Back in the day, before we could stream everything and watch the world at the touch of a button, my wife and I would find ourselves gravitating towards House Hunters on HGTV. It could be somewhere random in the United States, or those daring people searching internationally. Either way, it was always fun to dream and explore the possibilities. It could be an open-concept, or sectioned off spaces. It could be modern or have a period theme. Inevitably the two house hunters were forced to choose between conflicting styles and opinions.
Welcome to Sukkot 2020, House Hunters Edition!
COVID has caused us all to flex and extend ourselves in ways we never thought possible before. So too when we now consider how to observe the holiday of Sukkot. This eight-day festival marking the firstfruits harvest; a historical reenactment of the Jewish people wandering in the wilderness; and the value of hospitality by welcoming in honored guests, has now been forced to meet the challenging power of a pandemic.
Many hold the image of a Sukkah as a three-walled hut with local foliage strewn across the top (California-palm frons, Mid-West – cornstalks, East coast – pine needles). There is also often a conversation about bamboo mats as a product for roofing or flooring. People waver on the materials used for the wall. I.e., Does canvas work? Can you have a window? On and on. One of the greatest conversations this year is “closed door” living vs. “open-concept”.
With the introduction of the Corona Virus safety, protocol dictates not opening your sukkah to those outside your family. Some argue that if you can maintain social distancing and there is the typical natural ventilation from the roofing you could still have friends over to celebrate the festival with you. Though this could be challenging for those who do not have space or material to spare. Additionally, cleaning and disinfecting materials would be a must.
Some will come back to you and argue that the schach, the natural roofing product, is the essence of the sukkah. It brings forth the memory of the ananei hakavod, the clouds of glory, that accompanied the Jewish people in their wandering. As such, as long as you can prop the schach upon your sukkah frame, forget the walls and have a huppah, wedding canopy style sukkah, being open on all sides. Please still maintain facial masks and distancing protocols.
As often happens in House Hunters compromises have to be made. So at Riverdale Y we have tried to make a space that checks off the most boxes while maintaining the spirit of the festival.
Schach – You bet. What would a sukkah be without a roof?!
Floor to ceiling walls – not exactly. Rabbinically speaking the definition of a wall does not fall in Webster the way you think.
- Ten tefachim (80 centimeters or 31.5 inches) is the minimum height requirement for the walls of a sukkah.
- There is a halachic principle called lavud, which a gap of less than three tefachim (24 centimeters or 9.4 inches) in a wall is treated as if it is actually closed.
Therefore we have essentially created walls in a lavud fashion. This allows for
Social distancing – Absolutely. A family unit or designated pod will be the only permitted persons in the sukkah at a given time. While in a pod all participants will be instructed to wear facemasks.
Communal and Welcoming – As the song goes… Be our Guest. We are putting up a sukkah to be used. Outside of the first two and last two days of the festival, please learn, laugh, eat, and rest under the ananei hakavod inside the community sukkah.
- Honoring the value of communal responsibility, we know and ask that all participants clean up after themselves, by sanitizing and disinfecting all services after use.
We understand that for some this will not feel, and at times, look like sukkot. Though we know it is in us to stretch and flex (we have a fitness center after all). Looking forward to celebrating with you and your family.
May we all be blessed with a Chag Sameach, joyous and meaningful observance of Sukkot. And may we all take on the role of House Hunters this year, till we find our perfect fit.