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

Question: May one eat bread without washing one’s hands if one does not touch the bread with one’s hands directly and instead holds it with a napkin and like?

Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Chullin (107b) states: “The Sages permitted a cloth (i.e. they permitted eating bread without first washing one’s hands by wrapping one’s hands in a cloth) for those eating Terumah (meaning that during the time when the Bet Hamikdash still stood, befo......

Read Halacha

Salt on the Table

Question: Is there a halachic necessity to have salt placed on the table before reciting the Hamotzi blessing and is it necessary to observe this custom on weekdays as well? Answer: The Gemara (Berachot 40a) states: “Rava bar Shmuel said in the name of Rav Chiya: One may not recite the Hamo......

Read Halacha

Eating without First Washing One’s Hands

In the previous Halacha, we have explained that one may not be lenient and nullify the edict of washing one’s hands prior to eating bread; even if one does not touch the bread with one’s hands directly and merely holds it with gloves or a napkin, one may still not defy this edict. If one......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Washing One’s Hands for a Bread Meal

The Enactment of Washing One’s Hands for a Bread Meal There is a rabbinic enactment to wash one’s hands before sitting down to eat a bread meal. The Mishnah in Masechet Eduyot (Chapter 5) relates that Rabbi Eliezer ben Chanoch was excommunicated for having raised doubts about the necess......

Read Halacha


The “Asher Yatzar” Blessing vs. Birkat Hamazon

Question: In the previous Halacha, we have discussed if one becomes obligated to recite an after-blessing on food and before he does so, he uses the facilities and becomes obligated to recite the “Asher Yatzar” blessing, one should recite the “Asher Yatzar” blessing first and......

Read Halacha

Question: If one becomes obligated to recite an after-blessing after eating any food (for instance, by eating a Kezayit, approximately twenty-seven grams, of fruit) and before reciting the after-blessing, one used the facilities and becomes obligated to recite the “Asher Yatzar” blessing, which blessing must one recite first: Should one first recite the “Asher Yatzar” blessing or the after-blessing on the food one ate?

Answer: This question has already been discussed by the Maharshal (Rabbeinu Shlomo Luria, one of the foremost Acharonim who lived approximately five-hundred years ago in Eastern Poland and authored the Sefer Yam Shel Shlomo and others) in his responsa (Chapter 97) and writes that if one becomes obli......

Read Halacha

A Power Outage on Shabbat

Question: Last Shabbat, there was a power outage and for six hours, we had no electricity. Later on in the day when the problem was repaired, the Plata (electric hotplate) turned back on. Is it permissible to eat the foods that were warmed on the hotplate? Answer: Regarding the aforementioned mat......

Read Halacha

Reciting Birkat Hamazon in the Place One Has Eaten

Question: Is one obligated to recite Birkat Hamazon specifically where one has eaten bread or may one recite this blessing elsewhere? Answer: One who eats a bread meal must recite Birkat Hamazon in the place where one has eaten and one may not go to a different place and recite the blessing there......

Read Halacha