What does it mean that Yisrael dwelt in sukkot in the wilderness?


The plain reading of Vayikra 23:43 says that Yisrael dwelt in sukkot while they were in the wilderness. Rashi on this verse says that the "sukkot" that Israel dwelt in were the divine clouds of glory -- by implication, not physical booths.

But this Rashi in turn seems to be referring to Rashi on Bamidbar 10:34, which talks about the divine clouds by day and when they were traveling. Daytime protection is not necessarily the same as night-time shelter. And I don't think of people who are on the move as "dwelling" somewhere, so I'm confused about how to apply Rashi's interpretation to the verse that says God caused Yisrael to dwell in sukkot.

We know from Bilaam's famous blessings (and probably elsewhere) that Yisrael had tents. There's even an interpretation somewhere (I forget where) that they were especially mindful of their neighbors' privacy by setting them up so that doors didn't face other doors -- so that sure sounds like physical, opaque dwellings that they chose how to erect, not divinely-placed clouds.

Ibn Ezra on this verse seems to be saying they lived in actual booths "following the custom of all military camps". I'm not aware of military camps using booths (as opposed to tents), however, unless he means constructing temporary buildings (for longer stays) -- which tend to be more, not less, sturdy than the tents they replace. (And I don't know if this was done in that time.) Yet aren't sukkot supposed to be more fragile?

Did Yisrael actually dwell in physical sukkot (booths) at any time while they were in the wilderness? Always, or just during Sukkot each year, or maybe just after the Exodus?

Why should this post be closed?


1 answer


Sefer Rokeach § 219, citing יש מפרשים, brought by the Eliyah Rabbah 625:1, says that the Jews dwelled in booths when they went to war against Sichon and Og, as well as during their conquest of the land of Canaan.

The Chasam Sofer clarifies that, like you brought, they spent the majority of their time dwelling in the Clouds of Glory. However, when they left the clouds to wage battles, they needed some sort of temporary structure. Thus, the booths. See the link, where this is supported by a verse in Shmuel.

1 comment

Although I'm not sure why they left the clouds during the battles. My guess is the women and children stayed behind and the men waged the wars outside the camp. ‭robev‭ 23 days ago

Sign up to answer this question »

Like any library, this site offers tons of great information, but does not offer personalized, professional advice, and does not take the place of seeking such advice from your rabbi.

This site is part of the Codidact network. We have other sites too — take a look!

You can also join us in chat!

Want to advertise this site? Use our templates!