Kosher Schach

The general ruling:[1]

The following criteria are required for a material to be valid Sechach:

  1. The material grows from the ground.
  2. The material is currently detached from the ground
  3. The material has not been formed into an item which can receive impurity.

The reason for this is: It is learned from the verse “A festival of Sukkos you shall make for your selves with the gathering of your grain stalks and your vineyards” that the Sechach of the Sukkah may only be made of materials which are the wastes of the grains and vineyards, such as reeds, twigs, stalks and the like of which are similar to these items, meaning that they grow from the ground, [are detached from the ground[2]] and do not receive impurity.[3]


The definition of earth products which are able to contract impurity:

Any item that is potentially able to contract impurity is invalid.

Fruits and Vegetables:[4] All fruits and vegetables are invalid being that they potentially can contract impurity after having been prepared [by coming in contact with liquids].[5]

A broken vessel:[6] Any earth produce which was once able to contract impurity due to it being transformed into a vessel, remains Rabbinically invalid even if it has broken and is no longer fit for use as a vessel. If one used this material as Sechach the Sukkah is invalid even Bedieved just like material that is Biblically invalid. [Regarding breaking pieces off a chair and the like; using pieces of a large vessel; using pieces of an item which only Rabbinically contracts impurity; and using pieces of other forms of invalid Sechach-See list below!] 

Earth produce which contain a hole in them:[7] Any produce which had a hole made into them, in a way that they can hold items in that hole, is able to contract impurity and is thus invalid. If the produce grew with this hole, such as a bamboo stick which contains an inner hollowness, then it still remains valid.

Earth produce which lost their original form-Cotton and Cannabis:[8] Any earth produce which changed form, as is the case with cotton and cannabis which have been spun, are Rabbinically invalid. [Regarding using carton boxes and the like-see list]

The reason for this is because: They no longer appear like they are produce which grew from the ground.

Ropes:[9] Based on the above, ropes which are made of materials which were spun in order to firm them out are invalid. However if they were not spun and the rope is rather made of strings of that material which have retained their original form of growth, then they are valid, as ropes do not have a  hole within them to hold items and thus do not contract impurity.


May mats be used for Sechach:[10]

Mats which are formed from produce that grows from the ground such as bamboo or canes or twigs, may be used for Sechach so long as the following conditions are fulfilled:

  1. Are not made for any use which would deem it able to contract impurity, such as for sleeping on, spreading fruits on, and the like.[11]
  2. Not used by majority of the inhabitants of the area as a vessel.[12]
  3. They are not used in ones area as the roofing for the houses.[13]

What is the law if one does not know the purpose for which a mat was made for?[14] Then if one bought it from a crafts man for the sake of using as Sechach it is valid [so long as the other conditions are fulfilled] being that the craftsman makes it with the intent of having it used for whatever purpose the consumer chooses to use it for.[15] If however one bought it from a private individual then one follows the accustomed use of this item by the majority of the inhabitants of that area. If there is no set custom for this item then one is to follow its size, meaning that if it is small it is assumed to have been made for sleeping on and is thus invalid, while if it is large it is valid unless it has rims around it.


A wood ladder:[16]

Is questionable whether or not it is deemed to be able to contract impurity, as there is doubt as to whether the side cavities of the ladder in which the steps enter into render it a hole made to hold items or not. Practically one is to be stringent.


The stems [Yados] of a fruit:[17]

All stems of fruits and vegetables are able to contract impurity while attached to the fruit, if they were cut off the ground or tree with intent to eat the fruit. Each fruit and vegetable has a specific measurement of its stem which is deemed able to contract impurity[18]. Above that measurement, the stem is deemed as a mere branch and does not contract impurity. If one cut the branches with intent to use for Sechach then the stems of the fruit [yados] do not contract any impurity and are thus valid.


May one use branches that contain fruit as Sechach?[19]

If the branches were cut with intent to use as Sechach they are valid. If however they were cut with intent to eat the fruit then one must have majority of the Sechach be from the part of the branches which is past the area of the stem of the fruit which is able to contract impurity. If the majority is from the area of the stem which can contract impurity then it is invalid.



Is plastic a valid material for Sechach?[20]



Is glass a valid material for Sechach?[21]

Glass that is produced from sand is Biblically invalid being that sand is like earth and does not grow from the ground. However glass that is made from ash of plants, some Poskim[22] allow using it in a time of need. Others however rule that glass is Rabbinically invalid being it does not provide shade.


List of items that are invalid to be used as Sechach:

  • Plastic
  • Glass
  • Carton[23]
  • Paper[24]
  • Cotton[25]
  • Bamboo mats which did not have a reliable Rabbinical supervision. [See Q&A below!]


    List of items which are debated in Poskim whether they are invalid or not:

  • Pieces of wood broken froma chair, bed, bench, dresser, ladder, small container etc.[26]


      List of items which are valid for Sechach:

  • Pieces of wood from large containers which could hold 40 Seah.[27]
  • Pieces of wood from items which only Rabbinically contract impurity.[28]
  • Pieces of wood from items which were invalid due to reasons other than contracting impurity.[29]
  • Bamboo mats which are under a reliable Rabbinical supervision [See Q&A below!]


Must the commonly sold bamboo Sechach mats contain a reliable Rabbinical supervision?[30]

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[31], in contrast to the cheaper synthetic strings which are invalid for Sechach.


May one use pieces of Sechach which have been painted over?[32]



May one cut Sechach during Shemitah to use for his Sukkah?[33]

Yes. However it is best to do so in an irregular method than that used for trimming trees.


Does Sechach have Kedushas Sheviis?[34]



If the branch of a tree is resting over one’s Sukkah roofing may one simply cut it and have it used as Sechach?[35]

No. The Sechach must be originally placed on the roofing at a time that it is currently valid to be used[36] and here since when the branch was placed on the roofing it was still attached to the ground, it is thus invalid. One may however lift up the branch after it is cut and then replace it as valid Sechach.


Materials which give off bad odors:[37]

The Sages initially forbade using Sechach which gives off foul odors due that this may cause one to leave the Sukkah [due to annoyance]. Nevertheless if one went ahead and used branches which give bad odor as Sechach, the Sukkah is nevertheless valid and it is even initially permitted to eat in this Sukkah. 


May branches with leaves be used for Sechach?[38]

The Sages initially forbade using Sechach which contain leaves that commonly fall off on their own, even without wind, due to suspicion that this may cause one to leave the Sukkah [due to annoyance]. Nevertheless if one went ahead and used branches which contain leaves as Sechach, the Sukkah is nevertheless valid and it is even initially permitted to eat in this Sukkah. 


May bundles of wood be used as Sechach?[39]

Bundles of wood which are commonly placed on rooftops for drying purposes [such as those which contain 25 pieces] are Rabbinically invalid for Sechach.[40] However if the bundle is opened and spread across the Sechach roofing then it is valid.


May one use wood boards[41] as Sechach?

Wooden planks[42]:[43] All wooden planks which are slightly wide, similar to a table, and is thus fit to support things, is Rabbinically invalid for Sechach.[44] These planks may not even be used to support the Sechach.

Boards of 4 Tefach:[45] Boards which are 4 Tefach wide [32 cm.] are Rabbinically invalid to be used as Sechach.[46]

Boards of less than 3 Tefach but are used for roofing:[47] Furthermore, today in which even boards of less than 3 Tefach [24 cm] wide are used for roofs of houses, even boards of less than 3 Tefach wide are invalid to be used for Sechach due to the above decree.

Narrow boards which are not commonly used for a roofing:[48] However boards which are so narrow that they are not at all used for a roofing are permitted to be used for Sechach, even if they are wide enough to hold fruits and bread. Nevertheless when such boards are used one must verify that rain is still able to penetrate the Sukkah. For this reason the custom became to completely avoid using even the valid boards for Sechach due to worry that one may come to set it there in a way that the rain will not be able to penetrate.

May the boards be placed with their width side up:[49] Even if one places a wide board with its width facing upwards, and thus its width over the Sukkah is less than an amount which invalidates, it is nevertheless invalid.


If no other Sechach material is available may one  use material which is only Rabbinically invalid?[50]

Any material which is merely invalidated due to a decree may be used as Sechach if nothing else is available.


[1] 629/1

[2] 629/20

Vetzaruch Iyun as for what reason Admur did not mention this detail within the reasoning explained in 629/1 and only later in 629/20 did he go back and explain that it must also be detached in order to be similar to the grains and vineyards.

[3] The reason for why we do not learn from this verse that the walls of a Sukkah as well must be made of these forms of materials is because the main aspect of a Sukkah is its Sechach and thus when the verse states “Sukkah” it is referring to its Sechach and not to its walls. [Taz/M”B 630]

[4] 629/1

[5] Now although all items can potentially contract impurity after transforming them into a vessel, nevertheless we do invalidate them due to this potential as the item in its current state can never contract impurity, and must rather be transformed. This is in contrast to fruits and vegetables of which can contract impurity in their current state through simply being prepared through contact with liquids. [Milaket]

[6] 629/2

[7] 629/3-4

[8] 629/5

[9] 629/6

[10] 629/7

[11] 629/7

[12] 629/9; Due to Maaras Ayin [it appearing to others that one is eating in an invalid Sukkah]. [Admur ibid]

[13] 629/9; Due to a decree that one may come to eat under a house roof. [Admur there]

[14] 629/7-8

[15] 629/7

[16] 629/11

[17] 629/15-16

[18] In Admur the measurements of grape, date and stalks are mentioned.

[19] 629/15-16

[20] Piskeiy Teshuvos 629/1

[21] See Piskeiy Teshuvos 629/2 for the discussion regarding this.

[22] Peri Megadim 629 M.Z. 1

[23] As their original form is no longer recognizable and they thus do not appear as if they grew from the ground. [Bechurei Yaakov 629/1]

[24] As their original form is no longer recognizable and they thus do not appear as if they grew from the ground. [Bechurei Yaakov 629/1]

[25] As their original form is no longer recognizable and they thus do not appear as if they grew from the ground. [Kaf Hachaim 629/22]

[26] Some Poskim rule that if they were broken with intent to use for Sechach, and they are broken in a way that makes them no longer be recognizable from where they came from, then they are valid as there is no longer reason to decree that one may come to use the actual vessel for Sechach. Other Poskim however argue on this and invalidate all pieces broken from vessels in all scenarios.  [Piskeiy Teshuvos 629/3]

[27] Aruch Hashulchan 629/5

[28] M”B 629/8. Vetzaruch Iyun regarding opinion in Admur.

[29] Avnei Nezer 473

[30] Rabbi Don Levy of OK laboratories brought on the OK web site.

[31] 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!]

[32] Piskeiy Teshuvos 629/5

[33] Rambam 1/15-21; 2/2-8; Shabbos Haaretz 1/18-5

[34] Rambam 5/21; 7/14

[35] 629/20

[36] Otherwise it is problematic due to the rule of “Taaseh Velo Min Haasuy”.

[37] 629/21

[38] 629/21

[39] 629/22

[40] The reason: This is due to a decree that one may come to place them up on ones Sukkah roofing for drying purposes and then later leave them there as Sechach. [ibid]

[43] 629/14

[44] The reason: This is due to that they are similar to a hole made to hold items and were thus Rabbinically deemed able to contract impurity. [ibid]

[45] 629/29

[46] The reason for this is because: They are similar to the roofing of a house and if they were to be allowed people may come to likewise eat inside of a house. [ibid]

[47] 629/31-32

[48] 629/32

[49] 629/30

[50] 629/33

Was this article helpful?

Related Articles

Leave A Comment?

You must be logged in to post a comment.