Building the Sukkah
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Revision as of 05:05, 10 October 2011 by ChachamY
Number of walls of the Sukkah
- The minimum number of walls necessary for a Sukkah is 3 of length 7 Tefachim. It's possible to build the third wall without having to complete it but footnote for details. 
- The minimum measure of a Sukkah is 7 Tefachim in length by 7 Tefachim in width and 10 Tefachim in hieght. 
- There is no maximum width or length but the maximum height is 20 Amot. 
- If the walls are made of polls or strings only in the horizontal direction or only in the vertical direction then one must have 4 wall complete walls, however, if there are 3 walls and a Tefach for the fourth wall it's a doubt whether it's acceptable. 
- The walls must be built within 3 Tefachim of the ground. 
Arrangement of the walls
- If one has two walls facing one another and the third is four tefachim it must be within 3 tefachim of one side and within 3 of the other or at least have a tzurat hapetach to the second side. 
Building a Sukkah in the street
- If there's no room on private property to build a Sukkah and the city leaders (mayor) give permission, it's permissible to build it in the public street however one should make sure that the Sukkah doesn't to block walkers (traffic). 
Materials for walls of Sukkah
- All materials are permissible to be for the walls of a Sukkah (see next halacha). Some say that that a pious person should preferably only use materials that aren't Biblically unfit for S'chach. 
- Many authorities hold that plastic curtains (tarp, canvas) are unfit for walls of a Sukkah, while others permit. [This is not because of an issue with the material itself but because of an issue with it blowing in the wind.] 
S'chach of Sukkah
- There's three conditions regarding the S'chach (covering) of the Sukkah. It must be made from a material that grows from the ground, is unattached from the ground, and is impervious to impurity (see further for examples). 
- Metal, dirt, and animal hides are unfit for S'chach as they do not grow from the ground. 
- Bamboo mats made for S'chach which are 3x2 meters according to most poskim are fit for S'chach. 
- The S'chach should be made so that there is a majority of shade and minority of sunlight that's let through the S'chach. If there's an equal amount of shade and sun in the actual S'chach it's unfit but if there's an equal amount of shade to light that shines on the floor of the Sukkah it's fit. 
- The S'chach should be thin enough that one can see the large stars through the S'chach. 
- If one made the S'chach very thick so that one can't see the stars nonetheless it's fit. However, if it's so thick that when it rains a lot water won't come in then it's unfit unless there's no way to remove some S'chach in which case one may rely on the lenient opinions. 
- If one made the S'chach very thin so that there's patches of empty space it's fit only if (1) there's no area of empty space larger than 3 Tefachim and (2) there is a majority of shade and minority of sunlight (counting the entire area of the S'chach). Even if it's an acceptable Sukkah, nonetheless, if there's a patch of 7x7 7 Tefachim which has more sunlight than shade one may not sit in that area. 
- It's preferable not to put the S'chach directly on top of walls which are made out of material that's unfit for S'chach. According to most leading authorities, however, it's permissible to place S'chach on top of a material that's fit for S'chach which is in turn held up by something that's unfit for S'chach. Therefore, if one has a metal frame one should place wooden planks on the frame and then S'chach on top of it. 
- One must ensure that one's Sukkah is under the open sky and not beneath a tree, roof of a house, or a porch. (For details about after the fact see the footnote.) 
When should one build the Sukkah?
- The pious are careful to build to begin building the Sukkah on Motzei Yom Kippur and finish it the next day in order to go from one mitzvah (Yom Kippur) to another (Sukkot). 
- If a Sukkah was set up with the S'chach from before 30 days before sukkot and it wasn't made for the purpose of the mitzvah of Sukkot one must change or improve one thing (such as putting down S'chach) of an area a Tefah by a Tefach or the whole width even if it's of minimal length (or visa versa). However, if it was made within 30 days of Sukkot or was made for the express purpose of Sukkot it's fit even without any change. However, if the Sukkah was originally built for Sukkot and stands unchanged year to year it requires some change the each year. This is only if the S'chach was put in advance but if just the walls were putup in advance and not the S'chach there's no issue. 
- If you forgot to build a sukkah before Sukkot one can build it on chol hamoed. However, one may not build it or fix it on Yom Tov. 
Decorations of the Sukkah
- It is a mitzvah to decorate and beatify the sukkah. 
- The decorations of the Sukkah are forbidden from benefit all 8 days of Sukkot unless one stipulates before Yom Tov that I want to be able to eat and get benefit from these decorations at any time during the holiday. 
- If the decorations fell on Chol HaMoed one may move them and put them back up, however, one may not benefit from it (if it's food one may not eat it) unless one stipulated as above. 
- One should make sure to keep the decorations hanging from the S'chach within 4 Tefachim of the S'chach. 
- One who makes colored paper chains as a decoration of the Sukkah should make sure that it is within 4 Tefachim of the S'chach. After the fact, it is, nonetheless, fit to sit, eat, and sleep under. 
- If the decorations fell on Yom Tov they are muktzah and can not be moved. 
- If one needs to remove a decoration because of fear of rain or thieves preferably one should stipulate (as above), however, if one forgot then one may remove them one Chol HaMoed. 
Covering the Sukkah in case of rain
- It's permissible to cover the Sukkah with a plastic tarp to prevent it from getting wet if one places the tarp directly above the Shach and not a tefach above the Shach and one has in mind to remove the tarp when one next uses the Sukkah for the mitzvah. 
- S"A 630:2 according to the explanation of the Mishna Burah 630:6 the third wall doesn't have to be a full wall of 7 Tefachim but must still look like a wall and so it's permissible to build two walls next to each other (say one is from southwest to southeast and the other is southeast to northeast) and then a third wall (from northeast to northwest) constructed with a wall which is more than one Tefach thick within 3 Tefachim to one of the two other walls (within 3 tefachim of the northeast corner) and also a poll at the end of 7 tefachim (7 Tefachim from the northeast corner) and a poll on top of the more than one tefach wall and the poll at the end of 7 Tefachim. See picture.
- S"A 633:8, 634:1
- S"A 633:1, 634:1
- Halichot Shlomo (7:2 , pg 98)
- Halichot Shlomo (7:5, pg 100)
- S"A 630:3
- Halichot Shlomo (7:11, pg 109)
- S"A 630:1 rules that all materials are permissible. Biur Halacha D"H Kol quotes two reasons that a pious person should be strict only to use materials that not unfit biblically for S'chach, but quotes others who reject this stringency.
- Rav Ovadyah Yosef in Chazon Ovadyah (pg 1-5) and Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurerbach in Halichot Shlomo (Sukkah 7:1 pg 97) hold that plastic curtains that sway in the wind even slightly are unfit for walls of a Sukkah. However, Rav Moshe Feinstein in Sh”t Igrot Moshe 5:40 permits if the curtains are thick and there’s poles. Rav Hershel Schachter (min 72-80) explains that even though the Chazon Ish was lenient most poskim are strict. Rav Schachter leaves an absolute guideline unclear but in a situation of extreme need one could rely on the Chazon Ish.
- S"A 629:1
- S"A and Rama 629:1
- Chazon Ovadyah (Sukkot pg 25-6). Halichot Shlomo (pg 128) and Rav Hershel Schachter (min 78-79:30) are also lenient unlike Rav Elyashiv (quoted by Sh"t Shevet HaLevi 6:74) who is strict.
- S"A 631:1 and 4
- S"A 631:3
- S"A 631:3, Mishna Brurah 631:6
- S"A 631:2 and 4 rules that if altogether there's a majority of shade and minority of sunlight and there's no open space of 3 Tefachim it's fit. Rama 631:2 adds that some are strict if there's an area of 7x7 Tefachim which has more sunlight than shade. The Aruch HaShulchan 631:5 and Mishna Brurah 631:4 writes that in such an area one may not sit. Mishna Brurah adds that if there's such a patch that breaks up one of the walls so that there's only 2 walls left then it puts the whole sukkah into question.
- Mishna Brurah 630:59, Chazon Ovadyah (Sukkot pg 44)
- Mishna Brurah 629:26, BeYitzchak Yikra (Rav Nevinsal) on that Mishna Brurah quoting Rav Shlomo Zalman, and Chazon Ovadyah (Sukkot pg 44) are lenient unlike the Chazon Ish 143:2. Rav Hershel Schachter (62:30-66:15) also seems to be lenient (listen for exact language).
- Rama 626:1 writes that in all cases one should avoid building one's sukkah under a tree or roof. Mishna Brurah 626:1 and Aruch HaShulchan 626:1 explain that it's best to build the Sukkah under the open sky. So rules Chazon Ovadyah (Sukkot pg 11). However, after the fact, Aruch HaShulchan 626:1 writes if it's built under a roofed area it's unfit, but if it's built under a tree there is a discussion about when it is fit. S"A 626:1 (according to Biur Halacha D"H VeYesh, Mishna Brurah 626:10 and 11) rules that a sukkah under branches of a tree is fit only if it fits three requirements (See S"A with Mishna Brurah 626:10 and 11). (1) Among the branches of the tree there is majority of sun and minority shade (2) the there is less than four tefachim of tree branches over the sachach, and (3) there is a majority of shade from the kosher sachach and a minority of shade even without the tree branches (and even so the sachach under the tree branches itself is unfit but the rest of the sukkah is fit).
- Rama 624:5, Mishan brurah 624:19
- S"A 636:1, Mishan Brurah 636:1, 5-7. Mishna Brurah 636:4 also points out that this is only the preferable course of action (but after the fact isn't absolutely necessary).
- S"A 637:1, Mishna Brurah 637:1
- Gemara Shabbat 133b, Chazon Ovadyah (Sukkot pg 74). Mishna Brurah 638:11 writes that it's a mitzvah to decorate the sukkah with important fruit and clothes, however, one should not hang nice fruit if one has children and one knows that the children will rip them down and eat them.
- S"A 638:2, Chazon Ovadyah (Sukkot pg 77)
- Mishna Brurah 638:13-4, Chazon Ovadyah (Sukkot pg 83)
- Rama 627:4
- Chazon Ovadyah (Sukkot pg 76)
- Rama 638:2, Chazon Ovadyah (Sukkot pg 83)
- Mishna Brurah 638:24, Chazon Ovadyah (Sukkot pg 92), Shalmei Moed (pg 107)
- Sh"t Igrot Moshe 5:39(4) writes that it's permissible to cover the Sukkah with a plastic sheet on Shabbat and Yom Tov without an issue of Boneh by making an Ohel nor the issue of muktzah.