Translation by Rabbi Avi Schwartz, introduction by Rabbi Dov Linzer
Rabbi Avraham Bornsztain (1838-1910) was the first Sochatchover Rebbe. He was a leading posek of the 19th century. His responsa, Sheilot U’teshuvot Avnei Nezer cover all 4 sections of Shulhan Arukh. A student of the Kotzker Rebbe, his Eglei Tal is a model of conceptual thinking and remains a critically important work on the laws of Shabbat.
This teshuva (no. 459) deals with the implications of the well-known custom to begin building the Sukkah immediately after the end of Yom Kippur. In general, we are supposed to show alacrity in the performance of mitzvot, and, in particular, the building of the sukkah immediately after Yom Kippur is a way of demonstrating that we are turning our prayers and words into actions. Rabbi Bornsztain argues that when Shabbat intervenes between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, as it does this year, one is required as an actual matter of halakhah to build the sukkah before Shabbat. To not do so would be, in his opinion, a violation of not “passing over” or – to borrow some Passover imagery – not “leavening” a mitzvah.
One question he deals with is whether the building of a sukkah is considered to be an actual mitzvah. The core question, however, is as follows: Is there a time when we are considered to be so confronted by the mitzvah of building a sukkah, that the postponing of it would be considered not just lack of zeal or eagerness, but a real ignoring of our obligations? His answer is in the affirmative.
While few poskim adopt his position as a matter of halakha, this teshuvah gives us an opportunity to reflect on how we are setting our priorities for this coming year: what should we be doing now, and what should we be putting off until later? And when are we pushing something off – whether it be a ritual mitzvah, or something interpersonal, like a conversation that we should be having with a parent, child or spouse – that we really know we need to be doing now? May this coming year be one in which we always show alacrity in our service of God and doing of mitzvot, and in which we give our full attention to those who demand and deserve it.
Chag Samayach and Shanah Tovah!
|א) יקרת מכתבו הגיעני בחול המועד. והרבה להשיב על מה שדרשתי שיען ששבת בינתיים. בין יום הכיפורים לחג הסוכות. מחוייבין לעשות סוכה קודם השבת. דחשיב מעביר על המצוות. כיון ששבת בינתיים. שאינו ראוי לעשות סוכה. הנה קודם השבת ואחר השבת שני זמנים חלוקים. וכשמעביר מזמן לזמן חשיב מעביר..
||I received your letter over Hol Hamoed, responding extensively to my idea that when Shabbat falls between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, one is obligated to build the sukkah before Shabbat. This is because we “don’t pass over mitzvot,” and since Shabbat is between the two holidays, and one may not build the sukkah on Shabbat. Before Shabbat and after Shabbat are thus two distinct time periods, and moving from one to the other [without having built the sukkah] is considering “passing over a mitzvah.”…
ממולו ומצדדין… וזהו קול הבר