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What Is a Sukkah?

What Is a Sukkah?


What: A sukkah is a hut built to provide shade. That's why it must sit beneath the open sky—not under a patio deck or even the branches of a tree. The walls can be made of any material, as long as they are secure and don't flap about in the wind. The roof, however, (we call it s'chach), must be of unprocessed materials which have grown from the ground. Bamboo poles, thin wooden slats, and evergreen branches are popular choices. Just make sure to use enough s'chach so that the inside of your sukkah will have more shade than sunlight. Those living in the fast lane can buy a prefab sukkah and bamboo mats. Inquire at your local Judaica store, or click here.

For eight days, make the sukkah your official homeHow: For eight days, make the sukkah your official home. Don't panic: As long as you eat your meals there, you're okay. But try to include anything else that you would normally do in the house—like reading a book or talking with a friend. We sit in the sukkah from sundown on the 14th of Tishrei through nightfall of the 22nd of Tishrei.

It is a mitzvah to eat all meals in the sukkah (a "meal" is defined as more than two ounces of grains — e.g. bread, cake, pasta). Some people have the custom of eating snacks in the sukkah as well. Before eating in the sukkah, the following blessing is recited:

Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to dwell in the sukkah.

This blessing is made when your meal or snack includes a grain-based food.

Raining? If it's really uncomfortable, there is no duty to sit there. Come back when the weather improves. Nevertheless, many chassidim will eat in the sukkah no matter the weather. It's too great and rare a mitzvah to squander...

It is particularly important to eat at least one k'zayit (approx. 1 oz.) of bread or challah on the first evening of the festival in the sukkah, between nightfall and midnight.

Who: Dwelling in the sukkah is a mitzvah for everyone, though the obligation applies mainly to men over the age of thirteen (children as young as five or six should do so too).

Why: The sukkah commemorates the Clouds of Glory which surrounded and protected our ancestors during the forty-year desert sojourn which followed the Egyptian Exodus. Our willingness to leave the security of our homes and spend eight days in a flimsy outdoor hut demonstrates our faith in G‑d and His benevolence.

By Staff
Illustrations by Yehuda Lang. To view more artwork by this artist, click here.
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Eliezer Zalmanov for November 3, 2016

Re: rain? People can be quite creative. Alternatively, some do what you did--leave the siddur inside. Reply

Anonymous November 1, 2016

rain? "Nevertheless, many chassidim will eat in the sukkah no matter the weather."

How do they keep their siddurim dry? Since it rained every day, I ate a daily kezayit in the rain (and got soaked) but I couldn't read my ushpizin prayer in the sukkah, had to read it inside the house to protect the siddur. Reply

Alan Schliftman white plains, ny September 26, 2009

can you build the Sukkah before Yom Kippur can you build the Sukkah before Yom Kippur Reply

Anonymous Mass October 17, 2005

We built our 1st sukkah. This was the support we needed to do this and pray correctly. We are so excited. Reply

Menachem Posner for September 2, 2009

RE: when you don't have a yard While seeing the stars are nice, the most important elements of the sukka are the boughs that you sit under and the walls that surround you. I would suggest that you find a way to put up a sukkah for the duration of the holiday on your top-floor balcony. There are many of them that look very temporary (pvc and canvas construction) so that no-one would suspect you of actually doing construction on your porch. If this is entirely not feasible, perhaps you would be able to make one in your parking spot.

As a last resort, you can always take your meals over to a friend’s sukkah or your synagogue’s sukkah. In years bygone, before much of American Jewry moved out to the suburbs, it was not uncommon for many families to share one sukkah at the synagogue or somewhere else. Reply

I Johnston Blue Ash, OH September 1, 2009

when you don't have a yard Any recommendations for apartment dwellers. We have a balcony (top floor so not even a 'roof' to see stars through) but are not allowed to put up any construction on it. In the past we have eaten on the balcony but uncovered. Reply

Shaul Wolf September 7, 2015

Re: There is a tradition that is cited by R' Chaim Elazar Shapiro, the Rebbe of Munkatch, that the students of the Baal Shem Tov had a custom to eat in the Sukkah even if it was raining. This was also the practise of the Rebbes of Chabad, and many Chabad Chassidim adhere to this custom. Reply

Anonymous September 6, 2015

discomfort Do chabad keep this custom of not eating in the sukka even when there is discomfort? Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for October 1, 2013

Re: Ounces The amount required to eat in the Sukkah on the first night of the holiday is the equivalent of a large egg (approximately 55 grams). Reply

Anonymous Canada September 17, 2013

Ounces For those of us outside the USA, or those who value the precise words of the Torah, what units are in the Torah and how would that translate into grams? Reply

Ruth October 4, 2012

What about meals without grains? I don't eat a lot of grains due to blood sugar issues. Can I make the blessing for eating in the succah if I'm eating a grain-free meal, if it's a large, satisfying meal with lots of vegetables and meat, fish, or eggs? Reply

IMAGINE THAT CHILDREN'S MUSEUM Florham Park, NJ via October 10, 2011

The Sukkah We are so happy that we built a Sukkah for all guests to enjoy at Imagine That. When visitors come to the museum they can have their snack or meal while they visit for the day. Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for September 29, 2010

Re: taking down our sukkah As you have correctly noted, Thursday night and Friday are out. So the earliest time to take down the Sukkah would be after Shabbat.

(For years that Shabbat does not immediately follow Simchat Torah, the Sukkah may be taken down once SImchat Torah is over.) Reply

David G. LA, CA September 28, 2010

taking down our sukkah when is the proper time to take down the sukkah? prior to simchat torah on thursday eve? or is this prohibited because it is Shemini Atzeret? since friday is simchat torah until shabbos eve, can we not also take down the sukkah on friday? which would put it over until sunday after shbbos? Reply

yvonne russell Jonesboro, GA September 27, 2010

Sukkah I may be late, but I'm detrmined to build my hut and sit in it, and eat in it for the next two days! I sure hope G-d will help me and forgive me for being late. I've been thinking about it since Yom Kippur ended. Reply

Anonymous September 22, 2010

articles as usual, the article on Sukkah was very interesting... Reply

Anonymous EHT, NJ September 21, 2010

The Sukkah This article is interesting, and I like the Sukkah house, it would be nice to have one. Thank you for posting this article. Reply

Anonymous Berwyn, PA October 2, 2009

can you build before yom kippur? Yes you can. as long as you are building it for a Sukkah. you can build at any time.

If it is build for pleasure, and then you want to use it for a sukkah, you have to make some kind of effort to "sukkahdize" it. Reply

Anonymous ny, ny October 12, 2008

good good pic Reply

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