Sukkah Jewish structure Sukkah Jewish structure Sukkah Jewish structure

The sukkah is a structure for the Jewish celebration Sukkot at the end of Yom Kippur. It is to be dwelt in and prayed in during this time and then is immediately dismantled or the sekhakh (foliage strewn on top) is removed on the last day of the ceremony.

Sukkot commemorates the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living in temporary shelters.



The Festival of Sukkot begins on Tishri 15, the fifth day after Yom Kippur. Sukkot in 2008 will start on Tuesday, the 14th of October and will continue for 7 days until Monday, the 20th of October.

Note that in the Jewish calendar, a holiday begins on the sunset of the previous day, so observing Jews will celebrate Sukkot on the sunset of Monday, the 13th of October.

It is quite a drastic transition, from one of the most solemn holidays in our year to one of the most joyous. Sukkot is so unreservedly joyful that it is commonly referred to in Jewish prayer and literature as Z'man Simchateinu , the Season of our Rejoicing.

Sukkot is the last of the Shalosh R'galim (three pilgrimage festivals). Like Passover and Shavu'ot, Sukkot has a dual significance: historical and agricultural. Historically, Sukkot commemorates the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living in temporary shelters. Agriculturally, Sukkot is a harvest festival and is sometimes referred to as Chag Ha-Asif , the Festival of Ingathering.


Definition

The word "Sukkot" means "booths," and refers to the temporary dwellings that the Jewish People are commanded to live in during this holiday in memory of the period of wandering. Our sukkahs can be either dismantled at the end of the holiday, or left standing year-round. The roofs are mostly open, to let the elements in freely, while the 2x6 rafters provide shade from the worst of the sun. Partial sun blockage provides a surprising amount of comfort.

The Hebrew pronunciation of Sukkot is "Sue COAT," but is often pronounced as in Yiddish, to rhyme with "BOOK us." The name of the holiday is frequently translated "Feast of Tabernacles," which, like many translations of Jewish terms, isn't very useful. This translation is particularly misleading, because the word "tabernacle" in the Bible refers to the portable Sanctuary in the desert, a precursor to the Temple, called in Hebrew "mishkan." The Hebrew word "sukkah" (plural: "sukkot") refers to the temporary booths that people lived in, not to the Tabernacle.




Why a Sukkah?

In honor of the holiday's historical significance, the Jewish People are commanded to dwell in temporary shelters, as our ancestors did in the wilderness. The temporary shelter is referred to as a sukkah (which is the singular form of the plural word "sukkot"). Like the word sukkot, it can be pronounced like Sue-KAH, or to rhyme with Book-a.

The sukkah is great fun for the children. Building the sukkah each year satisfies the common childhood fantasy of building a fort, and dwelling in the sukkah satisfies a child's desire to camp out in the backyard. The commandment to "dwell" in a sukkah can be fulfilled by simply eating all of one's meals there; however, if the weather, climate, and one's health permit, one should spend as much time in the sukkah as possible, including sleeping in it.


How do I build a Sukkah?

A sukkah must have at least two and a half walls covered with a material that will not blow away in the wind. The "walls" of the sukkah do not have to be solid; canvas covering tied or nailed down, or held in place by pring clips, is acceptable and quite common in the United States. A sukkah may be any size, so long as it is large enough for you to fulfill the commandment of dwelling in it. The roof of the sukkah must be made of material referred to as sekhakh (literally, covering). To fulfill the commandment, sekhakh must be something that grew from the ground and was cut off, such as tree branches, corn stalks, bamboo reeds, sticks, or two-by-fours. Sekhakh must be left loose, not tied together or tied down. Sekhakh must be placed sparsely enough that rain can get in, and preferably sparsely enough that the stars can be seen, but not so sparsely that more than ten inches is open at any point or that there is more light than shade. The sekhakh must be put on last. Note: You may put a water-proof cover over the top of the sukkah when it is raining to protect the contents of the sukkah, but you cannot use it as a sukkah while it is covered and you must remove the cover to fulfill the mitzvah (Hebrew: "divine commandment") of dwelling in a sukkah.


An easier way to build your Sukkah…

The sukkah is great fun for the children. Building the sukkah each year satisfies the common childhood fantasy of building a fort, and dwelling in the sukkah satisfies a child's desire to camp out in the backyard. The commandment to "dwell" in a sukkah can be fulfilled by simply eating all of one's meals there; however, if the weather, climate, and one's health permit, one should spend as much time in the sukkah as possible, including sleeping in it.

You can buy a do-it-yourself sukkah from us at Baldwin Pergolas. We have many designs available, at a wide array of prices, or we can even custom-design one to your specifications. A pergola is very much like a sukkah in structure. Our pergolas are finely crafted and often are left up year-round.

It is common practice, and highly commendable, to decorate the sukkah. In the northeastern United States, people of the Jewish faith commonly hang dried squash and corn in the sukkah to decorate it, because these vegetables are readily available at that time for the American holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving. Many families hang artwork drawn by the children on the walls. Building and decorating a sukkah is a fun family project, much like decorating the Christmas tree is for Christians. It is a sad commentary on modern American Judaism that most of the assimilated Jews who complain about being deprived of the fun of having and decorating a Christmas tree have never even heard of Sukkot.

History of the American Sukkah

Many Americans, upon seeing a decorated sukkah for the first time, remark on how much the sukkah (and the holiday generally) reminds them of Thanksgiving. This may not be entirely coincidental: I was taught that our American pilgrims, who originated the Thanksgiving holiday, borrowed the idea from Sukkot. The pilgrims were deeply religious people. When they were trying to find a way to express their thanks for their survival and for the harvest, they looked to the Bible for an appropriate way of celebrating and found Sukkot. This is not the standard story taught in public schools today (that a Thanksgiving holiday is an English custom that the Pilgrims brought over), but the Sukkot explanation of Thanksgiving fits better with the meticulous research of Mayflower historian Caleb Johnson, who believes that the original Thanksgiving was a harvest festival (as is Sukkot), that it was observed in October (as Sukkot usually is), and that Pilgrims would not have celebrated a holiday that was not in the Bible (but Sukkot is in the Bible). Although Mr. Johnson claims that the first Thanksgiving was "not a religious holiday or observance," he apparently means this in a Christian sense, because he goes on to say that the first Thanksgiving was instead "a harvest festival that included feasts, sporting events, and other activities," concepts very much in keeping with the Jewish religious observance of Sukkot.

Our Sukkahs…

SIMPLEST SUKKAH SKU/ITEM NUMBER: SUKKAHPB12X12

Our simplest design, this sukkah spans 12 feet by 12 feet, with an 8'x8' post placement. We can also add curtain rods all around, with curtains, and a retractable awning, if desired.




Sukkah in the Courtyard.…$4244 without the extras...

Style: Post and Beam
Configuration: Freestanding
Overall Depth: 12 foot, 0 inch
Overall Width: 12 foot, 0 inch
Overhang: 24
Height: 8 feet tall
Mounting Surface: Patio over gravel
Rafter Tail Architecture: Contoured rafter tails
Lumber: Knotty Entablature
Beams: Extra large 2x8
Finish: Sealed with Olympic
Legs: 4 4x4 Posts
Gussets: 8 Arched gussets

Garden Room Sukkah



More elaborate designs include lattice panels, curtains (not shown), rope-lighting along the headbeams, and can be used year-round once the se'chach is removed. This one is 20' by 16', with 24" overhangs all around.

" Made entirely from Western Red Cedar, Coastal grade, imported from British Columbia "

Shown stained and sealed with Olympic Maximum sealant.


This model, with all the extras, goes for $13,934