Peninei Halakha

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06. The Sukka Walls

Any material may be used for the walls of a sukka, as long as it can withstand a normal wind. The walls need not be airtight or offer protection from the sun and wind. Therefore, one may use plastic, glass, or mesh netting (SA 630:1). Stone walls are also kosher, as only the sekhakh must be characteristic of a temporary residence; the walls can be permanent. Indeed, in some places, the common practice is to open the ceiling and roof of a room in the home and place kosher sekhakh there, resulting in a beautiful sukka, pleasant to sit in even in the cold.

Le-khatḥila it is better to build a sukka with four full walls and a door that can be closed, so the sukka is comfortable and provides shelter from the sun and wind (see Rema 630:5.) Technically, however, since a sukka is a temporary residence, it is not required to have four walls; three suffice. Moreover, the third wall need not be full; technically, one tefaḥ suffices. The Sages said that this tefaḥ must be within 3 tefaḥim of one of the other walls, and the one-tefaḥ wall must extend by means of a doorway (tzurat ha-petaḥ, explained in the note). Since this law is complicated, someone who wants to save on sukka walls should be advised to put up two complete walls, and a third one which is 7 tefaḥim long (about 56 centimeters). Then, even if his sukka is large, and even if the two walls aren’t connected to one another but rather face each other, the sukka is kosher (Rema 630:3).[9]

[9]. Torah law requires that a sukka has three walls, and there is a tradition received from Moshe at Sinai that one tefaḥ is sufficient for the third wall (Sukka 6b). The Sages tell us that this tefaḥ must be “generous” (slightly more than a tefaḥ) and within 3 tefaḥim of one of the perpendicular walls, as any gap of less than 3 tefaḥim is considered connected (this is the law of lavud, explained in the next section). Thus, the third wall is considered to have 4 full tefaḥim, which is the majority of the minimum length of a sukka wall (7 tefaḥim). To extend the wall to the full 7 tefaḥim, one must create a tzurat ha-petaḥ – an opening that has two doorposts (leḥayayim) and a lintel (kora), the basic elements of a doorway – that is at least 3 tefaḥim wide. Some say that the tzurat ha-petaḥ must be at least 4 tefaḥim wide, as this is the minimum size of a doorway. In this view, the third wall, together with the tzurat ha-petaḥ, comes to eight tefaḥim (SA 630:2; MB ad loc. 9-10).

If the two walls are parallel, since the sukka that they form is open-ended and flush, the Sages require that the third wall be a little more than 4 tefaḥim long and placed within 3 tefaḥim of one of the parallel walls. The poskim disagree as to whether there is an additional requirement to make a tzurat ha-petaḥ until the end of that side of the sukka (SA 630:3). Rema writes that if one makes a third wall of 7 tefaḥim, the sukka will be kosher in any case, with no need for lavud or a tzurat ha-petaḥ. However, if the third wall has a gap of 10 amot or more, it requires a tzurat ha-petaḥ (MB 630:18).

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