Building a Sukkah
"On the 15th day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep a feast to the Lord seven days.... You shall dwell in booths (sukkot) seven days; all who are Israelite born shall dwell in booths, that future generations may know that I made the people of Israel to dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt" (Leviticus 23:39-43).
The first thing you might want to do is actually build a sukkah. It is a mitzvah to begin construction right after Yom Kippur (but some start sooner). Technically, the structure must have two and a half permanent walls, although most free-standing structures have four. (A wall of a house can be used as the fourth). You can buy a sukkah on the Internet, build one from scratch or purchase a premade one locally (and then keep it every year thereafter).
Sukkah Kits Online
For easy-to-assemble, prefabricated and reusable sukkot in a variety of sizes, materials and prices, delivered directly to your door, visit the following Web sites:
http://www.designersukkahs.com, http://www.siegersukkah.com, http://www.sukkahkits.com, http://www.sukkahonline.com, http://www.sukkahs.com, http://www.sukkahsoul.com, http://www.sukkot.com.
Designing and Building Your Own Sukkah
Southern Californian Randi Rose was inspired by Patti Golden's Holiday Workshop Series at her synagogue to create her own sukkah. Scouring building supply stores for ideas, she designed and constructed her sukkah using readily available materials and no tools, which she wrote about in an article for ritualwell.org. To decorate, she relied on her imagination and craft store items.
Simplifed Building Concepts
Create and construct your own sukkah with Google Sketchup and Simplified Building Concepts, a resource for people who like to build things. The Rochester, N.Y.-based company, an online distributor of slip-on structural fittings, will price the sukkah and ship materials directly to you. Call Sam or Dan at (888) 527-2278.
Sukkah Kits Sold Locally
Check out Shalom House and Brenco Judaica, below under 'The Four Species.'
Every sukkah must be built under the sky (avoid trees, roofs, overhanging balconies) and covered by vegetation detached from the ground. Palm fronds make great s'chach, although many people use bamboo mats under which you can still see the sky. Some cover their s'chach with plastic tarp when not inside. (It always seems to rain on Sukkot, even in California.)
Materials such as bamboo poles and mats can be purchased from online sukkah retailers, such as those listed above. Palm fronds can often be obtained from local gardeners, florists or individual entrepreneurs who post signs in neighborhood bakeries and delis and sell from the back of their trucks.
Century City Flower Mart
Palm fronds are available at $2.75 each. Preorders are preferred and delivery is available Sept. 23-25. The mart also sells lulav and etrog sets, certified kosher from Israel, which range from $50 to $150.
Century City Flower Mart, 9551 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles.
For more information, call (800) 576.7372 or visit http://www.centurycityflowermart.net.
It is a custom to decorate the sukkah -- a hidur mitzvah, or beautifying a commandment. Many people hang fall and harvest decorations, because Sukkot is a harvest festival. Others hang up their children's artwork, High Holy Days greeting cards and other personal family memorabilia. Arts and crafts stores, such as Michael's (http://www.michaels.com), are a good resource for decorating materials.
The Four Species
"On the first day, you will take for yourselves a fruit of a beautiful tree, palm branches, twigs of a braided tree and brook willows, and you will rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days" (Leviticus 23:40).
It is a custom to bless the four species (arba minim in Hebrew), which are the etrog (a citron, which is similar to a lemon), the lulav (a palm branch), aravot (two willow branches) and hadasim (three myrtle branches). You recite a blessing and wave the species in all six directions (east, south, west, north, up and down), symbolizing the fact that God is everywhere.
Etrog and lulav sets can be purchased through synagogues and Jewish day schools, online and at local Judaica stores, which also often sell sukkah kits and decorations. The price of each set varies, depending on the color, condition and fragrance of the etrog.
Lulav and etrog sets cost $65. Also available are prefabricated sukkot measuring 10 feet by 10 feet by 8 feet for $400, with delivery and assembly provided by Valley Beth Shalom's USY teen group for a donation of $36 or more. The store also sells various decorations, including laminated posters, plastic fruits and plush and inflatable lulavim and etrogs.
Shalom House, 19740 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills.
For more information, visit http://www.shalomhouse.com or call (818) 704-7100.
Lulav and etrog kits range from $45 to $200. Sukkot from Sukkah Depot are stocked in sizes 4 feet by 6 feet to 10 feet by 12 feet and cost $400 to $1,600, with local delivery and assembly available. Bamboo mats, for s'chach, as well as decorations, including posters and wall hangings, are also for sale.
Brenco Judaica, 7182 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles.
For more information, call (323) 930-2222.
"And you shall rejoice on your festival, you, your children, your servants, and the Levite, the proselyte, the orphan and the widow who are in your midst. Seven days you shall celebrate to Hashem your God, in the place that Hashem, your God, will choose; for God will have blessed you in all your crops, and all your handiwork, and you will be completely joyous" (Deuteronomy 16:10-12).
Sukkot is a festival of joy. Synagogues, families, singles and children all celebrate it in different ways.
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