The Scorching Hot Sukkah Challenge

October 18, 2016 at 8:57 AM ,

“….I have one easy Mitzvah, called Sukkah. Go and do it…” – Immediately, each gentle will build a Sukkah on his roof. G-od will make the sun blaze, and they will kick the Sukkah and leave. This test is justified as sometimes Jews must sit in the Sukkah while still in the summer season as well. But if it is uncomfortable, the law is that one is exempt from the Sukkah? Granted, they would be exempt, but would they then kick it? – (Talmud Avodah Zarah 3A-3B)


The belief that G-d will reward us for the observance of the mitzvos is one of Judaism’s cardinal principles.  Reward, however, is only secondary to the ultimate purpose of the mitzvos – for us to connect with G-d, Who commanded that these mitzvos be fulfilled.

This explains why the manner in which we leave the Sukkah when we are exempt (due to discomfort) is the test of our devotion to G-d. The Talmud describes how, in the World to Come, G-d will challenge the gentiles to observe the commandment of Sukkah. Due to the intense heat, they will abandon the Sukkah, even kicking it on their way out. The Talmud notes that a Jew, too, is exempt from remaining in the Sukkah if he is uncomfortable, but he still does not treat the Sukkah demeaningly. Why is that difference so significant?

The Rem”a (Orach Chaim 639:7) writes, ‘Anyone who is exempt from sitting in the sukkah will not be especially rewarded if he remains in it.’ Accordingly, the “scorching hot Sukkah challenge” tests one’s response to losing the opportunity of being rewarded for a mitzvah. Therein lies the difference between the Jew and the gentile. Once the heat renders sitting in the Sukkah a “non-profitable” endeavor, the gentiles will kick the Sukkah, considering it worthless. The Jew, however, does not see the Sukkah as worthless even when he stands to receive no reward for sitting in it. Rather, he sees the Sukkah primarily as a means to fulfill G-d’s will: to sit in it when G-d so desires, or not to, if G-d’s law should deem it unnecessary. The reward is only secondary, so its loss does not change the Sukkah’s value.

—Reshimos 62, pp. 22-23


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