Tuesday, October 6, 2015

“Light Lomdus”: The Uniqueness of Chol HaMoed Sukkot

Rav Yehuda Turetsky

Sukkot and Pesach both have intermediate days known as Chol HaMoed.[1] Yet, there is evidence that the nature of each Chol HaMoed is different. In particular, it may be argued that Chol HaMoed Sukkot has an elevated status relative to Chol HaMoed Pesach. What follows are three contexts in which such an idea may emerge.  

1. Hallel: The Talmud (Erchin 10a-10b) distinguishes between these days in terms of the requirement to recite Hallel. We are required to recite a full Hallel each day of Sukkot. On Pesach, though, we only say a full Hallel on the first day of Yom Tov. The Talmud explains the difference based on the kinds of sacrifices offered. Each day of Sukkot has a distinct requirement to offer Karbanot (i.e. a different number of Karbanot are offered each day). This causes each day to be viewed as unique and deserving of its own Hallel. In contrast, we offer the exact same amount of Karbanot on each day of Chol HaMoed Pesach. Therefore, there is no need to recite a full Hallel each day[2].  

2. Meat and Wine: The Talmud (Pesachim 109a) comments that the Mitzvah of Simcha on Yom Tov requires one to consume meat and wine.[3] Some Achronim debate whether one is obligated in the Mitzvah of Simcha on each day of Chol HaMoed.[4] Rav Schachter (Be’ikvei HaTzon pp. 80-81) notes a distinction between Sukkot and Pesach regarding this Halakha. There is a requirement of Simcha each day on Chol HaMoed Sukkot. Just as Hallel is recited daily, so is there a Mitzvah of Simcha each day. That is not true on Pesach; there is no obligation to recite Hallel daily, and there is no need to have Simcha each day.[5]

3. Brachot on the Haftarah: Similar to every other Shabbat, we recite a Haftarah on Shabbat Chol haMoed of both Pesach and Sukkot. Yet, there may be a difference in the Brachot we recite on those respective Haftarot. Rama (O.C. 490:9) writes that one should make no reference to Pesach during the Brachot recited on Shabbat Chol HaMoed of Pesach. Vilna Gaon (Mayseh Rav no. 226) taught similarly regarding Shabbat Chol HaMoed of Sukkot.  For him, Pesach and Sukkot are the same; neither get mentioned during the Brachot we recite on the Haftorot. However, Magen Avraham (O.C. 490:7) writes that while we don’t mention Pesach in those Brachot, we do mention Sukkot. He explains that this is because Chol HaMoed Sukkot is more “Chamur” (stringent) and is therefore worthy of being mentioned.[6] For him, there is clearly a difference between Chol HaMoed Sukkot and Chol HaMoed Pesach.

What emerges from these sources is a very powerful idea. Each day of Sukkot is unique and presents a specific religious opportunity.

May we be Zocheh to appreciate each day and to maximize it for its true spiritual potential!

Chag Sameach!

[1] Ramban (Vayikrah 23) understands that Sefirat HaOmer also has a Chol HaMoed like status, serving as a link between Pesach and Shavuot. 
For a general analysis of Chol haMoed, see last year’s post on this blog.
[2]  For more on this general distinction, as well as the precise significance of offering new Karbanot each day, see Rav Soloveitchik’s understanding, cited in the Mesorah Journal Vol. 3, 31-33.
[3]  See the Gemara’s comment inside. It is possible that one fulfills this requirement differently when we are without a Beit HaMikdash, and there is much discussion regarding how exactly one fulfills this obligation. The precise requirements of Simchat Yom Tov are beyond the scope of this brief post.
[4] For sources on the general status of Chol HaMoed, as well as this particular question, see Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 188:7), Mishna Berurah (ad loc:27), Magen Avraham (O.C. 530:1), and Shut Rebbe Akiva Eiger Mahadurah Kammah no. 1. See as well the exchange of letters between Rav Eliyashiv and Rav Chaim Kanievsky published in the end of Tehilah LiYonah to Masechet Ta’anit. 
[5] See inside for the link between Simcha and Hallel.
[6] Magen Avraham connects this to the requirement to offer Karbanot. See inside.

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