The Laws of the Holiday of Sukkot
As per the request of many of our members and as a public service, we shall now list a synopsis of some laws which are essential for the upcoming Sukkot holiday:
- The Sukkah must be made of three walls and Sechach (the roof). The walls may be made of any material which can withstand a normal wind, excluding sheets and the like which cannot and are thus invalid.
- If the walls are made from metal, plastic, or anything else which does not grow from the ground, one should not place the Sechach directly on them; rather, one should place some wooden beams on top of the walls and place the Sechach on these beams, for these beams grow from the ground and thus are incapable of becoming impure.
- The Sechach must be made of something that grows from the ground, for instance, wooden slats, tree branches, and the like. Likewise, it must be detached from the ground as opposed to a tree which is still attached to the ground and cannot be used. Similarly, the Sechach must be made of material that is unable to become impure, excluding foods or wooden vessels such as wooden crates or chests, for these are indeed capable of becoming impure. A mat made of straw which is usually made for lying on is capable of becoming impure and is thus invalid for use as Sechach. However, mats made of reeds (or bamboo) specially made for use as Sechach are completely valid for use as Sechach.
Decorations hung from the Sechach to beautify the Sukkah may in fact invalidate the Sukkah in certain instances since they are not valid to be used as Sechach. Therefore, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that one must be sure to hang these decorations in close proximity to the Sechach, i.e. within four Tefachim (32 cm). The decorations should not hang down more than 32 cm from the Sechach, for they can invalidate the Sukkah in this way, as we have explained. However, when the decorations are within 32 cm of the Sechach, they are considered to be a part of the Sechach and there is no concern for invalidation of the Sukkah, even if they are quite large.
The Sechach should be made in a light manner, such that large stars can be seen through it. Nevertheless, even if one made the Sechach in a way that stars cannot be seen through it, it is still valid. However, if one made the Sechach so thick that rain cannot pass through it, one should be stringent and invalidate such a Sukkah. One should likewise be careful not to build his Sukkah under a balcony or roof, for this kind of Sukkah is invalid according to the letter of the law.
On Erev Sukkot, one should not eat over an egg’s volume (approximately 54 grams) of bread past the tenth halachic hour of the day (from approximately 4:00 PM and on), so that one will be able to eat the festive holiday meal that night with an appetite. Some are stringent and abstain from this beginning from halachic midday. When necessary, one may rely on the more lenient view.
There is a positive Torah commandment to eat an olive’s volume (approximately 27 grams) of bread in the Sukkah on the first night of Sukkot. Before eating, one should have in mind that he is sitting in the Sukkah in commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt and that he is fulfilling a positive Torah commandment with this eating.
On the other days of the Sukkot holiday (besides the second night in the Diaspora), there is no obligation to have a bread meal; however, if one wishes to eat more than an egg’s volume of bread (approximately 54 grams), one must do so in the Sukkah. In this case, one must recite the blessing of “Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’Olam Asher Kideshanu Bemitzvotav Vetzivanu Leeshev Ba’Sukkah,” as we have discussed at length previously.
One may eat fruits, vegetables, and rice outside of the Sukkah; one may certainly drink water or juice outside of the Sukkah. If one wishes to eat more than an egg’s volume of cake or other pastries, one must do so in the Sukkah, however, one would not recite the “Leeshev Ba’Sukkah” blessing in this instance. If one plans on eating an amount of cake or pastries which others would consider a meal (approximately 162 grams), one would need to recite the blessing of “Leeshev Ba’Sukkah.”
When one eats a food in the Sukkah which requires the “Leeshev Ba’Sukkah” blessing, it is preferable to recite this blessing before one sits down to eat. After reciting the blessing, one should have a seat, recite the appropriate blessing for what he is eating, and begin to enjoy his meal.