The Threat to the Sukkot in Bnei Brak

The nuisance that threatens the Sukkot holiday in Bnei Brak

The rat infestation, which instills fear among the city's residents, is revealing a halachic problem in fulfilling the mitzvah of the sukkah in the building courtyards. Many rabbis in the city are addressing this phenomenon and its halachic implications

(Photo: Yaacov Naomi/Flash90)

In recent months, the city of Bnei Brak has been grappling with a severe rat infestation due to general neglect in the building courtyards and a declining hygiene situation in the city. However, now the infestation is revealing itself as a halachic issue that complicates the observance of the mitzvah of the sukkah during the upcoming holiday.

According to Jewish law, a person who is distressed is exempt from sitting and sleeping in the sukkah. However, one who is more distressed from rodents, such as many mice surrounding him incessantly, is exempt from sleeping in a sukkah in a courtyard.

Indeed, in a halachic ruling given by Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein, he wrote that "if he is afraid of mice, he is distressed, and he does not fulfill the obligation. However, if he is not afraid and is not repulsed or concerned, he fulfills the obligation."

Rabbi Yitzhak Zilberstein (Photo: Shlomi Cohen/Flash90)

Other judges also addressed the issue that troubles the tranquility of the city's residents. They ruled that if someone is distressed due to rodents while eating in a sukkah, they do not fulfill their obligation to observe the mitzvah in such a sukkah. However, if the distress only occurs at night while sleeping, there is room for leniency, especially when there is no possibility of building a sukkah elsewhere. Nevertheless, even in such cases, they will be careful to eat in a different sukkah on the first night, where there is no distress from rodents at all.

In a lecture that Rabbi Mazuz delivered in preparation for the holiday, he stated, "In Bnei Brak, there is a unique issue, the 'mouse plague.' This year, especially, the mice are abundant. It is impossible to stay in a sukkah with the mice; they will eat a person. If someone sleeps in the sukkah, the mice will come, and they will nibble on him from here and there... What kind of life is this? Is this a sukkah? It is impossible to sleep like this."

Rabbi Meir Mazuz (Photo: Yaacov Naomi/Flash90)

However, in practice, Rabbi's legal ruling is slightly different. He indeed stated, "In Bnei Brak, it's a national 'mouse plague.' Therefore, if a person has a sukkah downstairs where the mice come in, he is exempt from sleeping in it, but he must say kiddush and eat in it. Simply put, that's it."

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