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Shemini Atzeres in the Sukkah

The Minhagim of Rashi and the Remah

All halachic authorities agree that on Sukkos we must eat all our meals in the sukkah, and the halacha is similarly unanimous that on Simchas Torah, we eat our meals inside the house.  But what about the in-between day of Shemini Atzeres? Let’s explore the halacha and minhagim regarding where to eat the Yom Tov meals of Shemini Atzeres.

Shemini Atzeres In the Sukkah

Rabbi Yosef Karo states in Shulchan Aruch:1Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim §668:1.

On Shemini Atzeres night one says “Va’titain lanu es yom shemini chag ha’atzeres hazeh.” In chutz l’Aretz, they eat in the sukkah, night and day, because there is a doubt that maybe it’s still the seventh day [of Sukkos].  However, one does not make a bracha on sitting [in the sukkah].

Interestingly, the Remah does not disagree with the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch, nor do other poskim, as the Kaf Hachayim writes:2Kaf Hachaim, §668:8

It is understood from all the poskim that one must eat all the meals of that day [Shemini Atzeres] in the sukkah.

As clear as the halacha seems to be, however, we know that different customs are practiced by various communities in regard to this matter.

Partly in the House and the Minhag of Rashi

In his sefer Yosef Ometz, Rabbi Yosef Hahn-Neurlingen, the famous shamash of the Jewish community of Frankfurt-on-the-Main, begins with the obligation to eat in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeres and then cites what he considers an improper custom of some people to eat part of their daytime meal in the house:3Yosef Ometz, Frankfurt 1723, §1058.

On Shemini Atzeres, one is obliged to eat all meals in the sukkah. 

If Shemini Atzeres happens to be on Shabbos, one has to eat se’uda shelishis in the sukkah.  The same applies if one wants to eat during bein hashmashos4The twilight period before nightfall when it is halachically questionable whether it is day or night. between Shemini Atzeres and Simcha Torah; one is obliged to eat in the sukkah.

From this one can understand that it is incorrect of those who eat part of their meal of Shemini Atzeres morning, outside of the sukkah. 

But then he adds an interesting point:

Only family Treves, who eat the whole meal of Shemini Atzeres night out of the sukkah, have something to rely on.

Description: Memorbuch of the Frankfurt Community
Note: Entry about R’ Yoseph Hahn
Credit: National Library of Israel

This custom is mentioned by a Treves family member as well.  Rabbi Dov Ber Treves, the Rosh Beis Din of Vilna:5Revid HaZahav, Hrodna 1797, Parshas Emor.

Title: The Feast of the Rejoicing of the Law at the Synagogue in Leghorn (Livorno), Italy
Artist: Solomon Hart (1806–1881)
Date: 1850
Collection: Jewish Museum (Manhattan)
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

I found this in a chibur of my ancestor, the gaon Rabbi Shnei’or Treves from Frankfurt,
“We have the custom not to eat in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeres at night. This was based on a story with Rashi, the head of our family.” I do not know the story, but I keep this tradition. See Magen Avraham.6The Magen Avraham brings a variety of traditions.

Remarkably, the ‘part inside-part outside’ minhag mentioned by R’ Yosef Hahn, wasn’t unique to Frankfurt in Germany.  We find the same custom in Bohemian Prague, as we shall see below.

The Minhag of the Remah

Up to this point, we’ve referred to halachic sources.  Let’s now turn to an anecdote from history, to ascertain the personal minhag of the Remah, as we travel back 310 years, to Prague and the home of a certain Rabbi Yaacov Schulhof.

R’ Yaacov was a fine, learned person who was famous for hosting guests in his home7Prague register, a copy of this section of which we have in our library.. One Sukkos, the city of Prague was honored with a visit from an illustrious visitor, the rav of Mezritch,8Międzyrzec Podlaski, Poland. Rabbi Saadia Yeshayah Katzenellenbogen, who was also a first cousin, once removed, of the above-mentioned R’ Yaacov Schulhof.  R’ Shaya’s grandfather, Rabbi Moshe Katzenellenbogen, the rav of Chelm, was a brother of R’ Yaakov’s mother, Rebbetzin Beile, the wife of Rabbi Yonah Teomim, author of Kikayon D’Yonah. 

When R’ Yaakov learned of R’ Shaya’s presence in Prague, he very much wanted to have his esteemed cousin as a guest at his Yom Tov meal.  R’ Yaakov already had another guest in his house, Rabbi Pinchas Katzenellenbogen, who was a nephew of R’ Shaya of Mezritch (and who would eventually become the rav of Boskowitz, Moravia), and so he asked R’ Pinchas to be so kind and persuade his uncle R’ Shaya to honor him by joining R’ Yaacov Schulhof’s family for a Yom Tov meal on Shemini Atzeres morning.

R’ Pinchas gladly agreed to do as asked by his host:

“Dear uncle, I’m coming on behalf of a relative of ours, R’ Yaacov Schulhof, who has invited you and your family to join him for a meal on Shemini Atzeres!”

“Pinchas, tell me honestly.  You know R’ Yaacov.  What is his custom, does he eat the whole meal in the Sukkah on Shemini Atzeres, or only part of it?”

“He only eats part of it in the sukkah.  He finishes the meal inside the house.”

“Well, if that’s the case, please tell him that I’ll gladly come over and join him for the meal, but… he must promise me that he will eat the whole meal in his sukkah!”

When R’ Pinchas reported back to R’ Yaacov what R’ Shaya had said, R’ Yaakov readily agreed, and indeed, on Shemini Atzeres, the Mezritcher rav joined his cousin R’ Yaacov Schulhof, and his nephew R’ Pinchas Katzenellenbogen in the sukkah.

Prague, Czech Republic – July 9, 2018: Pinkas Synagogue in Jewish quarter. Was built in 1535.

Years later, R’ Pinchas wrote about this episode in his diary, entitled Yesh Manchilin:9Yesh Manchilin, Jerusalem 1986, §115.

We sat down to the Yom Tov meal, and we sat in the sukkah.  There was R’ Yaacov Schulhof and his wife; his son R’ Yonah Schulhof with his wife and family; and Rebbetzin Pearl, the wife of R’ Faivel Teomim was there with her daughters Beile and Gitel.

At the meal, my righteous uncle rebuked our cousin R’ Yaakov and his son R’ Yonah, and he told them: “How come you do not keep to the family tradition, minhag avoseinu Toras Moshe Rabbeinu, the tradition of the Remah, to eat in the Sukkah on Shemini Atzeres? Your mother, Beile, the wife of the gaon, Rabbi Yonah Teomim, who authored the sefer Kikayon D’Yonah, is a granddaughter of our ancestor, R’ Meir Shaul’s, and her mother was a niece of the Remah.  Thus, it is your obligation to keep this tradition, because of al titosh toras imecha!”

Thereupon, R’ Yaakov and his son R’ Yonah immediately took upon themselves to eat the full meal on Shemini Atzeres in the sukkah.

Thus, we have now two interesting and reliable family traditions:

  • Minhag Rashi – To eat the night meal inside the home
  • Minhag Remah – To eat the whole morning meal in the sukkah

Census Officers on Shemini Atzeres

On an interesting side note, in his diary entry regarding eating the Yom Tov meal in the sukkah, R’ Pinchas describes a census that was conducted in Prague on that same day by messengers of the authorities:

In those days, there was a decree from the government to write down a list of all family members living on the premises of each house, from old to young.  On that Shemini Atzeres 470 [1710], the government deployed officers to execute this decree.  They went about their business on the street where my uncle R’ Yaacov Schulhof lived.  Because of that, some people rushed their meals.

After midday, the officers, together with a Jewish fellow from the kehillah, came into the above house, and they wrote down everyone’s name, including mine, on their list.  After they had finished writing, we sat down to the Yom Tov meal in the sukkah.

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