09. The Sukka Must Be Under the Open Sky

The sukka must be built under the open sky so that the sekhakh and nothing else covers those sitting inside. Thus, if one builds a sukka under a roof or a tree, it is invalid (Sukka 9b). However, a sukka may be built next to a tall building that prevents sunlight from reaching the sukka. Only a roof or branches that separate between the sekhakh and the sky invalidate the sukka. Anything off to the side, not directly over the sekhakh, does not invalidate the sukka.

If there are very thin tree branches above the sekhakh, while the sekhakh is thick enough that even if the sekhakh directly under the branches would be removed, the remaining sekhakh would provide more shade than sun in the sukka, the sukka is kosher (SA OḤ 626:1).[12]

One may build a sukka underneath clotheslines or electric wires. Since they are very thin, provide very little shade, and are not meant to provide shade, they do not invalidate the sekhakh beneath them.


[12]. According to Tosafot and Rosh, as long as the sukka is shady enough that it is kosher on its own, without the tree’s shade, and the tree’s sun exceeds its shade, the sukka is kosher. According to Raavya and Ran, however, all the sekhakh underneath the tree branches is negated, and then, if the shade provided by the remaining sekhakh exceeds the sunlight it lets through, the sekhakh is kosher. SA 626:1 cites both positions with the introductory phrase, “some say,” and according to the principles of determining the halakha based on formulations of Shulḥan Arukh, we follow the second position, which in our case is the stringent one. Indeed, BHL (s.v. “ve-yesh omrim”) rules accordingly but adds that according to Aḥaronim, in pressing circumstances one may rely on the lenient view (Eliya Rabba 626:5; Pri Megadim, Eshel Avraham ad loc. 4; SAH ad loc. 10).

If a sukka is adjacent to a tree whose branches sway over the sukka when wind blows, it is kosher, even if the shade provided by the branches above the sukka when the wind blows exceeds the sunlight they let through, since the branches are not permanently above the sukka (Maharsham, Da’at Torah 626:3). R. Zvi Pesaḥ Frank (Mikra’ei Kodesh 1:23) is uncertain about this. Therefore, le-khatḥila it is preferable to cut off these branches; see the Harḥavot. In contrast, while a helicopter or hot air balloon is hovering over a sukka, it is invalidated, because they do not sway randomly with the wind but are intentionally guided there by people (Da’at Torah, op. cit.). Once they fly away, the sukka is once again kosher, in line with what Rema writes (626:3).

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Translated By:
Series Editor: Rabbi Elli Fischer

The Laws of Shabbat (1+2) - Yocheved Cohen
The Laws of Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Women’s Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Pesach - Joshua Wertheimer
The Laws of Zemanim - Moshe Lichtman

Editor: Nechama Unterman