How to Build a Simple Sukkah
by Rabbi Russ Resnik, UMJC Rabbinic Counsel
Immediately after Yom Kippur is the time to build your Sukkah, in preparation for Sukkot, which begins this year on Sunday, September 23, at sundown. This gives you only three more days to build, but don’t worry—a kosher sukkah is supposed to be makeshift and flimsy. All you need is a structure shaped like one of the letters in the Hebrew word SUKKAH:
One of the walls (but no more) can be your house or another existing building. Sink corner posts in the ground, set them in cinder blocks, or prop them up any way you want. Nail boards, panels of plywood or particle board, fabric, or whatever you want, to your posts. The roof can be flimsy also; you need to be able to see the stars through it to be truly kosher. Make a rough frame of 1X boards, or something similar, and cover it with leafy branches. Size is up to you, as long as you can fit in a table and a few chairs. Hint: don’t make it too big or it will be hard to keep the roof from sagging.
Once you get your Sukkah up, make sure that it won’t fall down on your head. Then you can decorate it with pictures of Jerusalem, paper chains, hanging fruit, flowers, branches, and so on. Put in a little rug to make it cozier. Bring in an extension cord so you can have light at night. Remember that it might rain (especially since we pray for rain during Sukkot), so protect articles that could get damaged.
So, now it’s time to dwell in your booth already! Tradition says that if you eat your meals in the Sukkah, you are fulfilling the commandment. Some hardy souls sleep in their Sukkah also.
Here’s what you need for an 8 X 8 sukkah, based on the three-wall design above:
4 8 foot 2 x 3 or 2 X 4 boards
8 cinder blocks to prop them up, or use longer boards and sink them a foot or so into the ground, or get three additional boards and connect them together at ground level to make a free-standing structure, leaving the front of the sukkah open
10 1 X 2 boards: two are screwed or nailed into the heavier boards to form each of three sides, and four are laid across the top and attached
3 8’ X 8’ panels of cloth, light plywood, bamboo, etc. for sides, to be attached to 1 X 2s
And finally, plenty of tree trimmings, branches, or bamboo, cornstalks, etc., for the roof.