Thursday, October 08, 2009

why no bracha on sukkah on shmini atzeres

Rav Kasher has a beautiful overview of the Rogatchover’s thought in the intro. to the Devarim volume of the Rogatchover al haTorah where he presents some of the classic chilukim and conceptual constructs of the Rogatchover and gives examples of sugyos where these ideas can be applied. It is similar in content to the amazing Mefa’aneyach Tzefunos. One of the topics he addresses is why we sit in the sukkah on Shmini Atzeres but do not recite a bracha, unlike other mitzvos performed because of sfeika d’yoma which do warrant a bracha. According to the Rogatchover (into p. 22), dinim d’oraysa tell us about the halachic nature of reality, i.e. they are dinim in the cheftza; dinim d’rebbanan impose legal obligations on the gavra (see post here). The chachamim can impose a chovas hagavra to sit in a sukkah on shmini atzeres, but cannot create a halachic cheftza of sukkah once sukkos has ended. Without a cheftza shel sukkah, no bracha can be recited. (See this post where we discussed a similar distinction of the Rogatchover between eating in the sukkah as as a kiyum of defining the cheftza shel sukkah as a makom dirah vs. the chovas hagavra to perform the act of eating only while in a sukkah.)

I heard a different answer to this question in the name of R’ Soloveitchik that also uses a classic Rogatchover-ish sevara. When two halachic categories overlap, the result can be either a harkavah shechnit, e.g. the two categories co-exist side by side, or a harkavah mizgit, i.e. the two categories combine and form a new synthesis. For example: the halachic status of a chatzi eved chatzi ben chorin might be the same as the full status of eved and ben chorin overlapping and co-existing, or might be a completely new status that is a synthesis of both elements (see Avi Ezri, Hil. Pesachim). Another example: bein hashemashos may reflect overlapping states of day and night, or might be a new time status that contains elements of both day and night (see Shiurim l'Zecher Aba Mari). R’ Yosef Engel in Beis haOtzar similarly discusses whether yamim tovim which overlap with Shabbos have two seperate two kedushos hayom which co-exist, or whether there is a categorically new kedushas hayom formed from the combination of both. R' Soloveitchik applied this same chakirah to Shmini Atzeres, which is both a holiday in its own right as well as an extension of sukkos because of sfeika d’yoma. Instead of viewing those two identities as co-existing side by side, a harkavah shichnit, R’ Soloveitchik viewed them as combining to form a new unique halachic identity. This new synthesis kedushas hayom is not the same as the normal kedushas hayom of sukkos and therefore does not obligate reciting a bracha on sukkah.


  1. I've also heard it said that the reason those who sit in the sukkah on Shmini Atzeres do not say the bracha is also because of sensitivity to the situation. By saying a bracha, you are showing disrespect to Shemini Atzeres. By sitting in the house, you would show disrespect to Sukkos. Therefore "shev" (in the sukkah) "v'al taaseh" (the bracha)

  2. That is the usual hesber. But it begs the question m'mah nafshach -- if it's disrespectful to S"A, why did chazal make the takanah? And if the takanah stands and there is a chiyuv, why not say a bracha too?

  3. Garnel Ironheart11:36 AM

    I don't see the contradiction. The reason for sitting in the Sukkah is due to sfeikah d'yoma. Thus the takanah would even admit that the need to be there is doubtful. Why add a bracha to such a situation?

  4. >>>Thus the takanah would even admit that the need to be there is doubtful. Why add a bracha to such a situation?

    You say kiddush, eat matzah, etc. with a bracha on Y"T sheni shel pesach even though it is also just sfeika d'yoma. Sfeika d'yoma is the reason behind making a takana b'toras vaday to have a second day Y"T.

  5. Garnel Ironheart11:56 AM

    But on Yom Tov Sheni of Pesach there are two different reasons:
    1) Either day could be the real Yom Tov so if we're strict about it we should never say kiddush! Thus I could conclude that one can say kiddush even if it's a sefeika whether the day is Yom Tov or chol.
    2) But in the Pesach case, it's Yom Tov or chol. Here there are two competing Yom Tovs. No one cares if I ignore the chol nature of a chol day but tonight I run the risk of "insulting" a separate Yom Tov.

  6. 1) OK, so if you can say a bracha on kiddush even though it is a safeik, you can say a bracha on sukkah even if it is a safeik.
    2) Again, so how can you sit in sukkah and risk insulting S.A. with your behavior?

  7. Garnel Ironheart2:00 PM

    1) No, no, (1) leads into (2). If the last day of Sukkos was just that, ie no other holiday immediately following, then one could say the safek berachah. It's the presence of Shemini Atzeres that changes everyting.
    2) Sitting in the sukkah is an insult to Shemini Atzeres because it is an activity specifically related to a different holiday. It's like blowing a shofar on Pesach or eating humentaschen on Chanukah. Why am I in the sukkah? Because I like eating outdoors? Shemini Atzeres is an indoor holiday so by eschewing my dining room I'm potentially offending it.

    Anyway, have a good Yom Tov.