A sukkah is a temporary, hut-like dwelling built during the holiday of Sukkot. (In fact, the word sukkot is the plural of sukkah.)
The sukkah symbolizes the frail huts in which the Israelites lived during their 40 years of wandering in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt. It also serves to remind Jews of the biblical account of how God protected them, provided for their needs in the wilderness, and by implication, still watches over us today.
Sukkot come in many variations and they all look different, but there are some guidelines to follow when building a sukkah. Two important ones are:
- A sukkah must have two and a half walls. Only one can be an existing wall, like the side of a house. The walls may be constructed of any material, generally canvas, wood or metal. Today, it is possible to buy ready-to-assemble sukkah kits.
- The roof must be temporary, covered with loose branches from trees or anything that grows out of the ground and has been cut off from the ground. According to tradition, this roof covering, s’chach, should give shade while also allowing those in the sukkah to see the stars through the roof at night.
Once the sukkah is built, it is common to decorate it by hanging fruit, decorative paper lanterns, and other items from the s’chach, putting posters and paper chains on the walls, and even laying carpet on the floor. It’s common for parents and their children to create sukkah decorations together.