Building the Sukkah
1. The reason behind dwelling in a Sukkah:
The reason G-d commanded us to sit in a Sukkah for shade is so we recall the miracles and wonders done for us in the desert, in which the clouds of glory surrounded us for shade, as protection from the sun. When dwelling in a Sukkah one must have intent to do so in order to fulfill G-d’s command to sit in a Sukkah in commemoration of the Exodus. This obligation to have intent during the dwelling is learned from the verse “So you shall know”.
Must one have this intent every time he dwells in the Sukkah?
Yes. Each time one eats in the Sukkah, and fulfills the Mitzvah of dwelling in the Sukkah, he is to intend to fulfill the Mitzvah for the above mentioned reason of commemorating the exodus.
2. When to build the Sukkah:
May one build his Sukkah on Erev Sukkos?
Ideally one is to complete the building of his Sukkah prior to 2.5 hours before sunset. If however it is past 2.5 hours before sunset and one has still not built his Sukkah, it may nevertheless still be built.
Who is to build the Sukkah?
Should one personally build the Sukkah versus having someone else do so for him?
It is proper for one to personally place the Sechach onto the Sukkah [and help build the walls] rather than have another person do so for him. [The Rabbeim were not particular to personally build their Sukkah, although it is recalled that the Rebbe was particular to always place some Sechach onto his Sukkah. It is told that Reb Hillel Paritcher was particular to help build the walls of the Sukkah. The Noam Elimelech explains that one is to personally toil to build the Sukkah in order to sanctify his limbs.]
May women or children build the Sukkah?
Walls: According to all women and children may help build the walls of the Sukkah.
Sechach: Some Poskim rule that women and children are not initially to place the Sechach on the Sukkah, and so seems to be the opinion of Admur. If they already did so the Sukkah is Kosher.
May a gentile build the Sukkah?
Is everyone to have their own Sukkah?
It is proper for each family to build their own Sukkah just like each person has his own house.
3. The order-May one place the Sechach before the walls?
One must build the walls of the Sukkah prior to building the Sechach. If one first builds the Sechach and then the walls, the Sukkah is invalid according to many Poskim. If one first built a ledge of one Tefach around the frame and then placed the Sechach and then completed the walls it is valid.
If the walls blew off on Sukkos must one remove the Sechach and replace it after fixing the walls?
It is not necessary to replace the Sechach after fixing the walls, being the Sukkah was originally made in a Kosher way. However some Poskim rule that if this occurred before Sukkos one is required to replace the Sechach.
Is there a maximum amount of Sechach that may be placed on the Sukkah?
Allowing the stars to be seen: Initially the Sechach must be thin and light enough for the large stars to be visible through the Sechach at night. Bedieved even if the Sechach is as thick as the roof of a house to the point that no rays of sun penetrate the Sechach, the Sukkah is valid so long as rain is able to penetrate through the Sechach as will be explained next.
Allowing rain to penetrate: If the Sechach is thick to the point that even rain is unable to penetrate it is invalid.
How much of the Sechach must be able to be penetrated by rain and allow star viewing?
Some Poskim rule that so long as the stars are visible from one area within the Sukkah it is initially valid. [Practically this is the Chabad custom.] However if rain cannot penetrate in an area of four Tefachim then that area is considered invalid Sechach for all purposes. Others however rule that so long as there is a 7×7 area that allows penetration of rain the entire Sukkah is Kosher.
The Chassidic meaning behind allowing the stars to be seen:
The Sukkah represents the drawing of an Or Makif down below to the Jew dwelling inside. The purpose of this Oar Makif is to be drawn internally into the Jew. This is represented by the stars which represent a glimmer of the Makif light.
4. May one build a Sukkah in a public property?
Initially one may not build a Sukkah in a public area such as on a city street or sidewalk and the like of places that people pass by. This applies even if the entire city is of Jewish population and certainly the Jews do not mind one building his Sukkah there. One is to protest against anyone who makes a Sukkah in a public area. Nevertheless Bedieved if one built a Sukkah in a public property he fulfills his obligation.
May one say a blessing in such a Sukkah: If one transgressed and built a Sukkah in a public property although he fulfills his obligation nevertheless he may not say a blessing ‘lesheiv basukkah’. [However many Poskim rule one may even initially build a Sukkah in a public property and say a blessing, and so is the custom. This especially applies if one has received permission from the city municipality.]
May one build a Sukkah in a public area that people do not pass by, such as a forest or field?
Seemingly one may do so as people do not pass by this area.
If one does not have a permit to build a permit in his property may one build a Sukkah there?
The Chabad Custom:
The beauty of the Sukkah is the Sukkah itself. Our minhag is not to decorate the sukkah. (sefer haminhagim)
A letter of the Rebbe on the subject:
Generally, a Mitzvah must be observed on its Divine authority (with Kabolos Ol) and not on rational grounds, i.e. for any reason or explanation which we may find in it. An exception, to some extent, is the case where the significance of the Mitzvah is indicated in the Torah, and our Sages have connected its fulfillment with it. At any rate, only a qualified person can interpret it more fully.
We have a rule that a Mitzvah should be performed to the best of one’s ability, and as the Rambam explains (at the end of Hilchos Issurei HaMizbeach). This applies especially to the object of the Mitzvah itself, e.g., a Talis should be the best one can afford, an offering should be the most generous, etc.
Unlike the Sechach [branches covering the top of the Sukkah] and walls of the Sukkah, decorations are not an essential part of the Sukkah, but an external adornment which adds to the enjoyment of the person sitting inside the Sukkah; they are, as the name clearly indicates, supplementary objects which decorate and beautify the external appearance of the Sukkah.
The attitude of Chabad Chassidim in this connection, as taught by generations of Chabad leaders and teachers, is that the Sukkah is to imbue us with certain essential lessons, which are explained in Chassidic literature and Talmudic literature in general. It is expected of Chabad Chassidim that they should be impressed by the essential character of the Sukkah without recourse to “artificial” make-up; that the frail covering of the Sukkah and its bare walls, not adorned by external ornaments, rugs or hangings, should more forcibly and directly impress upon the Jew the lessons it is meant to convey.
5. The material of the walls:
The walls may be made using any material [that does not move with a common wind], even if the material does not lend shade to the Sukkah [such as glass or transparent plastic]. Nevertheless, one is not to use materials that give off a foul odor or which dry out within 7 days. The walls may be made even initially from material that is Halachicly unfit for use as Sechach.
Using sheets as a wall: One is not to use sheets whether of material or plastic as a wall being that it is difficult to ascertain that the sheets will not move with the wind. However it is permitted to use sheets if one places poles within three Tefach using Lavud to make the wall, as in such a case even if the sheets move with the wind the wall remains Kosher due to the poles which are Lavud. [According to all Bedieved if one used sheet walls that do not move with the wind the Sukkah is Kosher even if Lavud was not used.]
Practically are Sukkahs with plastic walls initially valid?
If the walls allow the placing of string or poles to perform Lavud to make three walls then it is valid according to all even initially. However if Lavud is not being used one should not use such a Sukkah being it is possible that the walls will become loose and move with the wind. However from the letter of the law if the plastic does not move with the wind it is valid. Other Poskim rule that it is even initially permitted to use plastic sheets if they are tightly attached as it is not possible to be with the wind.
Must the commonly sold bamboo Sechach mats contain a reliable Rabbinical supervision?
Yes. This is due to the fact that in some countries the mats are actually used for roofing or other vessel purpose in which the ruling in Shulchan Aruch dictates that it may then not be used as Sechach. Thus supervision is required to verify that the mats are not being made for an invalidating purpose. As well, supervision is required to verify that the sticks of the mat are woven using material valid for Sechach, such as the more expensive cotton string, in contrast to the cheaper synthetic strings which are invalid for Sechach.
May one eat in a Sukkah which has the Sechach of an upper Sukkah protruding over it?
If the bottom Sechach is firm enough to hold a person lying on pillows and blankets: This matter is disputed by Poskim. Some Poskim hold that it does not invalidate the Sechach directly under it being that this protruding Sechach has no walls. Others however rule that despite the above it does invalidate the Sechach under it. Practically one is to be stringent and avoid this situation.
If the bottom Sechach cannot hold a person lying on a pillow: The lower Sukkah is completely valid.
 This ruling of Admur follows the ruling of Rebbe Eliezer in the Gemara. However according to Rebbe Akiva we slept in actual Sukkahs, and according to him the reason behind Sukkos is to remember all the kindness that Hashem provides us with [Rashbam].
 Tzaruch Iyun from this wording if one is to intend on the clouds of glory as well as the exodus, or simply intending on the exodus suffices. However from the fact that Admur and Michaber bring the above reason of the clouds of glory it implies that it is this specific intention that one must have. Vetzaruch Iyun according to this why Admur [from Magen Avraham] wrote exodus as opposed to the clouds of glory. To note from Taz  which explains that remembering the exodus is the reason according to Rebbe Akivah, while remembering the clouds of glory is the reason according to Rebbe Eliezer. The Peri Megadim rules that it is implied from the Magen Avraham that there is no need to intend for the clouds of glory, although based on the Taz it is proper to have both intentions. Perhaps according to Admur it is also needed to have both intents and he thus brought down both reasons.
 Rama 624/5
Ruling of Admur: Vetzaruch Iyun as to why this was omitted by Admur.
Other Opinions: Some Poskim rule one is to build the Sukkah before Yom Kippur in order so its Mitzvah becomes included in one’s verdict for the coming year. Others arbitrate that the walls are to be built before Yom Kippur while the Sechach is placed after Yom Kippur. [Shaareiy Teshuvos]
 Sefer Haminhagim; Aruch Hashulchan 624/7; Kaf Hachaim 624/35
 The reason for this is because one is not to delay the performance of a Mitzvah which he has the ability to fulfill. [ibid]
 Mateh Efrayim 625/9; M”B 625/2 [there he writes past midday it is forbidden, however according to the ruling of Admur one may always be lenient according to the opinion which holds Mincha means Mincha Ketana.]
 As a) It is for the need of Yom Tov, and B) It is for the sake of a Mitzvah. Vetzaruch Iyun from the wording or Mateh Efrayim and M”B ibid, although perhaps they were merely referring to by what time should one plan to have it built by, and not bedieved if one did not yet do so.
 Kaf Hachaim 625/11; Kitzur SHU”A 134/1; Alef Lamagen 624/15; see Likkutei Sichos 20 p. 267 that the Rebbe learns for the below mentioned reason that each family should build their own Sukkah
 Kitzur ibid
 As it is a greater Mitzvah for one to personally do the Mitzvah rather than through a messenger. [Kaf Hachaim 625/11]
 Hamelech Bemisibo 2/53
 Parshas Kedoshim
 Bikureiy Yaakov 635/2
 M”A 14/3; Bikureiy Yaakov 635/2; Chochmas Shlomo 635; Kaf Hachaim 635/8
 14/2; There Admur rules one is to initially avoid having women or children make tzitzis being they are not obligated in the Mitzvah. This is the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam recorded in Rama 14/1 as explained in M”A 14/3. The M”A there concludes that this same law applies by all Mitzvahs including “Lulav and Sukkah”. So brings also Biur Halacha 14 “Lehatzrich Anashim” that it applies likewise to Sukkah.
 635/1; As rules Admur ibid regarding Tzitzis
 Bikureiy Yaakov 635/2
 Chida in Avodas Hakodesh 24/2
 Bikureiy Yaakov 635/2 based on M”A 649/8
 Lekutei Sichos 20 p. 267
 Rama 635/1
 So rule majority of Poskim such as the Levush; Taz; Eliyahu Raba. [M”B 635/10]
Other Poskim: The Bach rules the Sukkah is Kosher, and so sides the Bircheiy Yaakov [Brought in Shaareiy Tziyon 635/12]
 Rama ibid; M”B 635/11
 Piskeiy Teshuvos 635/2
 Kaf Hachaim 635/18; Pekudas Eliezer 630
 Rav Poalim 1/34
 The reason for this is because if the Sechach prevents penetration of rain it is not considered a Sukkah, as a Sukkah is defined as a form of roofing that protects only from shade and not from other matters. However if it is also able to protect from rain then it is not considered a Sukkah but rather is similar to a house. [ibid]
 Peri Megadim
 Piskeiy Teshuvos 631/2
 The reason for this is because the city belongs to the whole world including gentiles which certainly do mind for one to place a Sukkah there and hence if one builds a Sukkah there it is considered like a Sukkah built on stolen property. [ibid]
Why is this Sukkah not similar to a borrowed Sukkah: Now although one fulfills the Mitzvah of Sukkah if he builds it on stolen property nevertheless Lechatchilah one may not live in a Sukkah that is on stolen property being that the verse states Taaseh Lecha and such a Sukkah is not actually yours. This is not similar to a borrowed Sukkah being that when it is borrowed he has permission to use it and it is hence considered his for all intents and purposes of Sukkah. [ibid]
 The reason for this is because since the Sukkah is stolen it is not considered like one is saying a blessing but like one is blaspheming Hashem. [ibid]
 M”B 637/10; Piskeiy Teshuvos 637/3
 Piskeiy Teshuvos 637/3; Nitei Gavriel
 Michaber 630/10
 Meaning that although the main aspect of a Sukkah is its ability to provide shade, of which lack thereof invalidates the Sukkah, this is only in regards to the Sechach. However the walls are not required that they provide shade. Hence even if in the morning or evening when the sun shines at an angle towards the walls of the Sukkah there is more sun light than shade, nevertheless the Sukkah is Kosher.
 Sefer Haminhagim p. Other Opinions: Bach rules the walls must be made of material that is Kosher for Sechach and so rules the Peri Megadim in 630.
 Michaber 630/10
 Aruch Hashulchan 630/32
 Piskeiy Teshuvos 630/9
 Kinyan Torah 4/70
 Rabbi Don Levy of OK laboratories brought on the OK web site.
 Although cotton is invalid for Sechach, since this is only a Rabbinical invalidation due to having lost their original form, they are allowed to be used to support the Sechach as we do not make a decree upon a decree. [Rav S”Z Aurbach; Rav Wozner -Piskeiy Teshuvos 629/6] Nevertheless it is best to get materials which themselves are valid. [See Piskeiy Teshuvos there!]
 Shaareiy Tziyon 5 in name of Bichureiy Yosef
 Peri Megadim 633 M”Z 2