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Sukkot in Jerusalem

A sukkah (Hebrew: סוכה‎, plural, סוכות, sukkot, often translated as "booth") is a temporary hut constructed for use during the week-long Jewish festival of Sukkot. It is topped with branches and often well decorated with autumnal, harvest or Judaic themes. The Book of Vayyiqra (Leviticus) describes it as a symbolic wilderness shelter, commemorating the time God provided for the Israelites in the wilderness they inhabited after they were freed from slavery in Egypt.[1] It is common for Jews to eat, sleep and otherwise spend time in the sukkah. In Judaism, Sukkot is considered a joyous occasion and is referred to in Hebrew as Yom Simchateinu (the day of our rejoicing) or Z'man Simchateinu (the time of our rejoicing), but the sukkah itself symbolizes the frailty and transience of life and its dependence on God.[2]


Associated activities

A sukkah in Herzliya.

The halakha requires that eating of all meals and sleeping should be conducted in the sukkah. However, one is not expected to remain in the sukkah if he would be very uncomfortable there.[3] For this reason, Jews living at northern latitudes will generally not sleep in the sukkah due to the cold temperatures of autumn nights. Some Jews in these locales will spend some time in the sukkah eating and relaxing but go indoors to sleep.

When rain falls on the sukkah, one is not required to stay inside. The Mishna in Sukkah 28b compares rain falling on a sukkah to a master who receives a drink from his servant and then throws it back in the servant's face. The analogy is that through the rainfall, God is showing His displeasure with our performance of the mitzvah by not allowing us to fulfill our obligation of sitting in the sukkah.[4]

In Israel and other temperate climates (such as Florida, Australia, and Southern California), observant Jews will often conduct all their eating, studying, and sleeping activities in the sukkah. Many Jews will not eat or drink anything outside the sukkah. Others will drink or eat fruit outside the sukkah.

In Israel, it is common practice for hotels, restaurants, snack shops, and outdoor tourist attractions (such as zoos) to provide a sukkah for customers to dine in.

Lubavitcher and Belzer[5] Hasidim differ from other Orthodox Jews in that they do not sleep in the sukkah due to its intrinsic holiness.[6] Though the halakha doesn't obligate one to eat or sleep in the sukkah if it is raining, Lubavitcher Hasidim will still eat there.

A popular social activity which involves people visiting each others' Sukkot has become known as "Sukkah hopping". Food is laid out so that participants will be able to recite the various required blessings.[7]


Sukkot on graded apartment balconies in Jerusalem

According to halakha, a sukkah is a structure consisting of a roof made of organic material which has been disconnected from the ground (the s'chach). A sukkah must have at least 2-1/2 walls. It should be at least three feet tall, and be positioned so that all or part of its roof is open to the sky (only the part which is under the sky is kosher.)

In practice, the walls of a sukkah can be constructed from any material which will withstand a normally anticipated terrestrial wind. If the material is not rigid, and therefore will sway in the wind, the sukkah is not kosher (Talmud, Sukkah 24b). Accordingly, there is a discussion among contemporary halakhic authorities whether canvas may be used for walls: Some, such as R. Ovadiah Yosef (Shu"t Yechaveh Da'at 3:46) hold that even the slightest degree of swaying in the wind will disqualify the sukkah walls, and thus canvas cannot realistically be employed. Others, such as the Chazon Ish, permit motion to and fro of less than three handbreadths, thereby facilitating the usage of canvas walls. The specific details of what constitutes a wall, the minimum and maximum wall heights, whether there can be spaces between the walls and the roof, and the exact material required for the s'chach (roofing) can be found in various exegetical texts.

Sukkah built on an apartment balcony in Jerusalem.

A sukkah can be built on the ground or on an open porch or balcony. Indeed, many observant Jews who design their home's porch or deck will do so in a fashion that aligns with their sukkah building needs. Portable sukkot made of a collapsible metal frame and cloth walls have recently become available for those who have little space, or for those who are traveling (in order to have a place to eat one's meals).


Roof covering

Different types of kosher s'chach serve as roofs for sukkot: woven bamboo mats (far left and right); palm leaves (center).

The roof covering, known as S'chach in Hebrew, must consist of something that grew from the earth but is currently disconnected from it. Palm leaves, bamboo sticks, pine branches, wood and the like can all be used for s'chach, unless they were processed previously for a different use.[8]

There must be enough s'chach that inside the sukkah there should be more shade than sun. However, there must be sufficient gaps between the pieces of s'chach so that rain could come through.


Safra Square Sukkah 2009

Many people hang decorations such as streamers, shiny ornaments, and pictures from the interior walls and ceiling beams of a sukkah. Fresh, dried or plastic fruit — including etrogs and the seven species for which Israel is praised (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates; see Deuteronomy 8:8) — are popular decorations.

Some families also line the interior walls with white sheeting, in order to recall the "Clouds of Glory" that surrounded the Jewish nation during their wanderings in the desert. The Chabad custom is not to decorate the sukkah, as the sukkah itself is considered to be an object of beauty.[9]

Associated prayers


According to Jewish law, one must recite the following blessing when using the sukkah. The blessing is normally recited after the blessing made on food, such as on bread or cake:

ברוך אתה ה' א‑לוהינו מלך העולם, אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו לישב בסכה.‏

Transliteration: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha‑olam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu leishev ba‑sukah.

Translation: "Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to dwell in the sukkah."


During the holiday, some Jews recite the ushpizin prayer which symbolises the welcoming of seven "exaulted guests" into the sukkah. These ushpizin, or guests, represent the seven shepherds of Israel: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David. According to tradition, each night a different guest enters the sukkah followed by the other six. Each of the ushpizin has a unique lesson to teach us that parallels the spiritual focus of the day on which they visit.

In Chabad tradition, an additional set of corresponding "chasidic" ushpizin enter the sukkah, beginning with the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid of Mezeritch and continuing with the consecutive rebbes of the Chabad Hasidic dynasty. Concepts connecting the regular ushpizin with the "chasidic" ones are expounded upon by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.[10]


  1. ^ "Live in sukkot for seven days, so your descendants will remember that I [the Lord] had the Israelites live in wilderness shelters when I brought them out of Egypt." Vayyiqra (Leviticus) 23:42-43
  2. ^ Shelter of Faith
  3. ^ Shulchan Aruch 640:4
  4. ^ Silverberg, Rabbi David. Sukkot. The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beis Medrash.
  5. ^ Nitei Gavriel, Hilchos Rosh Hashanah Ch. 29 note 9 (5754 Edition)
  6. ^ The Sukkah and Sleeplessness
  7. ^
  8. ^ Distribution of schach in Israel
  9. ^ How To Build Your Sukkah
  10. ^ Cf. Mayonei HaYeshua.

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

Treatise in the Mishnah, the Tosefta, and both Talmudim, dealing chiefly with the regulations regarding the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. xxiii. 34-36; Num. xxix. 12 et seq.; Deut. xvi. 13-16). In most of the editions it is the sixth treatise in the mishnaic order Mo'ed. It is divided into five chapters, containing fifty-three paragraphs in all. The contents may be summarized as follows:

Ch. i.: Prescribed height of the Tabernacle; its walls; nature of the covering; and time of making the tent or booth (§ 1); circumstances rendering the booth unfit for use at the festival; material to be used for the covering and the walls; nature of the walls; distance between the walls and the covering (§§ 2-11).



Ch. ii.: How the obligation of sleeping in the tent during the festival may be fulfilled (§ 1); further details as to the nature of the tent (§§ 2-3); cases in which a person is released from the obligation of sleeping and eating in the booth (§ 4); how the obligation of eating in the tent may be met, and how many meals must be eaten in the booth during the festival (§§ 5-7); women, slaves, and small children are released from all obligation regarding the tent; age at which children are subjected to the laws regarding the booth (§ 8); cases in which persons are released from the obligation of remaining in the booth during rain (§ 9).

Ch. iii.: The Lulab (comp. Lev. xxiii. 40; Neh. viii. 15), made of the palm-, myrtle-, and willow-branches, and the etrog (citron); the kinds of branches that are unfit ("pasul"; §§ 1-3); the number of myrtle and willow-branches necessary for the lulab (§ 4); the kind of etrog that is unfit (§§ 5-7);material for binding the lulab (§ 8); passages of the Psalms during which the lulab must be waved on reciting "Hallel" (§ 9); recitation of the "Hallel" (§§ 10-11); while the Temple was standing the lulab was carried within its walls on all the seven days of the feast, but outside on one day only; after the destruction of the Temple R. Johanan b. Zakkai decreed that in commemoration of the former custom the lulab should be carried in the provinces on all the seven days (§ 12); what must be done if the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles falls on a Sabbath (§§ 13-15).

The Ceremony of Drawing the Water.

Ch. iv.: Number of days on which the several ceremonies of Sukkot are observed (§§ 1-3, 8); manner of observing the regulation regarding the lulab (§ 4); manner of placing the willow-branches around the altar, and the processions around it; the recitations during these processions, and the sentences at their close; how this ceremony is observed on the Sabbath (§§ 5-7); the custom of pouring out water, and attendant ceremonies, and how observed on the Sabbath (§§ 9-10).

Ch. v.: Further details regarding the ceremonies of drawing and pouring water; manifestations of joy during the act, and the recitations with musical accompaniment (§§ 1-4); how many times during the day the shofar was sounded in the Temple, and how many times on the Friday of the feast (§ 5); sacrifices offered at the Feast of Tabernacles; the divisions of priests taking part in them, and the distribution among them of the sacrificial portions and the showbread (§§ 6-8).

The Tosefta.

The Tosefta to this treatise, which is divided into four chapters, contains many haggadic sentences, of which the following may be quoted here: "Every tribe of the people of Israel has produced a judge of the people and a prophet; Judah and Benjamin also anointed kings through their prophets" (i. 9). "If certain signs indicate the approach of troublous times or a crisis for men, the Jews have the greatest cause for anxiety, since they generally suffer most under them" (ii. 6). Noteworthy in the Tosefta are the descriptions of the miraculous well which traveled with the Israelites in the desert (iii. 11), and of the splendid synagogue (basilica) in Alexandria (iv. 6), and the story of Miriam bat Bilga (the daughter of a priest), who became a pagan and married a general of the Greek kings. When the pagans entered the Temple, Miriam stepped to the altar and cried: "Lykos! Lykos! [= "Wolf! Wolf!"], you have devoured Israel's possessions, and you have not helped them in time of need" (iv. 28).

The Gemaras.

Both Gemaras contain, aside from explanations of the various laws of the Mishnah, numerous stories and many interesting sentences. The following may be quoted from the Babylonian Gemara: "The practise of philanthropy is better than many sacrifices" (49b). "Israel could not justify itself for its sins, if the sentences in Jer. xviii. 6 and Ezek. xxxvi. 26, which in a certain sense deny the freedom of the will, had not in a way relieved it from responsibility for its acts" (52b). Noteworthy in the Palestinian Gemara is the story of the cause of Trajan's persecution of the Jews. A son was born to him on the Jewish fast of the Ninth of Ab, and his daughter died on Ḥanukkah, on which feast the Jews lighted candles. Hence, the Jews being suspected of having mourned over the birth of the prince and of having rejoiced over the death of the princess, Trajan persecuted them (55b). There is also a curious account of the enlargement of the well of Siloah, in the hope that the flow of water would increase. After the well was enlarged, however, the water flowed less freely; and it was only after the aperture had been restored to its original size that the flow became as formerly (55d).

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
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