Welcome to the time of year when all Jews Go Green, sit under the stars and feel the joy. Happy Sukkot!
Here are some tips for the holiday:
WHAT'S WITH THE HUT?
For 40 years in the desert, G-d protected us with the "Clouds of Glory". For eight days (starting Wed. eve 22 Sep.), we'll step out of man-made comforts and remind ourselves to trust G-d (that he'll hold off the rain, keep the mozzies at bay and protect us from sukkah-breakers).
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Stick your sukkah under the stars. No overhanging trees or eaves allowed. (If you're in a complex/ apartment building, make sure you have permission before erecting your Sukkah, or it won't be kosher).
You can use just about anything for Sukkah walls (including existing walls), as long as the walls don't flap like sails in the wind.
Minimum wall layout: 2 full walls + 1 mini-wall (about 1/2m).
Sukkah walls should reach from the floor to the top (you can have a gap of about 10cm at the bottom or top of the walls).
No, your Sukkah will not be waterproof. The roof needs to be made of vegetation that's been cut down (a creeper over the roof is no good).
Popular options for "shach" include: Palm, bamboo or unfinished lumber.
You know your Sukka's kosher when it's shady inside at noon. Rather have too much schach than too little. Do you need to see the stars? Yes (assuming you can see them through the city smog), but only from one spot in the Sukkah (feel free to set up a telescope through the branches).
SOME PRACTICAL POINTERS
- Make sure that your lights are waterproof.
- Create openings for ventilation, but make sure you can close them when it gets chilly.
- Pots and pans don't belong in a Sukkah, so prep the food inside and serve on platters.
- Anyone can build your Sukkah, but a Jew must place the schach leaves on top.
Let your kids paint pictures to hang in the Sukkah. Feel free to add decorations of your own.
Chabad custom is not to decorate the Sukkah, because the Mitzvah should be beautiful enough.
Whatever you do, the main decoration of a Sukkah is lots of guests.
HOW TO USE IT
Eat all your meals in the Sukkah (you don't have to eat snacks there, but it's ideal).
If you eat bread or wine, add the brocha:
Boruch Atoh Ado-noy E-lohaynu Melech haoilom asher kid'shonu bemitzvoisov vetzivonu layshayv baSukkah.
You should eat your meal in the Sukkah on first night Yom Tov, even if it rains (you can wait for the rain to stop, obviously). Any other time, you may eat inside if it rains.
Women are not obliged to eat in the Sukkah.
Spend as much time as you can in the Sukkah (take your laptop or favourite book in there).
SHAKE IT UP
Every day of Sukkot (except Shabbat) you should start the day with shaking the Lulav and Etrog.
Your lulav (that's the tall green palm branch) should stand straight and stay compact. If it's bent or starts to fan out, check with the rabbi if it's still ok.
BTW, the Lulav represents your spine & how you should stand tall as a Jew.
Keep it moist, not too wet, and in a cool spot.
IS THAT A LEMON?
No, an Etrog is a citroen, a unique fruit grown in Israel, Morocco and Italy. It tastes much better than a lemon & smells better too.
The mitzvah is to have a beautiful Etrog, so spare no cost ; ) Look for one that's yellow, symmetrical and clean (no black spots or blotches).
BTW, your Etrog represents your heart- keep it healthy and strong.
Keep it dry and safe (dropping it could make it unkosher).
To the right of your Lulav, you'll bind three branches of myrtle (a.k.a. Hadassim). To the left you'll bind two branches of willows or Aravot (NOT weeping willows).
The myrtles represent your eyes and the willows your mouth- make sure what goes into your eyes and what comes out of your mouth is kosher.
Keep them moist and cool. If the leaves fall off, check with the rabbi if they're still ok.
Do your daily Lulav-waving workout every morning (first prize: In the Sukkah).
Start with the brocha:
1. Boruch Atoh Ado-noi Elo-heinu Melech ha'olam asher kid'eshanu be'mitzvosov ve'tzivonu al netilas Lulav.
When you shake it for the first time, add:
2. Boruch Atoh Ado-noi Elo-heinu Melech ha'olam she'he'cheyanu ve'kiymanu ve'higi'yanu lizman hazeh.
All Jews point the four-species combo in all six directions (right, left, forward, up, down, back), but not all communities do it in the same sequence.
PRAY IT FORWARD
If you've got a Lulav set, share it with others. It's an easy Mitzvah to involve your family, friends and work colleagues in.