The Sukkah becomes our home during these seven days in commemoration of the clouds of glory with which God surrounded us when we left Egypt. The Sukkah also calls to mind the booths that the farmers would live in during the harvest at this time of year.
The major part of the Sukkah is the s’chach, or more simply put, that which is used as a roof. Because of the requirement for the s’chach to be a natural material, traditionally bamboo poles or cut corn stalks are placed over a lattice of slats to make up the roof. The s’chach must be placed in such a way that when the sun is over the Sukkah there is more shade on the ground inside than there is sun. Additionally, it should not rest directly on any metal part of the walls of the Sukkah. Since there is a particular obligation to make the roof, one may not put his sukkah under a tree and rely on the branches and leaves of the tree as his s’chach. If there is a question, please contact one of the rabbis — they are available for “sukkah calls.”
As much time as possible should be spent in the Sukkah. Ideally all foods should be eaten inside the Sukkah, although “non-meal” kinds of foods like fruits and vegetables may be eaten for a snack outside of the Sukkah.
The four species that we take together on Sukkot consist of the etrog (from the citrus family), the myrtle, the willow and the palm. Just the holding of these four together constitutes fulfillment of the commandment. It is a minhag to shake the etrog and lulav in six different directions, symbolic of G-d’s presence all around us. Although each of the four species has its own halachic requirements, it is the etrog that gets most of our attention. Once again you will be able to order your lulav and etrog through the shul.
What to look for in an etrog:
A beautiful etrog should be shaped like a tower, wide at the bottom and narrow at the top. The etrog should also be straight; it should be recessed inward at the bottom where the stem grows; it should have a ‘pitim’ on the end opposite from the stem; it should be free of spots and blemishes; and it should be covered with bumps and depressions.
If the etrog does not have all of these features, it may still be valid for the sake of the mitzvah. Therefore, if an etrog is not recessed, the etrog is still valid, and an etrog that is smooth – without bumps – is also valid. And if the etrog does not have a ‘pitim’ it is also valid, unless it originally had one and it came off.
If part of the etrog’s skin came off, or if it is dry, rotten, or punctured, it is not valid. If there are spots or blemishes that do not come off when a gentle rubbing, then it should be shown to a rabbinic authority.
An etrog must be a pure bred, and not grafted from different species. An etrog can be quite large in size, but it should not be smaller than an average egg.
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