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Building a Sukkah (2008)

October 23rd, 2008 · by Cyndi · 2 Comments

This year the spirit possessed us and we decided to build a sukkah for the holiday of Sukkot.  We’d done a poor attempt a few years ago but this was the first real one for all of us.

Sukkot occurs 5 days after Yom Kippur, in late September or October.  It reminds us of the time when the Jews wandered in the desert in the years between leaving slavery in Egypt and entering the land of Israel.  The Sukkah (or Succah) is a temporary hut reflective of the ones carried through the desert during the Exodus.

It can be any size: big enough for one person or for a crowd.  You spend the 8 days of the holiday taking your meals in it, or sleeping there if you wish.  One wall can be a building and another is open (or partially open).  The other two are made out of just about any material.  Our two side walls weren’t as sturdy as the article linked to above say is required, but they worked.

The roof needs to be of materials grown from the ground.  We used mulberry branches from the tree in the pictures.  You should be able to see the stars but not have gaps that are too large.

I organized the Sukkah building party (for Sunday, just before the start of the holiday Monday at sundown) before I had a clue what we were going to use as materials. Then our tenant built a raised bed for my garden.  I said it was too tall and he said, no problem, I’ll just cut off the top.  When I saw the leftover wood, I knew immediately that was the Sukkah roof’s frame.  It was small but I figured it was big enough for our family to eat in and we could each spend some time standing in it for the gathering.  I also considered the mulberry tree to be an extension of the Sukkah roof.

So, here’s how we started: one wobbly wood frame, an open space in the driveway (dig that new gravel we put down a few weeks ago), an old garage door we’re painting this year (so I don’t care about screw holes), some scrap wood, the chuppah poles from our wedding (6 foot long dowels wrapped in ribbon), and some miscellaneous tools and fasteners.

Sukkah Frame

Sukkah Frame

First, we reinforced the frame with some extra nails.  Then we cut some scrap wood and nailed a piece across each of the 4 corners.  This was to serve as a stop for the poles.  Next, we turned the frame over, put the poles so they were on top of the scrap wood corners, and held them to the frame with pipe clamps.  Finally, what you see in the picture, is someone pre-drilling the holes in the frame for screwing the frame to the garage.

Building the Sukkah

Building the Sukkah

Did I mention that both the batteries for my electric drill and circular saw (interchangeable batteries) were dead?  Yes, I’d charged them, but they’re old.  Couldn’t find our hand saws either.   We borrowed a circular saw for the scrap wood but had to use hammer and nails for the hole pre-drilling and brute strength to screw the frame to the garage door.

Putting the Sukkah up

Putting the Sukkah up

We did it!  Our Sukkah was a 4’x8′ wooden frame screwed to a garage.  With 6′ poles on all corners, helping support the weight and create the structure.  A friend loaned us the clothes for the two side walls and I tacked an old sheet up for the back wall.  The floor was an old area rug and we covered the roof with freshly cut mulberry branches.

The round glass-top table was inside the Sukkah most of the time but we pulled it out for our celebration potluck Wednesday night.  We added some more tables to hold food and other items.

Our Sukkah decorations were minimal but we had some Stars of David Miriam made in Synagogue over the High Holy Days, beeswax candles from Bloomfield Bees, and half a dozen pumpkins from Peterson’s Farm.

Our dinner was the cornbread challah I invented for the occasion, ceviche, a couple of salads, wine and seltzer.

Celebrating Sukkot

Celebrating Sukkot

All in all, I’m very proud of our Sukkah (and no telling me how pathetic it was…it doesn’t look like the pictures you see in books but it met the religious requirements and was a lot of fun).  Maybe soon all those bricks will be my long-dreamed of patio and we’ll eat outside all year round.


Categories: Building · Family Life · House & Home · Judaism · Religion & Holidays · Sukkot
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