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Recreational Trips and Hikes on Sukkot

Tishrei 5783 | September 2022


In the previous blog I discussed a dispute related to traveling on Succot –  is it appropriate to travel from home and leave one’s succah-home, or does one need a “good” reason to leave, such as urgent business that cannot be postponed? Additionally, how much effort does someone traveling need to exert for the mitzvah of succah when they are not actively on the road? 

According to the Rema (OC 640:8), one may leave one’s succah-home just as he would leave his own home; he is not limited to specific justified circumstances. However, the Rema adds that if one specifically scheduled a medical procedure for chol hamoed, even though it could have been done some other time, he wouldn’t be exempt from the succah like other sick people. One should not make plans that would make it difficult to dwell in the succah just because there are a few days of “vacation”.

According to this logic, one should refrain from leaving the succah for unnecessary activities as much as possible. Are trips, sightseeing, hikes, and cultural activities considered good reasons for leaving the succah?

In the Halakhic corpus we can find different opinions regarding the value of touring, hiking and recreational travel on Succot.

The Mishnah (tractate Beitza 1:5) cites a disagreement between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai regarding what objects one is permitted to take out of one’s home to the public domain on Yom Tov (the melacha of hotza’ah when there is no eruv). This disagreement is based on the halakha that specific melachot that are forbidden on Shabbat are permitted on Yom Tov, such as cooking and carrying from one domain to another. These melachot are permitted “l’tzorech ochel nefesh” (literally “what is necessary to feed life”) – which can be understood as a limited dispensation to perform specific melachot related to food preparation that could not be done before the festival, but can also be understood as a more general dispensation that permit a limited set of melachot in circumstances where it will enhance enjoyment of the festival. According to Beit Shammai, one may only carry prepared food, but according to Beit Hillel, one may also carry a young child, a Lulav or a Torah Scroll. We may assume they allow carrying additional items, and these are just examples. According to the Tosfot,[1] Beit Hillel allow carrying things that are part of rejoicing on the holiday. They explain that the young child may be carried for the purpose of taking a walk, or playing ball. Going out, according to the Tosfot, is part of the joyof the holiday that justifies carrying out to the public domain.

We see a similar consideration regarding the justification to make an“Eruv Tchumin” (a Halakhic method that can extend the area one is allowed to walk out of a city on Shabbat or Yom Tov). According to Rav Yosef, one may only make an “Eruv Tchumin” for the sake of a mitzvah.[2] Trumat Hadeshen,[3] a fifteenth century sage, concluded that going out for a walk on Yom Tov, is considered a “dvar mitzvah” for the sake of permitting placing “Eruv Tchumin”. The joy that is brought by going out for a stroll is part of the obligation to be happy on Yom Tov.

On the other hand, there are halakhot that do not consider recreational travel to be a valid reason for halakhic leniency. The Poskim discuss a person traveling long distances with a caravan on a journey that was bound to last more than six days. If one is part of a non-Jewish caravan, they are permitted to continue to travel with the caravan on Shabbat, as the alternative would leave him or her stranded alone and vulnerable in a dangerous area. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 248:4) permits beginning  such a journey on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday; if one departs on one of those days he or she may continue walking on Shabbat for the sake of “pikuach nefesh” (to save a life – since Torah prohibitions are set aside in cases of mortal-danger). However, if the journey is to perform a mitzvah one may leave on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, when awareness of the up-coming Shabbat is more acute. 

The Rema comments that traveling for the sake of traveling is not considered a mitzvah. One may infer from here that the Rema doesn’t see a value in recreational travel or walking for pleasure. However, we may also maintain that recreational travel or walking has value when it is part of a holiday and helps fulfill the obligation of rejoicing during the festival. Alternatively, recreational travel may not be a good enough reason to put oneself in the situation where transgressing the Shabbat is inevitable, but it may be a valid consideration for permitting carrying on Yom Tov or making an Eruv Tchumin..

Based on these sources one could logically conclude that recreational travel is permitted on Chol Hamoed as it enhances “Simchat Yom Tov”. However, some modern Poskim were wary of people leaving their succah to go hiking and claiming they are travelers who are exempt from the succah.[4] It seems these rabbis were worried people would take advantage of the vacation to travel and would end up forsaking the mitzvah of succah for extended periods. Some say that people who hike on Chol Hamoed are not granted a “traveler’s exemption” from succah, just like someone who schedules a non-urgent medical procedure is not granted the dispensation for sick people and is still obligated to fulfill the mitzvah of succah. Others maintain that Chol Hamoed should be dedicated to learning Torah and not for idle traveling.[5] Finally, as we saw in the previous blog, additional Poskim understand that one is only exempt from the succah for mitzvot and urgent business.[6]

Personally, I think that for individuals and families who wouldn’t necessarily sit and learn all day and who experience travel as enriching and enjoyable or a way to strengthen bonds , recreational trips or hikes are an important part of the joy of Yom Tov.[7] This traveling has special merit in the Land of Israel, as part of getting to know and love the land.[8] However, seeing as the question of recreational walks and hikes is disputed, I would refrain from using it as a good enough reason to exempt one from eating (or sleeping) in a succah. Therefore, when planning recreational outings that involve leaving the home-succah one should plan his meals and sleeping-arrrangements  accordingly, whether looking for a place with a convenient succah, carrying a portable one, or eating foods that don’t need to be eaten in a succah .[9] 

Chag Sameach!


[1] Tosfot Beitza 12b “the right version: Rashi”.

[2] Bavli Eruvin 31a.

[3] Sec. 77.

[4] Rav Moshe Feinstein, Igrot Moshe OC III, 93.

[5] Rav Ovadia Yosef, Yachave Daat 6:47

[6] Halichot Shlomo, Mitzva of Sitting in the Succah, part 9, sec.21; Piskey Tshuvot OC 640:12.

[7] See also Rav Baruch Rosenberg, Kovetz Yeshurun 16, p. 521.

[8] See also Rav Yaakov Ariel, Responsa “Be’ohala Shel Torah” II, 93.

[9] See also Pniney Halacha Succah, part 3, sec. 14 and in the Supplements. 

Rabbanit Dr. Adina Sternberg

was in the first cohort of the Matan Kitvuni Fellowship program and her book is in the publication process. She has a B.A. in Bible from Hebrew University and a M.A. and Ph.D. in Talmud from Bar Ilan University. Adina studied in Midreshet Lindenbaum, Migdal Oz, Havruta and the Advanced Talmud Institute in Matan. She currently teaches Bible and Talmud at Matan, and at Efrata and Orot colleges. Adina lives in Adam (Geva Binyamin) with her family.