1. It’s a Shelter We Dwell in on Sukkot

The word sukkah best translates as “shelter” or “cover” and refers to the space where we spend as much time as possible during the holiday of Sukkot.

Read: 13 Sukkot Facts

2. It Commemorates the Exodus

Scripture tells us to dwell in the sukkah so that “Your [ensuing] generations should know that I had the children of Israel live in shelters when I took them out of the land of Egypt.”1 What were these shelters? The Talmud tells us that they were the clouds of glory that encompassed the entire nation during their epic 40-year trek through the Sinai desert.2

Read: What’s the Reason for the Sukkah?

3. The Cover Is Organic Material

Sukkot is celebrated in the fall when our agrarian ancestors would bring in the final products from their wine presses and threshing floors.3 Accordingly, the sukkah is covered with things that grew—and were subsequently harvested—from the ground, such as discarded grape vines and wheat stalks. Nowadays, this covering, known as sechach, is often made of evergreen boughs, cornstalks, palm fronds, bamboo or specially produced mats.

Unrolling a bamboo covering over the sukkah
Unrolling a bamboo covering over the sukkah

Read: Why Is the Sukkah Covered With Plant Material?

4. There Must Be More Shade than Sun

By definition, the sukkah is a structure that provides shade, so there must be enough sechach on top that there is more shade than sun. Conversely, if you use very broad boards, tightly packed together, your sukkah will no longer be a temporary shelter and feel just like an ordinary home.4

5. There Must be Three(ish) Walls

The ideal sukkah has four solid walls (with a door, of course). However, it is valid even if there are only two full walls and a third wall that is just a handbreadth wide.5

Read: Why Can the Sukkah Walls Be Made of Anything?

6. There Is a Minimum and Maximum Height

The sukkah must not be shorter than 10 handbreadths, nor may it be taller than 20 cubits, which is higher than 30 feet. What’s wrong with a tall sukkah? When the sukkah is so tall, you may actually be sitting in the shade of the walls or not cognizant of the sechach, which is very far away from you.6

Read: Sukkah Building Basics From Inside Out

7. You Can Make It Super Big

A sukkah needs to be at least seven handbreadths by seven handbreadths, which is big enough to fit most of a person’s body and a tiny table.7 Conversely, there is no maximum square footage for a sukkah, so go ahead and make one big enough to fit your family, friends, and others. After all, there should be (at least) a (theoretical) spot for every Jew at your sukkah.

Read: The Big Sukkah

8. The First Night Is Special

On the first night (actually two nights in the Diaspora) of Passover it is a mitzvah to eat matzah. And on the first night of Sukkot, it is a mitzvah to break bread in the sukkah.8 Even if the weather is lousy and you prefer to stay indoors, we make the effort to have our festive meal in the sukkah.9

Read: What to Expect at a Sukkot Meal

9. There Is a Blessing to Say

Before enjoying a meal containing bread or cake in the sukkah, we bless G‑d “Who sanctified us with His commandments, and instructed us to dwell in the sukkah.” And the first time we do it each season (typically on the first night of Sukkot), we also say the Shehecheyanu blessing, thanking G‑d for having brought us to this occasion.

Read: Sukkah Blessings in Hebrew and English

10. It Was Once (Also) Called “Matlala”

In addition to the Biblical word sukkah, the sages of the Talmud referred to this structure as a matlala, Aramaic for “hut” or “shanty.”

Read: 21 Talmud Facts

11. Ezra Inspired the People to Build Sukkot

Scripture tells us of the inspirational 4th-century-BCE High Holiday season celebrated in Jerusalem, when the people were led by Ezra to return to the Judaism of their ancestors. After learning about the mitzvot of Sukkot, they went out to the hills to collect the supplies, and then built their sukkahs in courtyards, on roofs, and even in the plazas and squares.10

Read: Ezra the Scribe

12. It Can be on a Camel, a Ship or … a Truck

The Talmud discusses building a sukkah aboard a ship or wagon, or even on the back of a camel.11 The 20th century saw the rise of the Sukkah-mobile, perched on the bed of a pickup truck. And in the 21st century, pedi-sukkahs, mounted on tricycles, have become a feature of Jewish life in urban areas.

Watch: The (Im)Possible Truck Sukkah

A fleet of pedi-sukkahs bringing mitzvahs to people's doorsteps
A fleet of pedi-sukkahs bringing mitzvahs to people's doorsteps

13. Some Diaspora Jews Sit in the Sukkah for 8 Days

Sukkot lasts for 7 days, followed by the holiday of Shemini Atzeret (Simchat Torah). Since Diaspora Jews were once not updated on the calendar—which was determined in the Holy Land—in a timely manner, many holidays are kept for an extra day “just to be sure.” As such, many have the custom to eat in the sukkah on the first day of Shemini Atzeret without saying the blessings.12

Read: Why Do We Still Celebrate an Extra Day in the Diaspora?

14. The Sukkah Envelopes the Entire Body

One studies Torah with their mind and voice, ingests matzah with their mouth, and listens to the shofar with their ears. It is frequently pointed out that the Sukkah, on the other hand, is an all-encompassing mitzvah, in which the entire human body is enveloped in a sort of Divine hug.