Halacha for Wednesday 12 Tishrei 5781 September 30 2020

Laws of the Sechach (Roof) of the Sukkah and Decorations Hung from the Sechach

The Mitzvah to Beautify the Sukkah
It is a great Mitzvah to beautify the Sukkah and decorate it as much as possible by adorning it with beautiful vessels and illuminating it with fine lights. The Mekubalim write that by honoring the Sukkah with fine lighting, one’s soul will merit resting peacefully in Gan Eden; one’s performance of this Mitzvah with pure intention and in a beautiful manner will directly impact the kind of Sukkah that will be made for one’s soul in Gan Eden, as the holy Zohar (Parashat Pinchas) states. When one places his fine vessels and linens in the Sukkah in order to adorn it, Hashem shall prepare the individual several canopies in the celestial Gan Eden. Nevertheless, we must point out that sometimes as a result of one’s good intention to decorate the Sukkah, one may inadvertently invalidate the Sukkah. One must therefore be fluent in the laws discussed in this segment in order to know how to observe this Mitzvah according to Halacha.

Conditions for Valid Sechach 
The Torah states (Devarim 16): “You shall make for yourself a holiday of Sukkot when you gather [the produce] from your granaries and wineries.” Our Sages learned from here (Sukkah 12a) that one should make the Sechach out of things gathered from granaries and wineries, i.e. the waste from granaries and wineries, such as straw, hay, twigs, or empty clusters of grapes and the like.

Similarly, the book of Nechemia (Chapter 8) states that the leaders of the nation told the Jewish people: “Go out to the mountain and bring olive branches, branches of an oily tree, myrtle branches, palm branches, and branches of a thick tree in order to make Sukkot as it is written.” Our Sages learned from here that in order to be valid, the Sechach must meet three requirements:

It must grow from the ground, it must be detached from the ground, and it must be something that is incapable of becoming impure (as we have already discussed), similar to the waste of granaries and wineries which grows from the ground, is detached from the ground, and is not capable of becoming impure, for anything which is neither a vessel or a food is incapable of becoming impure. If, for instance, a corpse would come in contact with a palm branch, the palm branch would not become impure. However, if it would come in contact with a wooden vessel, it would become impure, and it is thus invalid for use as Sechach (even if the vessel has broken, one may still not use the broken pieces as Sechach).

Thus, one may not use any type of metal as Sechach, as metal does not grow from the ground. Similarly, one may not use tree branches that are attached to the ground, for only things that are detached from the ground may be used as Sechach. Additionally, one may not use foods or vessels (even if they are made from wood) as Sechach, for these things are capable of becoming impure. Even if one covers his Sukkah with valid Sechach and only places invalid Sechach on top of that, the Sukkah is invalid. Therefore, if one builds a valid Sukkah but it is under a neighbor’s balcony, the Sukkah is most certainly invalid.

Paper Decorations
Paper may not be used as Sechach although it is a derivative of wood, since its appearance has changed completely and it is no longer considered something that grew from the ground. Thus, decorations hung from the Sechach in order to beautify the Sukkah can very well invalidate the Sukkah, for they are invalid for use as Sechach.

Therefore, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that one should take care to hang such decoration within four Tefachim (approximately thirty-two centimeters) of the Sechach, for in this way, they are considered part of the Sechach and they in no way invalidate the Sukkah, even if they are quite large. However, if the decorations droop below four Tefachim of the Sechach, there is concern for the invalidation of the Sukkah, as we have explained.

Summary: For the Sechach (roof) of the Sukkah, one must use a material which grows from the ground, is no longer attached to the ground, and which is incapable of becoming impure. If one wishes to adorn one’s Sukkah with paper decorations (or any other material for that matter), one may do so but one must make sure that they are hung in close proximity to the Sechach and do not droop down more than thirty-two centimeters (12.6 inches) from the Sechach, for this invalidates the Sukkah.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Lighting the Chanukah Candles

The Mitzvah of Lighting Chanukah Candles There is a Mitzvah to light Chanukah candles throughout all eight nights of Chanukah (beginning from next Thursday night). The Sephardic custom is to light one set of Chanukah candles per house. The Ashkenazi custom, however, is that every member of the hous......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Women Regarding the “Melaveh Malka” Meal

In the previous Halacha we have explained that one should put forth an effort to eat The fourth Shabbat meal, which is also known as the “Melaveh Malka” meal, which is held on Motza’ei Shabbat to escort out the Shabbat Queen and to retain blessing for the rest of the meals of the w......

Read Halacha

Melaveh Malka

Question: Is one obligated to eat bread on Motza’ei Shabbat for the fourth Shabbat meal which is also referred to as “Melaveh Malka” (meal escorting out the Shabbat Queen)? Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Shabbat (119b) tells us that one should always set one’s table nicely......

Read Halacha

Moving an Electric Blanket or Fan on Shabbat

Question: May one use an electric blanket (heating pad) on Shabbat or is it prohibited to be moved due to the prohibition of Muktzeh? Similarly, may one turn a fan to another direction on Shabbat? Answer: In the previous Halachot we have discussed several laws of Muktzeh on Shabbat which are obje......

Read Halacha


A Tool Used for Work Prohibited on Shabbat

In the previous Halachot, we have discussed the basic laws of Muktzeh on Shabbat which is that there are certain objects our Sages prohibited moving on Shabbat. Utensils or tools which are used for types of work that are permitted on Shabbat may be moved for any purpose. Thus, one may move forks, kn......

Read Halacha

“Muktzeh Due to Monetary Loss”

In the previous Halachot, we have discussed several laws regarding Muktzeh which are certain objects that our Sages prohibited moving on Shabbat. As of yet, we have discussed three types of Muktzeh: “Utensils used for work permitted on Shabbat”, such as forks, knives, and the like, wh......

Read Halacha

Uncertainty About a Life-Threatening Situation

Question: If one desecrates Shabbat on behalf of an ill person and it turns out that the action one performed that desecrated the Shabbat was actually unnecessary, does one require atonement for this transgression? Answer: If one desecrated Shabbat for no good reason, such as driving on Shabbat u......

Read Halacha

The Customary Order of Rosh Hashanah

It is customary to eat certain symbolic foods during the two nights of Rosh Hashanah which signify good fortune for the entire upcoming year. It is therefore customary to eat black-eyed peas, pumpkin, leek, spinach, dates, pomegranates, apples dipped in honey, and meat of a sheep’s head on the......

Read Halacha