What Is a Sukkah?

A sukkah is a temporary hut made of a vegetation roof called a sechach. It must meet certain building specifications. The significance of building a sukkah is to represent the dwellings that Jewish people lived in as they traveled the desert for 40 years after their exodus from Egypt.

The sukkah is important to the festival because it is where you spend time during Sukkot, which occurs during the Hebrew month of Tishrei from days 15 to 22. This event occurs sometime in the fall, usually in late September or early October. In Israel, the festival goes for one less day.

How to Build a Sukkah

Building a sukkah comes with quite a few requirements, but the most crucial aspect is the roof covering. That's the best place to start when you're learning how to build a sukkah.

The roof covering must be made of raw, unfinished vegetable matter to create what's called a sechach. Usually, the sechach consists of materials like bamboo, palms and reeds. The material can't have been used for another purpose or made ritually impure in any way. Bamboo poles make excellent frames, though you can also use unfinished wood beams.

Other stipulations for the sechach involve the shade it provides. It must create enough shade in midday so that the floor gets covered in more shade than sun. Also, any gaps in the sechach cannot be more than 9.6 inches.

The sukkah must be new for each year, but this requirement is actually easier to meet than you may think. The sechach is the main element that defines a sukkah, so the walls can stay up all year long. If you place a sechach down before all the walls are up, you can just lift it up and reapply it, and the sukkah is considered new.

Here are some other requirements and things to keep in mind:

  • Location: The sukkah must be under the open sky, so no tree branches or canopies can hang above it. Typically, people place sukkahs near their main residence, like in a yard or on a porch, balcony or rooftop.
  • Walls: The walls can be made of any material, like wood, reeds, fiberglass panels or waterproof fabric draped from a metal frame.
  • Lighting: Many will place their sukkah near an outlet so they can run a light into it. You'll want to make sure this light is protected from the elements.
  • Chairs and tables: The sukkah is a place for dining and hosting guests, so tables and chairs are a must.
  • Decorations: For many, one of the best parts of the sukkah is decorating it. You can place colorful decorations like paper garlands, suncatchers and flags all around the sukkah and hang fresh fruit and gourds. You can find plenty of sukkah decorations online.
  • Dimensions: The sukkah must have a minimum of two walls and part of a third wall, at least 3.2 inches wide. The typical sukkah features four walls. The walls must be at least 32 inches tall, but no more than 30 feet. The length and width dimensions must exceed 22.4 inches.

How to Celebrate Sukkot

Sukkot goes by many translations, but its overall purpose is as a harvest festival and a time to think about priorities and togetherness. Sukkot is a time to express gratitude for one's situation. The idea is to spend as much time as possible in the sukkah and eat all meals there at a minimum. Some people choose to sleep in it as well, but that's not required.

Each day has a specific meaning, so it's important to observe those. The first two are Yom Tov, where no work occurs and you have festive meals. In the middle of the festival is Chal Hamoed, where you spend time in the sukkot and take the Four Kinds, vegetation that represents the personalities that make up the community of Israel and its unity. The last two days are the separate holidays of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

DIY Sukkah Building Materials

Building a sukkah is a wonderful experience for those of Jewish faith and a big part of celebrating Sukkot. But most people don't have the necessary materials growing in their backyard. To fit with the requirements of the sukkah, it's important to source your materials from all-natural vegetation. We carry an array of natural materials perfect for the task. Take a look at our selection of products, and make sure you're prepared for this year's festivities!


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