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

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

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

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

The Blessings on Thunder and Lightning

One who sees lightning recites the blessing, “Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’Olam Oseh Ma’aseh Bereshit.” One who hears thunder recites the blessing, “Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’Olam She’Kocho Ugvurato Maleh Olam.” Until When Can On......

Read Halacha


Moving Books and Newspapers on Shabbat

Question: Is one permitted to move or read medical books or phonebooks on Shabbat? What is the law regarding reading newspapers on Shabbat? The Opinion of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch Regarding Reading Books on Mundane and Forbidden Topics Answer: Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 307, S......

Read Halacha

Moving Food Items on Shabbat

Question: May one move food items on Shabbat if they are not intended for Shabbat use, such as meat designated for Sunday or baking powder and vanilla sugar which have no use on Shabbat? Answer: In the previous Halachot we have explained the primary laws of Muktzeh on Shabbat which is that our S......

Read Halacha

Benefitting From Muktzeh Objects on Shabbat

Question: May one sit on large stones on Shabbat? Similarly, may one lean on a car on Shabbat? Answer: In the previous Halachot we have explained several laws of Muktzeh on Shabbat which are objects that our Sages prohibited moving on Shabbat for several different reasons. We shall now address th......

Read Halacha

The Muktzeh Status of Meat or Fish on Shabbat

Question: May one move raw meat or fish on Shabbat? Answer: In the previous Halachot we have discussed the primary laws of the prohibition of Muktzeh on Shabbat which refers to certain objects that our Sages prohibited moving on Shabbat. Food items which are edible on Shabbat may be moved and are......

Read Halacha