Wednesday, October 7, 2009

There's a Sukkah Born Every Minute

You will not find it in the Hebrew Bible, you will not find it in any tractate of the Talmud, and you will probably not find it in any rabbinical responsa, but I am convinced...firmly convinced...that for a sukkah to be kosher, it needs to be kashered with the blood of the builder. A sukkah is not complete until you have picked up a splinter, cut your finger on a jagged edge, whacked your thumb with the hammer, dropped a 2x4 on your head, or - as was the case with me two years ago - broken your pinky while trying to readjust a sagging wall.

I am a little concerned that this year, I have yet to kasher the sukkah. In fact, unlike nearly every year in the past, the sukkah building went swimmingly well. IN FACT, I would go so far as to say that this year's sukkah is the most structurally stable, best decorated, and least injurious sukkah we have built to date. I am terribly worried that on the last night of Sukkot, a sudden wind storm is going to lift up my Ford Taurus, smash it into the sukkah, and spray the house with wood shards, the largest of which will embed itself into my forefinger when I leave the house the next morning and kiss the mezuzah.

So, maybe I had better enjoy the sukkah while I can.

I think I should write a book titled How Not to Build a Sukkah. Although I am in no way an expert on sukkah building, I am quite accomplished at finding ways to do it wrong. For example:

  • Never store the wooden beams upright. Make sure they are flat. Otherwise, the boards will warp something terrible and make a "Sukkah with a Bad Attitude."

  • Never use steel fence posts for your sukkah unless you have a post hole digger to sink the posts into the ground. Otherwise, the posts won't stand up by themselves and you will be forced to reinforce the structure with duct tape. You will have the only redneck sukkah in the neighborhood.

  • Never build your sukkah so that one-quarter of it rests on the patch of lawn that suddenly slopes downward. Enough said.

This year, I decided to start over with a new design and new materials. I could go into details, but suffice it to say that the simple design took into account many of the "Don't Dos" that I described above. The final sukkah was just large enough for us to drag in three sling chairs so we could sit back and eat our pizza under the stars.

I say three chairs because Shirah made it perfectly clear that she was not going to sit out in the cold. Me, on the other hand, after everything I did to erect the stupid thing, I want to get my money's worth, even if it means brushing my teeth and getting in my pajamas in the sukkah. Now there's an image you didn't need.

Changing subjects quickly...I came across a wonderful activity to do with kids during Sukkot. I tried this out with my kindergarten religious school class, and it was a big hit.

I used graham crackers, cake icing (Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker), pretzels, and any vibrantly colored kids cereal (eg, Trix) and made sukkahs like the one in the picture. There are various tricks one can use to facilitate the building, but the basic idea is that you use the icing to stick everything together (wall to wall, pretzels to roof, cereal to walls, etc.). The construction requires a light touch (which may be challenging for young children), but the icing sticks everything together incredibly well.

Maybe I should start using cake icing on my real sukkah. I could have the only epicurean sukkah on the block. Well, maybe the only redneck epicurean sukkah.


  1. Hey, beautiful sukkah, and you are uninjured too. I really do like it. Enjoy.

    But you can't see the stars through the graham crackers.


  2. That sounds like a poorly translated fortune cookie, "You can't see the stars through the graham crackers."