Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried
Chapter 134 : Laws of Succah
It is a commandment to build the succah immediately after the (end) of Yom Kippur, even if this was a Friday. (Based on the saying) that if a mitzvah is available one should not miss it. One should choose a clean place for setting it up. Every person is commanded to personally occupy himself with building the succah and putting on the covering, even if he is an important person, it is to his honor that he himself is occupied with the commandment. One should really say "...who has kept us in life..." on building the succah but we rely on the "...who has kept us in life..." one says in the Kiddush. One should try to beautify the Succah and adorn it with fine things and beautiful coverings according to his means.
With regard to the walls of the succah there are many different laws, and not everyone is knowledgeable, therefore it is necessary to make the walls whole and strong so that the wind does not move them, also so that the wind does not blow out the candles. One who does not have the necessary walls, it is better to make three complete walls rather than four incomplete. One who is able to obtain, for the commandment, a built succah, with a roof that opens and closes on hinges to be closeable when it rains, and when the rain stops one opens the roof. The covering stays dry and one can carry out the commandment of succah properly.
The covering also has several laws, and since we customarily cover (the succah) with tree branches or reeds, because they grow from the ground and are (the) separated and do not receive uncleanliness neither are they tied together there is no worry (about using them).
One should be careful from the start to not put on the succah anything that can receive uncleanliness and (is used to support) the covering on it. For example, a ladder whose rungs can receive uncleanliness, and also tools such as an axe (pickaxe or hoe) or rake. Even if one puts them on just for (added) support, it is preferable not to, but if this was already done, or one has nothing else everything that one has is permissible because it is allowed to support the covering on something that receives uncleanliness.
The covering should be put on until there is more shade than light, for if there was more light than shade this is forbidden from the Torah. One should be careful that there is not in one place a gap of more than three hand-breadths. 1 One should have some space between the (pieces of) the covering so that one sees the stars, in any case, if it was (so) thick, that the stars are not visible, it's still valid. But if it is so dense, that if heavy rain fell it wouldn't get through, this makes it like a house and it is not valid (as a succah).
- A "Tefach" or hands-breadth is about 3 inches or 8 cm, or 9.6 cm according to the Hazon Ish.
In built succot sometimes the boards project above the walls, and on these sides are laid the poles on which the covering will be. As long as the board is not more than 4 cubits 1 the succah is not made invalid, because of an invalid covering, as it is a Torah law received from Moses at Mt. Sinai, that less than 4 cubits is considered as a sloping side, meaning that it is considered part of the wall and the wall is considered as if it continues up at a slant. However, we do not sit or sleep under this board because it is not considered as part of the Succah, even if it is only four hand-breadths wide, but the rest of the covering is valid. However, if one places on the walls, boards which are four cubits or more, this is termed an invalid covering and makes the whole succah invalid. In any case, if this is only on one side, as is the way in some built succot, where a slight ceiling is made on one side (in order to move to there the parts of the roof at first) this does not make the succah non-valid, since this is only on one side, and there are still three valid walls on which one can lay a valid covering, and a succah made from three walls is also valid. This is provided it has the (minimum) measurements of a succah, that is 7 hand-breadths by 7 hand-breadths square, and one does not sit under this ceiling.
- The "Amah" or cubit is six hand-breadths, that is about 50-60 cm.
One who makes a succah under the branches of a tree this is invalid. Even if from the branches only there was more light than shade and then one put a covering on it, to make a succah, it is still invalid. Even if one cut afterwards the branches (off the tree). in any event the succah remains invalid. It is written that on the festival of Succot "make for yourself" and this is explained as "to make" and not to "have made", therefore after one has cut the branches, one must lift each branch up from the covering and then bring them back again for the purpose of making the succah. It is therefore forbidden to put on the covering before one has set up the walls, because it is the (act of) putting on the covering that makes the succah valid.
A succah that is made with an opening roof, should have its roof opened before laying on the covering, and if afterwards one closes the roof, and then opens it again, this does not damage (its status as a valid covering), because its considered as spreading out a covering and then removing it. In any case, one should be careful to make sure the roof is open when the festival starts. One should also be careful with regard to those succot that the roof should be fully open and stand (vertically) in line with the walls of the succah, because if they are not straight up but are leaning in and slightly over the covering, even if by an amount that does not invalidate the succah, in any event, one should be careful not to sit in that place that is overhung by the roof, as one would then be sitting under the roof (and not under the covering). Even though a succah (that was built) for the festival does not need a mezuzah, in any case, a built (permanent) succah which is used throughout the year, does need a mezuzah. During the festival, it stills needs, so there is no need after the festival to put on the mezuzah from new.
One can carry out the commandment with a borrowed succah but not with a stolen succah. Therefore one should not make a succah in a public place. 1 In an emergency, when there is no other succah available, one may sit in it and make the blessing.
- Because then it would no longer belong to you.
The Israelite (Jew) should be careful not to cut for himself the covering for the succah but rather buy it.
One can build a succah during the Intermediate days (of the festival).
The wood of the succah, whether from the walls or from the covering, are forbidden to benefit by, up to after Simchat Torah, because they were set aside for (carrying out) the commandment. Even to take from them a splinter as a tooth-pick is forbidden. Even if they fell down, it is still unconditionally forbidden. If Simchat Torah fell on Friday, it is also forbidden on Shabbat. Also the decorations of the Succah are forbidden to have benefit from even if they fell down. They are also forbidden for use on Shabbat or Yom Tov, and may not be handled (moved) because they are "set aside". 1 However, (concerning) an etrog that was hung up in the succah for decoration, one is allowed to smell (its fragrance) because smelling is not a forbidden activity. Decorations that were hung from the covering are by custom forbidden to use even if a condition (to allow this when they were hung) was made. However, (regarding) decorations that were hung from the walls, such a condition allows use. One can remove the paintings that are hung in the Succah for decoration, and carry them away so that they are not spoilt from the rain. Even if no explicit condition was made it is assumed that they were hung with this in mind. In any case, it is better to make such an explicit condtion from the start, namely, before twilight on the first (night of the festival) one stands (in the succah) and says: "I make the condition that it will be permitted to eat and make use of the decorations of this succah whenever I want." One should take care, that succah decorations that is his intention to remove during the festival are not tied with a knot but with a slip-knot.
- "Mukseh" or set aside, refers to weekday objects that once should not touch on Shabbat in case when accidentally uses them for their week day, forbidden, operation. However, if one wants to use them for a permitted action on the Shabbat or Yom Tov it is allowed. For example, a hammer is normally forbidden to handle but one can take it for the purpose of cracking nuts.
Also after the festival, when one removes the covering, one shouldn't step on the branches or use them for any shameful purpose, just as is the case for other commandments like "fringes".
One should not engrave the verse "in the succah you will dwell..." or any other (Torah) verse on a pumpkin or similar object (used) to beautify the succah, because afterwards it may be put to an unsuitable use, and also because it is forbidden to write a Torah verse unnecessarily.
On the day before Succot after midday one should not eat bread so that one will eat in the Succah with appetite.