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

Making Toast on a Hotplate on Shabbat

Question: May one place a pita or a slice of bread on a hotplate on Shabbat in order to turn it into hard and crunchy toast? Answer: There are two prohibitions we must discuss with regards to our question of making toast on Shabbat out of bread that was already baked before Shabbat. The first ......

Read Halacha

Sitting on Food Items

Question: Is it correct that one may not sit on top of a box containing food or beverages? Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Berachot (50b) states that it is forbidden to act in a degrading manner towards food. Thus, one may not, for instance, use a piece of cake to wipe up a drink that spilled on t......

Read Halacha

Salting Cucumbers on Shabbat

Question: Is it correct that one may not put salt on cucumbers on Shabbat? Answer: The root of this question lies in the fact that with regards to many Torah laws, we rule that “pickling is tantamount to cooking” meaning that a pickled food is considered like a cooked food. Thus, just......

Read Halacha

The Law Regarding a Woman Who Forgets to Recite the Blessings of the Torah

We have explained in the previous Halacha that if one forgets to recites the Blessings of the Torah and only realizes this after one has concluded Shacharit prayers, one may no longer recite these blessings, for one has already fulfilled his obligation with the “Ahavat Olam” blessing rec......

Read Halacha


The Order for Lighting Shabbat and Chanukah Candles

There is a disagreement among the Rishonim as to the order of lighting Shabbat and Chanukah candles on Erev Shabbat Chanukah. The Ba’al Halachot Gedolot (commonly referred to as “Behag”) is of the opinion that Chanukah candles must be lit before Shabbat candles because women cu......

Read Halacha

Washing Dishes on Shabbat Night and Pouring Water on Dirty Dishes

Question: Upon the conclusion of the Shabbat night meal, may one immediately wash the dishes for the Shabbat day meal or should this only be done during the day closer to the start of the meal? Also, is it permissible to pour water onto soiled dishes (which one no longer needs for Shabbat) so that i......

Read Halacha

Question: May one recite the Amida prayer in front of a curtain (covering the Aron Kodesh) which is adorned with various designs?

Answer: The Rambam writes in one of his responses (Freiman edition, Chapter 20): “It is incorrect to pray in front of garments with designs on them, even if the designs are not protruding. We usually close our eyes when it happens that we must pray in front of a wall or garment adorned with de......

Read Halacha

The Law Regarding One Who Forgets to Recite the Morning Blessings

The Morning Blessings (“Birkot Ha’Shachar”) are the blessings recited every morning beginning from the “Elohai Neshama” blessing until the end of the Blessings of the Torah. Both men and women must recite these blessings, as we have discussed in the laws of the Morning ......

Read Halacha