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I understand that the reason women are exempt from the mitzvah of sukkah is a halacha l'Moshe miSinai (Sukkah 28a-b). I would to know if any commentaries address the conceptual reason for this exemption in light of the general principle of 'af heyn hayu b'oto nes' - that women are often included in time-bound obligations in which they were a part of the miracle (eg lighting Hanukkah candles, as per Shabbat 23a).

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  • Chanukah candles is a rabbinic obligation
    – Double AA
    Oct 19, 2016 at 0:57
  • According to Rambam, we sit in a Succah to remind ourselves of how we used to be stuck in miserable shacks, but now we have wonderful domiciles, particularly, in the land of Israel. Accordingly, it does not seem that we are commemorating a miracle, and "af hen" wouldn't be applicable.
    – mevaqesh
    Oct 19, 2016 at 1:12
  • Mitzvah Aseh Shehazeman Grama is a Halacha l'Moshs miSinai?! (See Kiddushin, beginning at the very bottom of 33b - Sukkah is one of the prime examples, and this law is derived from pesukim on 34a).
    – DonielF
    Oct 19, 2016 at 15:24
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    @rikitikitembo Still not a Halacha lmoshe miSinai. The Gemara says that a passuk - not an oral tradition - of kol haezrach is included to teach you that although one might have had such a hava amina that mitzvos aseh shehazeman grama shouldn't apply, we still apply it.
    – DonielF
    Oct 20, 2016 at 3:26
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    @DonielF I found this quote from the Rambam "Rambam, Commentary to the Mishna, Kiddushin 1:7 For we have a rule that we do not learn [Halacha] from rules, and they say "all" to indicate "for the most part." But positive mitzvot in which women are or are not obligated, in all of their scope, do not follow a rule but are transmitted orally and these are received traditions." which seems to say that while the mechanism is zman grama, the ultimate application and invocation of that principle is MiSinai.etzion.org.il/en/download/file/fid/227579
    – rosends
    Sep 17, 2019 at 18:27

2 Answers 2

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Good question!

This is where I got the below answers and sources. I just took the main parts needed and organized it a bit. It goes in depth into the concept of Af Hen so there is more info there as well:

1)**Tosfot in Pesachim 108b says, והא דאמרינן דפטורות מסוכה אף על גב דאף הן היו באותו הנס כי בסוכות הושבתי התם בעשה דאורייתא אבל בארבעה כוסות דרבנן תיקנו גם לנשים כיון שהיו באותו הנס.

Translation: "We say they [women] are exempt from sukka even though they, too, were part of that miracle – “for I caused [Israel] to dwell in sukkot.” There [regarding sukka] it is a positive Torah commandment, but the four cups [of wine at the seder] are rabbinic, and they enacted them for women as well since they too were part of that miracle."

Explanation: Tosafot suggests that “inclusion in the miracle” may only obligate women in rabbinic obligations. The three mitzvot that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi lists are widely understood as rabbinic. Since sukka is a Torah commandment, inclusion in the miracle cannot form the basis for obligation.

2)**Rav Yosef Engel in Gilyon Hashas Meggilah 4a presents one possible explanation, and sides with the view that inclusion in the miracle can only obligate women in rabbinic-level mitzvot:

דמשום האי טעמא לא מיחייבא אלא במצוה דרבנן אבל במצוה דאוריתא אפי[לו] מדרבנן אין מתחייבת…והטעם דבדאורייתא לא אזלי[נן] כלל בתר טעמא ולא דרשי[נן] טעמא דקרא ואין להם לחכמים לחייב נשים אפי[לו] מדבריהם מפאת שאף הן…

Translation: “This rationale [inclusion in the miracle] can obligate a woman only in a rabbinic-level mitzva, but in a Torah-level mitzva, it cannot obligate her even rabbinically. The reason for this is that in Torah-level mitzvot we don’t legislate based on rationales [behind the mitzvot] and we don’t [even] legally expound rationales for verses. So the sages cannot obligate a woman, even rabbinically, [in a Torah-level mitzva] from the vantage of inclusion in the miracle."

Explanation: When enacting new rabbinic decrees, the sages can decide whom to obligate and whom to exempt, based on rationales such as inclusion in the miracle. But the Torah itself decrees who is and is not obligated in Torah-level mitzvot. Our sages cannot alter the Torah’s legislation by invoking a rationale, like inclusion in the miracle, to create any sort of obligation in a Torah-level mitzvah.

3)Iggerot Ha-Grid Ha-Levi' (in Hilchos Chanukah 4:9-11):

נראה פשוט דכל הך טעמא של אף הן היו באותו הנס שייך רק לאותן המצוות דהנס הוא דין וחלות בפני עצמו בעצם קיום המצוה, דאיכא בה קיום של נס ופרסומי ניסא. … ועוד יותר הרי בנר חנוכה ומקרא מגילה נתקנה ברכה בפני עצמה שעשה נסים, הרי דהך דינא של נס הוא קיום בעצם החפצא של המצוה ונתקנה ברכה עליה. והרי הך שאף הן היו באותו הנס מצינו רק גבי נר חנוכה ומקרא מגילה וארבע כוסות, והוא משום דבכל הני מצות דין נס אינו רק טעם המצוה אלא דנאמר בעצם קיום ומעשה המצוה, וכדחזינן דאיכא ברכה מיוחדת עליה, אבל קידוש ומצה, נהי דאיכא בהם זכרון הנס, אבל דין קיום וחלות בפני עצמם בעצם מעשה המצוה הרי ליכא, ואם כן לכאורה כל הך טעמא של אף הן היו באותו הנס לא שייך

Translation: “It seems clear that this entire reason of ‘af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes‘ applies only to those mitzvot where the miracle constitutes an independent halakhic entity within the actual fulfillment of the mitzva, that it [the mitzva] entails a fulfillment regarding the miracle and publicizing the miracle… Moreover, regarding Chanuka candles and Megilla reading, a separate berakha was instituted – ‘she-asa nisim,’ for this halakha concerning the miracle constitutes a fulfillment within the actual mitzva itself, and so a berakha is established over it. Indeed, we find‘af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes‘ only regarding Chanuka candles, Megilla reading, and the four cups. This is due to the fact that in all these mitzvot, the halakha concerning the miracle is not merely the reason behind the mitzva, but is rather established as part of the actual fulfillment and act of the mitzva, as evidenced by the special berakha instituted over it. Regarding kiddush and matza, by contrast, although they involve a commemoration of the miracle, there is no independent halakha, requirement or entity within the actual mitzva act. It would therefore seem that the entire factor of ‘af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes‘ does not apply.”

Explanation: Rav Soloveitchik distinguishes commandments that include commemoration of a miracle, such as kiddush and matza, from commandments whose very fulfillment involves publicizing the miracle, such as Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi’s three. As proof for this distinction he notes that we recite unique berachot before the fulfillment of mitzvot that publicize a miracle: she-asa nissim for Chanuka candles and megilla reading, and asher ga’alanu over the wine on Pesach. When a mitzva commemorates a miracle, that commemoration can still be peripheral to its fulfillment, so not everyone included in the miracle is obligated. In contrast, when publicizing a miracle is central to fulfillment of a mitzva, anyone included in the miracle must take part in publicizing it further.

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  • Great and interesting answer. If we hold that 4 cups are D'oraita, then Rav Soloveitchic's answer seems to work with that, but the other two don't. I didn't follow your asterisk point at the end - which 2 explanations would apply to Sukka, and apply in what way?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Apr 14, 2023 at 1:32
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According to Rashi (Pesachim 108b), ״אף הן היו באותו הנס” means that they also had a part in bringing about the miracle - the exodus of Egypt was in the Merit of the righteous women, Esther by Purim, and Yehudis by Chanukah -

According to this, maybe this is the reason why they are exempt from Succah, being that the clouds of glory - which the Mitzvah of Succah commemorates - did not come in the merit of women, but for Aharon

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