Lessons in Memory of my brother Dale Alan Konigsburg
October 9, 2003
Number 5764-2 Sukkot: Building the Sukkah and Waving the Lulav
The first Mitzvah after Yom Kippur is to build a Sukkah. A Sukkah has to be at least 18″ high and wide enough to fit most of your body inside. It can not be over 4 stories tall. It can be made of any building materials, constructed in the shape of the three Hebrew Letters that make up the word Sukkah, a Samech ( a building with four complete walls with a door and appropriate windows) or a Caff, (which is closed on three sides with the fourth side open.) Or a Hay (with two full walls and a symbolic third wall, but otherwise open). The roof must be made with natural materials that have been cut from living plants. Plants that are still living can not be used for the roof, so covering it with living vines or putting the sukkah under a tree are not permitted. The covering should produce more shade than sun by day and a be open enough to see stars from inside at night. Every region uses local plants for the roof, in the North they use evergreen branches, In Connecticut, we used cut corn stalks. In Florida we use palm branches. Some people use bamboo matting for the roof but this can only be used if there are no metal wires holding the matting together. Metal or wood can be used as a frame to hold the branches up (the plants on the roof are called, in Hebrew “schach”) one should be able to sit in the Sukkah to say the proper blessing, it is better to eat all meals in the sukkah and those who are very involved in Sukkot, actually sleep in the Sukkah. There is no requirement to be in the Sukkah when the weather turns bad.
The Luav and Etrog are called, “arba minim” the four species. It consists of a long palm branch with three myrtle branches and two willow branches. The Etrog, a yellow citron is the fourth species. The three green branches are tied together. The Etrog, which must have not only a short stem but the delicate tip (called the “pitom”) as well. They are held together, with the spine of the palm branch facing the holder, the myrtle on the right and the willow on the left of the palm in the left hand, and the Etrog held alongside them in the right hand. All species should be held the way they grow, with the stems down. (We hold the Etrog upside down until we say the blessing for the Lulav and Etrog, after the blessing we turn it the right way and give the four species three shakes in every direction, starting with East, then south, west, north, up and down. The willow branches are very perishable and should be either wrapped in wet paper towels or kept refrigerated for the holiday. The Etrog will never rot, but will, over the next month shrivel up. It will, however, never lose its wonderful smell. One can order a Lulav and Etrog through their synagogue. The deadline for orders is usually a day or two after Rosh Hashana.
With the exception of Shabbat when the Lulav is not waved, we take the Lulav before Hallel and say the blessing each morning. We wave the Lulav in all six directions at three different places in Hallel. The Lulav is never waved when G-d’s name is recited. The first two times we follow after the Cantor as he waves his/her Lulav, the last time, at the very end of Hallel, we wave it on our own. We wave it two times in each of these three spots (a total of 6 waves). In addition, we carry (but do not wave) the Lulav at the end of the service during “Hoshanot” special prayers to G–d in honor of Sukkot. We make a procession around the synagogue with the Torah in the middle, and all who have a Lulav are invited to join the procession. There is not procession on Shabbat.
On the last day of Sukkot, Hoshana Rabba, we wave the Lulav as usual, but make seven processions around the synagogue, then put aside the Lulav and take a bundle of 5 fresh willow branches and then beat them on the floor or the back of a chair. This is part of the cycle of prayers for rain that will culminate with “Geshem” a special prayer for rain on Shemini Atzeret. Shemini Atzeret is considered a separate holiday and the Lulav is not waved, nor do we dwell in the Sukkah on that day.
Next week: Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah