The Importance of Having Kavana in the Sukkah

Why do we sit in Sukkot?


The answer is found in Vayikra 23:43: “So that your generations may know that I made B’nai Yisrael dwell in Sukkot when I brought them out of the Land of Egypt”.


The Tur in Orach Chayim explains: We sit in the Sukkah to remember the Exodus of Egypt since everyone was there to see the Exodus and nobody can deny that it took place. The Sukkot in the desert were the clouds of glory which protected B’nai Yisrael from the heat and the sun. The Sukkot that we make remind us of those miracles.


The Bayit Chadash points out that the fact that the Tur who usually sticks to explaining the Halachot spends time here explaining the reason behind the mitzvah shows that part of the mitzvah is to have Kavana (intent) when we are in the Sukkah to remember the Exodus from Egypt.


Is it enough to have Kavana that we are doing a mitzvah by sitting in the Sukkah or do we have to have Kavana that God took care of us in Sukkot when we left Egypt?


According to the Pri Migadim and Mishna Brura, one would still have fulfilled the mitzvah if  they ate in the Sukkah while only having the intent of fulfilling the mitzvah of eating in the Sukkah (without focusing on the Exodus from Egypt).


Rabbi Yaakov Ettlinger gives a stricter opinion. If a person didn’t focus on the Exodus from Egypt during the meal on the first night then he should actually eat another Kezayit, this time making sure to focus on the Exodus. One should teach their children and grandchildren on the first night the reason why we sit in the Sukkah in the same way that we teach our children about the Exodus at the Pesach seder.


We see from here that Kavana is a very important aspect when fulfilling the mitzvah of Sukkah. Since we are physically sitting outside eating our meals in a booth instead of eating at our dining room table we may automatically have more Kavana. However, over time we may get so used to the mitzvah that we may take sitting in the Sukkah for granted.


Sukkot is a great opportunity to invite guests who are not as familiar with the holiday who will ask a lot of questions and give us the opportunity to explain why we are living in a booth for a week.

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