Home > Life, The Universe, & Everything > The Succah of Succot/Succos

The Succah of Succot/Succos


Succah from outside

It’s a pretty simple structure this hut that Jews build in the early fall of every year 2 weeks after the Jewish New Year of Rosh HaShanah and 4 days after Yom Kippur. But because for the past week I have been trying to explain to a number of people what the heck a ‘succah’ actually is, I figured I’d drop some Judaism on my readers and explain via pictures.

One of the key things to remember about the word succah is it IS NOT English. Therefore, although Wikipedia spells it Sukkah, I have seen it spelled Succa, Succah, or Sukka. Because it is a transliterated word it doesn’t really matter and there is no wrong way to spell it in English.

Succah roof made of “s’chach” from inside looking up.

S’chach (I’m not going to bother trying to explain how to pronounce that one, haha) is the roof of the Succah. Now, the key thing here is that the s’chach has to be comprised of plant life that is no longer alive. Planks of wood, fruit , vegetables, branches, and bamboo all count as proper s’chach. The lights you see in the picture are just there for utilitarian purposes but you could conceivably make the succah “not kosher” if you had giant chandeliers or huge lights…unless you found a tree that glowed after it had been killed and used that as a light I suppose…

Succah inside.

The point of the succah is, if I recall my Jewish schooling correctly, to remember the time the Jews spent wandering in the desert upon their leaving Egypt. During this time, the Bible tells of how God protected them with a pillar of clouds around them during the day and a pillar of fire around them by night. The idea is that building the succah and “living in it” as much as you can during this time brings us back to the mercy of God to protect us from the elements. In Israel and other places with warmer climates than Canada people actually sleep in the succah. In Canada, it is way too cold to be doing this usually so in my life I have only heard of one person who I knew who attempted this.

Never mind sleeping in there, the ideal is to have as many meals during the holiday as you can inside the succah. However, if it is raining then you don’t need to sit out there and get soaked although an initial blessing prior to the meal is done inside the succah (which takes about 3 minutes). However, I do remember years when it was über cold when I was a kid and I would beg my parents to let us eat inside and they’d refuse even though we’d all be bundled up in winter coats and hats.

Succah from the outside looking inside.

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  1. October 21, 2011 at 2:04 pm | #1

    Thanks for the lesson, Dan. Every year a Succah is built outside of the Old City Hall Courthouse at Queen and Bay and I’ve always wondered about it.

    Raymond.

    • October 22, 2011 at 5:18 pm | #2

      Wondered about it in terms of what the heck it is? I wonder if it is a “Kosher” succah and if Jews actually use it to eat lunch & supper in during the holiday. I guess I will ask some friends who work downtown and strictly observe the holiday.

      Fun Fact: In Israel, restaurants actually build giant succahs so patrons who are observing the holiday can eat there (it is also way nicer in Israel this time of year.)

      • October 24, 2011 at 2:47 pm | #3

        Dan,

        I happened to walk past Old City Hall this morning and took a picture. You can see the fullsize picture here: http://a.yfrog.com/img876/2452/gs06.jpg

        Raymond.

      • October 24, 2011 at 4:03 pm | #4

        Thanks for the picture Raymond!
        By just looking at it I can tell you that is definitely a Kosher succah. Not because I am an expert or anything but because of the sign on it which says it is put up by “Chabad Lubavitch.” That group is is a very Orthodox group that does a lot of outreach towards secular and non-Orthodox Jews to get them to become more Orthodox. I wonder how/when they convinced the city to let them do that.

  2. October 23, 2011 at 2:12 pm | #5

    That is a very nice sukkah, but it is missing the obligatory paper chains :)

    • October 24, 2011 at 2:39 pm | #6

      Haha, good point. We actually bought plastic chains years and years ago in Israel because by then my brothers and I were too old to make those chains every year (which would get destroyed at the first hint of rain and never survived Succot) but I don’t know what happened to them over the years.

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