Instructions if it Rains on First or Second Nights of Sukkot
Adapted from Rabbi Yona Reiss, Av Beis Din of the Chicago Rabbinical Council (CRC)
Eating in the Rain – Guidelines for Contending with Rainfall on the First and Second Nights of Sukkot
Generally, there is no obligation to eat in the Sukkah when it rains to the degree that the soup would get ruined. This is based on the exemption of “mitztaer” – of a person who is uncomfortable – from having to eat in the Sukkah. The Torah says that one should “reside” in the Sukkah for seven days in a manner akin to how one resides in their house, and therefore one is not required to “reside” in the Sukkah in a manner of discomfort which they would not tolerate in their own home.
However, many authorities hold that this exemption is inapplicable to the first night of Sukkot, and therefore there would be an obligation to eat at least a “kezayis” (an “olive’s worth” or approximately one fluid ounce) worth of bread in the Sukkah on the first night of Sukkot even if it is raining. According to this opinion, it would have even been permissible to recite the blessing of “Leishev B’Sukkah” in the rain during the first night. Others, however, disagree and hold that the exemption of “mitztaer” is applicable to the first night as well and therefore one would not have to eat in the Sukkah at all during the rain and certainly should not recite the blessing of “Leishev B’Sukkah.”
Due to the lack of resolution of this question, rain on the first night presents a special challenge. Therefore, it is appropriate to wait for an hour or two (others hold until close to midnight, but that is not the custom) for the rain to stop before beginning the meal. If the rain does not stop within this time frame, then Kiddush should be made in the Sukkah (with the brocha of Shecheyanu) without the recitation of the blessing of “Leishev BaSukah,” followed by Hamotzi in the Sukkah and the eating of a “kezayis” of bread. However, if a person has hungry guests or members of the household who would have difficulty waiting, it would be permissible to make Kiddush (without Leishev B’Sukkah) and Hamotzi right away in the Sukkah if the rain is not imminently coming to an end. It is legitimate in our opinion to rely upon this approach even in the case of a normal family that does not have guests.
If it is still raining, the rest of the meal can be eaten in the house, but if it stops raining afterwards, one should return to the Sukkah to eat a “Ke’Beitzah v’Od” (the volume of “more than an egg” or slightly more than two fluid ounces) worth of bread and make the blessing of Leishev B’Sukkah at that time. If one already went to sleep when it stopped raining, most authorities hold that it is not necessary to return to the Sukkah to eat more bread and make the “Leishev B’Sukkah” blessing, but some authorities, such as the Vilna Gaon, feel that it would be appropriate to force oneself to return to the Sukkah at any point during the night when it stops raining.
If it is raining on the second night, the Kiddush and Hamotzi can be said in the house (obviously, without the blessing of “Leishev B’Sukkah”) after waiting just a few minutes for the rain to stop (and certainly no longer than the waiting period during the first night), followed by the meal in the house, and then followed by eating in the rain a “kezayis” of bread in the Sukkah (without a “Leisev B’Sukkah) before benching in the house. If the rain stops before one goes to bed, one should follow the procedure of the first night of making eating “Ke’Baitzah v’Od” of bread in the Sukkah and reciting “Leishev B’Sukkah” before going to sleep.
On both nights, if it appears that the rain is about to start when one returns from shul, it is important to recite Kiddush in the Sukkah quickly with a “Leishev B’Sukkah”, and then to wash quickly, make Hamotzi and eat a “kezayis” of bread quickly before the rain starts to come down. While it is ideally recommended this year (5778) to wait before making Kiddush until 7:24 pm on the first night, and 7:23 on the second night, it is recommended in the case of impending rain to recite Kiddush in the Sukkah as early as 7:16 pm on the first night, or 7:15 pm on the second night (for residents of St. Louis).
All these restrictions and requirements only apply to men. Women, who are not strictly required by halacha to eat in the Sukkah, do not need to observe any of these waiting periods and do not need to return to the Sukkah when it stops raining afterward, although they are of course welcome to do so.
It is our fervent hope that we should merit to observe the mitzvah of sitting in the Sukkah in splendid and superior fashion during this upcoming holiday.
Chag Sameach to all.