Monday, September 16, 2013

SUKKOT: Time to move outdoors

The Torah says: 'In Sukkot you shall dwell for seven days... so that your generations shall know, that I hosted the children of Israel in Sukkot when I brought them forth from the land of Egypt.. (Leviticus 23).
During seven days we abandon our homes and establish ourselves in the Sukka. The Sukka is a 'hut' consisting of four walls and a very fragile covering or 'sekhakh'. We eat, study, and -weather permitting- sleep in the Sukka. We bring furniture to the Sukka and make it as comfortable and beautiful as possible.
Sukkot commemorates the forty years' journey of the Jewish people from Egypt in route to the Promised Land. During those years in the desert He provided us with food and water and satisfied all our needs.  God also granted us a special protection in the desert against weather inclemencies, wild animals and other dangers.  By moving into the Sukka and leaving the safety and security of our solid homes, we are reenacting those glorious days when we were under His direct protection, which is ultimately the protection that matters.  
There are many details and specifications as how to build the Sukka.
The basic principles are:
-The walls must be built first, before the sekhakh (covering or roof).  The walls could be made of any material capable of withstanding an average wind.
-On top of the walls we place the 'sekhakh'. For the sekhakh we can use all kind of branches: bamboo branches, or leafy branches, tree branches, etc. There are special curtains made of reeds or bamboo that can be used for this purpose.  

-The 'sekhakh' should provide shadow but it does not suppose to protect us from rain.

(most of these Halakhot are identical for Sephardim and Ashkenzaim)

For an in-depth analysis of the Sephardic view of this last Halakha see the following: 

Tom Norris, an architect from Arizona, showing  how he built his Sukka in 30 minutes
30 minute Sukkah
30 minute Sukkah