laws of THE FESTIVALS
THE LAWS OF
by Rav David
Shiur #14 – The Dimensions of the Sukka
shiur, we introduced the mitzva of Sukka, discussed its possible reasons,
and questioned whether erecting a sukka constitutes a mitzva. This week, we will begin our study of
the laws of sukka, including the
halakhot relating to the proper construction of a sukka.
The halakhot relating to the sukka, which can be found in the first
two chapters of masekhet Sukka, concern the walls, the dimensions
and structure of the sukka, the
sekhakh, the sanctity of the sukka and its decorations, and the time
and order of the construction of the sukka. The laws are numerous and
complex; we will attempt to summarize the central and relevant halakhot
In the upcoming shiurim, we will discuss the different
measurements and concepts used in the laws of sukka. The Acharonim disagree as
to whether a tefach (handbreadth) is approximately 8 cm (R. Chaim Na’eh),
or approximately 10 cm (Chazon Ish). As a result, three tefachim, the
measurement of “lavud,” ranges between 24-30 cm; seven tefachim,
the minimum length of the sukka’s
walls, ranges between 56-70 cm; and ten tefachim, the minimum height of
the sukka’s walls, is between 80-100
cm. While some claim that one should preferably adopt the larger measurement of
the Chazon Ish for matters of biblical origin, others insist that the
halakha is in accordance with R. Chaim Na’eh. We will also encounter the
measurement of four amot (190 cm–232 cm), ten amot (470 cm–590
cm), and twenty amot (940 cm-120 cm).
addition, we will also encounter the concept of lavud. The Talmud
(Shabbat 97a, Sukka 6b)
records that halakha le-Moshe mi-Sinai teaches that, at times, two parts
separated by a gap of less than three tefachim are considered to be
“lavud” – connected.
Therefore, as we shall see, if a wall is within three tefachim of
the ground, the sekhakh, or the corner, we overlook the gap and view the
wall as connected to the other area.
The Dimensions of the Sukka
The Chayye Adam (146:3) writes that it is a mitzva min ha-muvchar,
halakhically preferable, to construct a sukka of four complete walls. The
Talmud, however, records that a halakha le-Moshe mi-Sinai teaches that
when constructed properly, two walls and an additional piece may suffice.
In this shiur, we will first discuss the general principles
relating to the dimensions of a standard sukka of three or four complete walls,
and then discuss how to construct a sukka consisting of fewer than three
the height of the sukka walls, the
Talmud teaches that the walls of the sukka must be at least ten
tefachim high (Sukka 2a;
Shulchan Arukh 633:8). The gemara (16b) also teaches that the walls may
be suspended within three tefachim of the ground. Thus, one may theoretically use walls
slightly more than seven tefachim high and suspend them slightly less
than three tefachim from the ground. In addition, the gemara
relates that even a wall of slightly more than four tefachim may be
stated in the name of Abimi: “A mat slightly more than four tefachim [wide] is permitted as a sukka wall.” How does one place it? One
suspends it in the middle, less than three [tefachim] from the ground and less than
three from the top, and whatever [space] is less than three tefachim is treated as
lavud. But is not this
obvious? One might have said that we apply the law of lavud once, but we do not apply lavud twice [to the same wall];
therefore, he informed us of this.
It was objected: A mat slightly more than seven [tefachim] is permitted as a sukka wall! With reference to what was
this taught? With reference to a large sukka.
words, when constructing a tall sukka, one may use a wall of slightly
more than seven tefachim suspended
within three tefachim from the
ground. When building a short sukka,
ten tefachim high, one can even use a
wall of slightly more than four tefachim, suspended within three tefachim of both the ground and the
sekhakh, using the principle of lavud twice (Shulchan Arukh 630:9).
especially when sukkot are built using pre-existing walls (such as on a
balcony [mirpeset]), the walls of the sukka do not reach the sekhakh.
The Talmud (Sukka 16a) teaches that
the walls don’t have to reach the sekhakh, as long as they line up with
the sekhakh (Sukka 16a).
Upon what is this leniency based?
On the one
hand, one might base this upon the halakhic principle of gud asik
mechitzta, which states that we consider a valid mechitza as if it
projects upwards or downwards (see Ritva 16a). Interestingly, however, we find
that the gemara (4b) cites a dispute regarding whether and the extent to
which this principle should be applied to the laws of sukka. The gemara, for example, relates
that R. Yaakov maintains that one can place sekhakh on four poles
positioned on the top of a building; the four walls of the building, projecting
upwards, will serve as the walls of the sukka. R. Yaakov bases this upon the
principle of gud asik mechitzata, but the Sages disagree. Furthermore,
the gemara questions whether one must align the poles and the
sekhakh with the outer walls of the building, or whether the poles and
sekhakh may even be positioned in the middle of the roof.
(Hilkhot Sukka 4:11) rules in
accordance with R. Yaakov; one may employ the principle of gud asik
mechitzta, but only at the edge of the roof. The Rosh (1:6), however, rules
that regardless of whether the poles are on the edge of the house or the center,
the sukka is invalid. The Ran (2a
s.v. ve-garsinan) explains that if we reject R. Yaakov completely, then
we don’t find any application of gud asik mechitzta in the laws of
sukka. The Shulkhan Arukh (630:6) cites both opinions, and the Mishna
Berura (30) rules stringently.
Acharonim (Penei Yehoshua 6b; Arukh La-Ner 6b; see also R. Tzvi Pesach
Frank’s Mikra’ei Kodesh, Sukkot 1:7) note that according to the
Ran, who seems to completely reject the application of gud asik mechitzta
to the laws of sukka, one must find
an alternate basis for allowing walls of ten tefachim that do not reach the
sekhakh. We might suggest
that the four walls of the sukka do
not, even theoretically, need to reach the sekhakh, as the gemara
never intended that the four walls fully enclose the sukka, but merely demarcate the area of
the sukka. As long one uses
halakhically valid mechitzot, the sukka is valid.
question of why we permit ten tefachim high walls that do not reach
the sekhakh may have a practical ramification. The mishna (17a)
teaches that as long as the walls of the sukka, which extend to the
height of the skhah, are within three tefachim of the sekhakh, the sukka is valid. The Tur (630) and
Shulchan Arukh (630:9) extend this ruling even to walls that are only ten tefachim high, which are not directly
under the sekhakh. As long as the walls are within three tefachim inwards or outwards of the
sekhakh, the sukka is
Eiger (Responsa 12) challenges this ruling. Assuming that one permits using
walls of ten tefachim based upon the
principle of gud asik mechitzta, he questions whether one may rely upon
the leniencies of both lavud AND
gud asik mechitzta simultaneously. The Ran (Sukka 9a) suggests that one may
not rely upon both lavud and
another leniency when validating a sukka. Although R. Eiger and other
Acharonim attempt to resolve this apparent contradiction, it is certainly
true that if we allow walls of only ten tefachim because that is the base
requirement of the walls of the sukka
and not because we view them as projecting upwards (gud asik), his
question does not concern us.
the maximum height of the sukka, the
mishna (Sukka 2a) records the
sukka which is more than twenty
cubits high is not valid. R. Yehuda, however, declares it
gemara offers three explanations of the first view.
do we know this? Rabba answered: Scripture says, “That your generations may know
that I made the children of Israel to dwell in sukkot” - [with a sukka] up to twenty amot [high],
a man knows that he is dwelling in a sukka, but with one higher than twenty
amot, he does not know that he is dwelling in a sukka, since his eye does not see it. R.
Zeira replied: From the following verse, “And there shall be a booth for a
shadow in the daytime from the heat” - [with a sukka] up to twenty amot [high],
a man sits in the shade of the sukka;
but with one higher than twenty amot, he sits not in the shade of the sukka, but in the shade of its walls… Rava
replied: [It is derived] from the following verse, “You shall dwell in booths
seven days.” The Torah declared, For the whole seven days, leave your permanent
abode and dwell in a temporary abode.
[With a sukka] up to twenty
amot [high], a man makes his abode a temporary one; [in one] higher than
twenty amot, a man does not make his abode temporary, but
gemara explains that there are numerous halakhic differences between
these views. For example, what if
the sukka is more than twenty
amot high but the walls reach the sekhakh? According to Rabba, in
this case one may still be conscience of the sekhakh, but according the
R. Zeira and Rava, the sukka is still
invalid. Alternatively, what if the sukka is higher than twenty amot,
but the sukka is also wider than four
amot? While according the R. Zeira, the sukka may be valid, as one sits in the
shade of the sekhakh, according to Rabba and Rava, the sukka would still be invalid.
that the halakha is in accordance with the view in the mishna and
a sukka taller than twenty
amot is invalid, which reason offered by the Amoraim is accepted?
Although some (Rabbeinu Chananel, Ra’avad, the Ittur) accept the view of Rabba,
the Rif and the Rambam (Hillkhot Sukka 4:1) rule in accordance with Rava:
the sukka must be a temporary abode,
and therefore regardless of whether the walls reach the sekhakh or the
width of the sukka exceeds four
amot, the sukka is
gemara (Sukka 4a) discusses
numerous ways of validating a sukka
whose walls are over twenty amot high.
Talmud also discusses the minimum area of a sukka. The gemara (3a) records
three opinions: Rebbe believes that the minimum area of a sukka is four amot by four
amot. Beit Hillel maintains
that a sukka in to which one can fit
one’s head and most of one’s body, which the Rabbis estimate at about six tefachim by six tefachim, suffices. Beit Shammai rules that the sukka must also be able to hold a small
table, and therefore it must be at least seven tefachim by seven tefachim. The gemara rules in accordance
with Beit Shamai. Therefore, a sukka
should be at least seven tefachim by
Acharonim discuss whether a sukka that is longer than seven tefachim but narrower than seven is
valid. The Mishna Berura (634:1) writes that most Acharonim agree that
this sukka is invalid. Furthermore,
one may construct a sukka of other
shapes, such as a circle, as long as a sukka of seven tefachim by seven tefachim can fit inside of it (Shulchan
Constructing a Sukka from Two
Tosefta (1:6), cited in the gemara (Sukka 6b), brings a debate regarding the
minimum amount of walls halakhically required for a sukka.
taught: Two [walls] must be of the prescribed dimensions (shenayim
ke-hilkhatan), and the third [may be] even one tefach
(handbreadth). R. Shimon says:
Three walls must be of the prescribed dimensions, and the fourth [may be] even
one tefach (handbreadth).
gemara suggests different reasons for this debate and rules in accordance
with the first view, which requires a minimum of two full walls and another
Based upon what we learned above, a sukka consisting of three walls at least
seven tefachim in length is
valid. According to the
gemara, if one has only two full length walls, one may still construct a
valid sukka using a partial wall. How
and where must one construct the third, partial wall? The gemara
discusses two scenarios of “shenayim ke-hilkhatan:”
scenario discussed by the gemara (6b – 7a) involves two walls placed at a
right angle to each other.
this tefach [of a wall] placed? Rav said: It is placed at a right angle
to one of the projecting [walls]… It was also stated: Shmuel said in the name of
Levi: It is placed at right angles to one of the projecting [walls], and so it
is ruled in the Beit Ha-Midrash that it is placed at a right angle to one
of the projecting [walls]. R.
Shimon (or, as some say, R. Yehoshua b. Levi) ruled: One makes [the additional
wall of the width of] a “loose tefach” [i.e. slightly more than a
tefach] and places it within three tefachim of the wall, since whatever is
less than three tefachim from the
wall is regarded as joined to the wall.
to this gemara, the third wall may consist of a piece of material
slightly larger than a tefach placed at a right angle to one of the
walls. In total, the lavud and the piece of wall together constitute a
majority of a valid mechitza (four out of seven tefachim).
In addition, the gemara that follows brings three opinions
regarding whether one must add a tzurat ha-petach to the third wall. The
Rishonim discuss this matter in great depth. The Shulchan Arukh (630:2)
the walls of a sukka: If there are
two [walls] at a perpendicular angle- one should take another wall, slightly
wider than a tefach, and places it within three tefachim of one of the walls. Then one
places a vertical beam opposite that tefach and makes a doorway and place
a cross beam above it and above the tefach [of wall] - and [the sukka] is valid…
to the Shulchan Arukh, in addition to the piece of wall slightly more than a
tefach long and ten tefachim
high placed within three tefachim of
the wall, one must add a doorway, a tzurat ha-petach, composed of a
vertical beam and cross beam. (The
Chazon Ish [Yoreh De’ah 172:2] writes that this tzurat ha-petach
should be composed of two vertical beams - one next to the tefach of wall
and one across from it.)
Acharonim debate whether this tzurat ha-petach should extend to
the end of the opposite wall (Chazon Ish) or whether it must merely extend three
additional tefachim, completing a
seven tefachim wall composed of a
tzurat ha-petach, a tefach of wall, and less than three tefachim of space (see Sha’ar Ha-Tziyun
3). Some require the tzurat ha-petach to enclose an area of four
tefachim (totaling at least eight tefachim), as the narrowest doorway is
at least four tefachim wide.
addition, the Rama rules that one may count the sekhakh, which extends
from the end of one’s tefach of wall until the opposite wall, as a
tzurat ha-petach. The Mishna Berura (11) cites the Magen Avraham, who
suggests that one must place a cross beam specifically for this purpose, and may
not rely upon the sekhakh. The Mishna Berura concludes that one may
follow the lenient opinion of the Rama.
Acharonim insist that this extra doorway is only a rabbinic requirement
(Peri Megadim, MZ 630:3 and EA 630:7).
scenario described by the gemara entails two walls parallel to each other
(known as a “sukka in the shape of a
mavuy [alleyway]”). In this
case, the gemara explains:
said: A sukka made like an [open]
alley-way is valid, and this tefach [wall] is placed in whatever side one
pleases. R. Shimon (or, as some
say, R. Yehoshua ben Levi) says: He makes a strip of slightly more than four [tefachim] and places it within three
handbreadths of the wall, since whatever is less than three handbreadths from
the wall is regarded as joined to the wall. But why did you say in the previous case
that one “loose tefach” suffices while here you say that there must be a
strip of four tefachim? In the
previous instance, where there are two valid walls, a “loose tefach”
suffices, but here, where there are no two valid walls, if there is a strip of
four tefachim it is valid; otherwise,
it is not [valid]… He answered: I accept the other reading of [the statement of]
Rava; in addition [to a board of the size of a handbreadth], the form of a
doorway is also necessary.
gemara explains that in this case, since neither of the two walls are
valid because they are not connected, one must place a wall slightly more than
four tefachim wide and ten tefachim high within three tefachim of one the walls, totaling a
wall of seven tefachim. In addition, one must construct as
tzurat ha-petach, like above, which extends from the four tefach
wall until the third wall meets the other wall. This tzurat ha-petach
joins all three walls together. Although the Shulchan Arukh cites a debate
whether this tzurat ha-petach is necessary since the combination of the
partial wall and the space add up to the length of a valid wall (seven tefachim), the Mishna Berura (16) rules that
one should add this tzurat ha-petach.
these scenarios may not sound so common, one who builds a sukka on his balcony may encounter this
halakha. Ideally, one who
uses a balcony should use all four walls, i.e. the three walls of the balcony
and the outer house wall, as the walls of the sukka. Often, however, one intends to use the
wall parallel to one’s house, as well as one of the perpendicular walls. In this case, one uses a portion of the
house wall and the doorway, which serves as a tzurat ha-petach.
then one should be careful that the doorway to the balcony is at least four tefachim from the perpendicular wall.
These four tefachim, in addition to a
tzurat ha-petach, combine to form the third wall. If the doorway
is towards the edge of the balcony, within four tefachim of the perpendicular wall, then
the sukka would be invalid when the
door to the balcony is opened, as the third wall must have at least four tefachim of wall, or at least a more
than a tefach of wall joined with less than three tefachim of space, in order for the
added tzurat ha-petach to complete the third wall. Furthermore, it may be
prohibited to open and close the door on Shabbat and Yom Tov, as it violates,
through validating and invalidating the sukka, the labors of boneh and
soter (Shemirat Shabbat Ke-Hilkhata p. 24 ft. 115; see also R.
Tzvi Pesach Frank’s Mikra’ei Kodesh 1:11).
The Rishonim derive from these cases that at least two of the
walls of the sukka must connect at a
perpendicular angle. The Rishonim (Rif, 2b; Ran s.v. se-amar, etc.) refer to this as
“de-areivan” – the two walls must be connected. They may connect
physically or through lavud, i.e.
being within three tefachim of each
other. A tzurat ha-petach at the corner will not
In addition, the Rishonim, based upon a passage in the
gemara, discuss what percentage of the walls of the sukka may be incomplete, consisting of
gaps, windows, or doorways. When
one constructs the third wall in the manner described above, the third and
fourth wall are certainly made up of more empty space than physical wall. This
is called meruba ha-omed al ha-parutz - the area of gaps is larger than
the area of wall material. What about the other two walls? Must the majority of
the other two walls be comprised of solid material?
Meruba Ha-Parutz al
people incorporate windows and doors into their sukkot. Others leave gaps
in between multiple wooden planks, which combine to form a wall. Even if one’s
wall is more than seven tefachim
long, how much of the wall can be incomplete?
gemara (7a) contrasts the laws of mechitzot for Shabbat and
[law relating to] Shabbat is more [stringent] than that of sukka, in that the [wall for purposes
of] Shabbat is valid only if its standing portion is more than that which is
broken, which is not the case with the sukka.
laws of Shabbat, a reshut ha-yachid, within which one may carry on
Shabbat, must be surrounded with four walls, of which the halakha
requires omed meruba al ha-parutz (Eruvin 15b; Shulchan
Arukh 362:4). In other words, at least half of the sum total of the
mechitzot must be composed of solid material. A wall made up of solid
strips or wires within three tefachim
of each other (lavud) is considered
to be entirely solid (omed). Furthermore, although slightly less than
half of the partition may be composed of windows, entrances, and holes, a gap of
over ten amot invalidates the entire partition and may not carry within
this area. One may, however, close a gap of ten amot with a tzurat
ha-petach, consisting of two vertical posts, each ten tefachim high (lechi’im), and a
horizontal beam placed across the posts (korah). While most
Rishonim believe that one may always close a gap wider than ten
amot with a tzurat ha-petach, the Rambam permits using a tzurat
ha-petach to close a gap of more than ten amot only if the majority
of the partition is composed of solid material (omed meruba) (Shulchan
Regarding the laws of sukkot, the gemara cited above
implies that the open area may be greater than the standing part (omed parutz
al ha-meruba). The Rishonim, however, disagree as to how to
understand this passage.
(Rashi s.v. mah; see Maggid Mishna to Rambam, Hilkhot Sukka 4:12) explain that the
gemara refers only to the case, discussed above, in which the third wall
of the sukka consists of merely a
tefach of solid material. However, the first two walls most certainly
must be omed merubah al ha-parutz.
(Hilkhot Sukka 4:12) disagrees
and rules that a sukka which has many
doors and windows, even if parutz omed al ha-meruba, is valid. Rabbeinu
Yerucham (Toldot Adam Ve-Chava, nativ 5, chelek 1) concurs,
adding that even if the standing part of the sukka is spread along the wall and there
is no continuous seven tefachim, the
sukka is valid! He cites his teacher,
R. Avraham ben Ishmael, who insists that if overall, there is more solid wall
than gaps, the seven tefachim of the
wall need not be continuous. However, if overall, there are more gaps than solid
wall, then in order to validate the wall, there must be seven continuous tefachim of wall. The Ritva (s.v.
amar) disagrees with this leniency and validates the sukka only if
each of the two walls has seven tefachim of continuous wall adjoined at
a right angle.
one might suggest that the Rishonim disagree as to whether the Torah
demands that the sukka be enclosed by
mechitzot, in which case the sukka must be omed merubah al
ha-parutz, or whether the gemara simply requires shnayim
ke-hilkhatan, two valid mechitzot, regarding which the
Rishonim disagree whether the seven tefachim which compose these
mechitzot must be continuous, or whether they may even be spread
throughout the wall.
The Rishonim also disagree regarding a gap of ten amot or
more in the sukka. While the Rosh (1:8) maintains that one
if one transforms this gap into a tzurat ha-petach, the sukka is valid, the Rambam (4:12) will
only permit a tzurat ha-petach for a gap more than ten amot if the
overall ratio of the sukka is omed
merubah al ha-parutz (see Chiddushei Ha-Rav Chaim Ha-Levi
Soloveitchik, Hilkhot Shabbat 16:16).
The Shulchan Arukh (630:5) rules leniently and validates the sukka even if the two full length walls
are parutz merubah al ha-omed. The Taz (6) and Magan Avraham (6) rule
strictly, in accordance with Rashi, as does the Mishna Berura (22) and the
Chazon Ish (75:13). The Mishna Berura (23) cites a view which allows the seven
tefachim of the two original walls,
the shenayim ke-hilkhatan, to be composed of one piece of at least four
amot long, along with other pieces. In his Sha’ar HaTziyun, he cites
those who insist that all seven tefachim be continuous. Finally, a gap
of less than three tefachim, lavud, is considered to be omed
and does no constitute a gap.
Regarding a gap of over ten amot, the Shulkhan Arukh brings both the Rosh and the Rambam
to say, due to the complexity of these cases, the Rema (5) notes that it is
customary (when possible) to construct the sukka from complete walls, without
relying the above leniencies.
Similarly, the Mishna Berura (630:28) cites R. Yitzchak Ge’ut, who claims
that it is a mitzva min ha-muvchar to have three complete walls, without
Next week, we will study the halakhot which govern the walls of