Hello my friends, so here we are entering the second half of the month of Tishrei and that of course means, getting ready for Sukkot! Building a Sukkah has thankfully gained tremendous popularity in the past few years and I’ve already heard from several of JLP readers that you’re building sukkot this year. ¡Some of you for the first time! Yay for you! So exciting! Thus, today I’m sharing a quick and easy How To build a Sukkah Guide so that all your effort is worthwhile and by Sunday night, you’re sitting in your own kosher sukkah, fulfilling the mitzvah of “dwelling in the Sukkah.” So, let’s start with the Anatomy of a Kosher Sukkah.
A sukkah is a very simple structure. And part of its wonderful beauty is its humble simplicity. The Sukkah consists of two components, walls and schach (the sukkah’s ceiling) – the schach being the most important component.
Let’s talk ceiling. Here’s where I might disappoint some of you. As much as all of us design aficionados would love gazebo like structure and gorgeous fabrics to take part in our Sukkah’s decor – we’ve got to be careful how we incorporate these elements and/or styles.
To be more specific, your Sukkah’s ceiling can only be made of schach – any loose vegetation that grew on the ground. Yes to loose palm trees, bamboo sticks and any other such vegetation; No to gorgeous fabric or other materials. Sorry! And notice that I said loose. That means, no to gorgeous vines on our pergolas. Sorry! (Yes, on the pergola concept though – I have a friend who has a pergola/turned sukkah and it’s gorgeous! I’ll try to run over there on Sunday and take a picture and post it so you can see it.)
Also, have you ever noticed how the balconies of buildings are built in Jerusalem, so that no one balcony is on top of the other!? Super cool, right? Nothing should be above our sukkah, except for the schach. (You may hang decorations and lighting from the beams that are holding the schach.)
These, while lovely, are not a Sukkot:
As far as walls, you need at least 2 and a half walls of a minimum height of about 36 inches tall. (Obviously with three tall walls, you’re covered.) You have a lot of flexibility in terms of materials, so here’s where you could get creative if you wanted to. However, be careful if you’re using the outside walls of your house for sukkah walls, as there may be protruding areas of your ceiling that might have an impact on how you construct it and/or where are people allowed to sit. (Please consult with a local halachic authority on this.)
Now please don’t take this information as law, but rather as an initial guide and do consult with your local Orthodox Rabbi during the process of building. Even though it is a simple structure and once you get the hang of it, it’s really not a complex process, there are still many nuances and details to the proper construction and use of a Sukkah. Like anything else, when in doubt, ask. :-) (If you do not know who to ask, let me know and I can help point you in the right direction.)
Ok so now that you get the basic anatomy, let’s get to what you’ll need, which is really not that much:
1- Some framing lumber from your local hardware store to create the structure. I would say something like this should work to create the frame for a rectangular sukkah:
- Four 8 ft 2″ by 4″ pieces to build the upright frame
- Two 8 or 12 ft 2″ by 4″ pieces to make the top frame (long side of top frame)
- Two 8 ft 2″ by 4″ cross beams for the top frame (short side of the top frame)
- Six or more 8 ft. 1″ by 1″ to lay on the top frame (Your will then lay your schach on these)
- Maybe some support pieces such as two 8 ft 1″ by 2″ cut in half and lay in a diagonal from the upright 8 ft beams to the horizontal top frame beams, or some ply wood. (You might not need them, depending on what you’ll use for walls. It really depends.) By the way, lumber and hardware stores can cut to size if you do end up needing, so don’t worry, no need for jigsaws here.
2- Whatever material you’re using as walls – lattice from the hardware store, plywood, fabric, plastic etc.
3- Other Tools and Accessories: Drill, screws. Maybe ropes and/or staple gun depending on what you’re using for walls.
4- Your schach. (*If you’re in Houston, and need please contact me. I have a lot of palm trees in our property and will probably have more than enough to share.)
I hope you found this information helpful, and at the very least you’ll be more informed on what makes a kosher sukkah. We already started getting ready around here. We have our sukkah structure built all year round and we just cut schach out of the palm trees in our yard, but of course it will still be a busy and exciting Sunday… :-)
Tell me, are you building a Sukkah? Have yo built one before? Did you learn any new tips today? Tell me about it in the comments. And if you want to pin the image I created above on the Anatomy of a Kosher Sukkah, you sure can! It will make me happy. :-). It will.
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