What is a Sukkah?
A Sukkah is a temporary booth or hut that is used during the week-long Jewish festival of Sukkot. The Sukkah is covered with vegetation.
Why build a Sukkah?
For forty years the Jewish people wandered in the desert after G-d redeemed them from Egypt and before they entered the land of Israel. During this period of wandering, they were protected from the elements through miraculous clouds that surrounded them. The Sukkah is our way of symbolically remembering this miracle that showed G-d’s kindness towards His people. It also signifies our trust in G-d as we choose to “live” in this temporary hut for seven days, instead of in the comfort of our homes.
Where to build a Sukkah?
The Sukkah is built outdoors, ideally close to one’s house. The Sukkah needs to be built under the open sky and it is therefore important that there is nothing that comes between the Sukkah roof and the sky, including trees, canopies or roofs.
What material should the Sukkah be made from?
- The walls can be made from any material strong enough to stand up to wind. A pre-existing wall can be used as one or more of the Sukkah walls. Actually, an existing, roofless structure can also be used as a Sukkah as long as one covers it with vegetation.
- The roof covering must be raw, unfinished vegetation. Commonly used vegetation are bamboo, evergreen branches, reeds and unfinished lumber.
- If you want there to be a lighting system in the Sukkah, be sure to purchase a rain-proof cover for light-bulbs.
- Regarding furniture for inside the Sukkah, keep in mind that all of one’s meals will be eaten in the Sukkah throughout the festival. You may also want to make sure you have extra furniture on-hand as it is considered special to invite guests into your Sukkah.
- Many have the custom to decorate their Sukkah with posters that are holiday-themed, paper chains, and other hanging decorations. This in order to beautify the commandment. This is based on a view in Judaism that when fulfilling G-d’s commandments, one should do so in the best possible way.
What are the required dimensions of the Sukkah according to Jewish Law?
- There must be at least two full walls and a minimum of a 3.2-inch-wide third wall for a Sukkah to be considered Kosher. The walls must be at the very least 32 inches high and less than 30 feet. The Sukkah can’t be smaller, lengthwise and breadth-wise, than 22.4 inches by 22.4 inches. There is no limit to how large the Sukkah can be, lengthwise and widthwise.
- For further requirements regarding the vegetation and other details, see the source of this article at http://www.chabad.org/holidays/JewishNewYear/template_cdo/aid/420823/jewish/How-to-Build-a-Sukkah.htm
The Sechach is the covering of the Sukkah structure that Jewish people live in for the week-long festival of Sukkot.
What materials can Sechach be?
Sechach must be a detached product of the earth. Wood in all it’s varieties may therefore be used- for example bamboo and leafy branches. In the case of a living tree that provides shade for the Sukkah, this is, according to Jewish law, not acceptable.
What about the height of the Sukkah itself?
The maximum height of a Sukkah is twenty amot. An amah (plural amot) is a Biblical unit of measurement that measures between eighteen inches and two feet. Therefore, the maximal height of a Sukkah is between thirty and forty feet. The minimum height is ten tefachim. A tefach (plural tefachim) is another Biblical measurement and it is the size of a fist; between eight and 9.6 cm. The minimal height of a Sukkah is therefore between 32 and 36 inches.
How thick must the Sechach be?
The Sechach must be thick enough to provide more shade than sunlight in the daytime. At nighttime, it must not be thick enough to block the brightest stars.
What is “active” and “passive” Sechach?
There is a principle from the Torah called “Ta’aseh v’lo Min ha’Asuy” which means that certain commandments should be done actively and not passively. This is so regarding Sechach too. Practically this means that the Sechach must be laid intentionally and the passive “arrival” of Sechach is not enough. An example would be the incorrect usage of bundles of hay as Sechach. The use of bundles of hay is forbidden because often hay bundles will be dried on top of structures such as that of a Sukkah and the one drying the hay may decide later on to use the hay as Sechach. Such an instance would be an example of passive placement of Sechach.