) once the sukkah has become an “official sukkah.” Outside of Israel this means until after Simchas Torah. In Israel it does not include Shmini Atzeres.

An Official Sukkah

How does a sukkah become an “official sukkah?” It had to be used once on Sukkos itself. Merely preparing the sukkah for use does not make it an “official sukkah” for these purposes. This is known as “Hazmana lav milsah” (ibid).

Sukkah Decorations

It is a mitzvah (SA 638:2) to decorate the sukkah to appear beautiful on account of the idea of “Zeh Keli v’Anveihu.” Indeed, the Shlah HaKadosh (Sukkah Ner Mitzvah #5) writes, “VeMitzvah l’yafosoVechol Hamarbeh harei zeh meshubach—It is a mitzvah to make it beautiful—the more he does so, the more praiseworthy he is.”

The Magain Avrohom (638:9) writes that one should not post a pasuk and hang it on the sukkah. The Bikkurei Yaakov (638:18) is lenient.

It is permitted to use decorations that were made for non-Jewish holidays as a sukkah decoration, as long as they were never used (Responsa Shaivet HaLevi Vol. II #57).

Sitting Under The Sukkah Decorations

Ideally, the sukkah decorations should be within 4 tefachim of the schach (approximately 12 inches). This makes them insignificant. If it is hanging more than 1 foot below the schach and it is more than 12 inches in length and width then it is not considered sitting in the sukkah if one sits under it (See MB 627:12).


If the sukkah decorations fell on yom tov itself they are considered muktzah machmas mitzvah and may not be moved regularly. If they fell on the table they may be moved kl’achar yad—in a different manner. If this is not feasible then they be moved normally if the spot is needed. This is only on yom tov, but on Shabbos they may only be moved kl’achar yad.

On Chol haMoed they may be put back normally in their place. They may not be used for another purpose throughout the Sukkos holiday.

Conditional Sukkah Decorations

Although it is discouraged by the Ramah, it is theoretically possible to verbalize a condition before Sukkos begins and say, “I am not bodel—treating them as noi sukkah for the Bein HaShmashos of each night of Sukkos.” It is not enough to think this condition, it must be verbalized (Mekor Chaim 638:2).

After Sukkos

After Sukkos, the sukkah decorations should not be used for a degrading purpose. If the decorations were fruits they may be eaten.

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