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Parsha Halacha is underwritten by a grant from Dr. Stephen and Bella Brenner in loving memory of Stephen’s father, Shmuel Tzvi ben Pinchas, and Bella’s parents, Avraham ben Yitzchak and Leah bas HaRav Sholom Zev HaCohen
Please note that the times are taken from Chabad.org and are correct for Miami Beach, Fl.
For times in other locations, see here.
See the end of this article for a guide to davening without a minyan on Sukkot.
Friday, Oct. 2/ 14 Tishrei
The Four Species
The Lulav (palm branch) should be straight, and preferably green and not split on the top.
If the middle branch of the lulav is split, it is still kosher provided that the split doesn’t reach until the bottom of that branch.
From the third day of Sukkot and on, a lulav that has a split top leaf is considered kosher even in the first place.
The spine of the Lulav should be at least 12 (or preferably) 15 inches long. The spine is defined as the center of the Lulav, up until the point where the last leaves part from it towards the top.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe would use a Lulav whose leaves were held together by the brown part of the lulav known as “koreh.”
The Hadas (myrtle) should be green and at least a majority of it should groups of three leaves on it. It is preferable to use hadassim in which all of the leaves in the top three tefachim (handbreadths) of the hadas are in groups of three.
The Arava (willow) should be green and have all (or, at least most) of the leaves still attached.
Each hadas and arava (willow) should be at least 9 (or, preferably, 12) inches long.
The Etrog (citron) should be nice-looking and not have black spots on the top. Any spot that is not readily noticeable when one holds the Etrog at an average distance from their eyes, is not Halachically significant.
That Chabad custom is to preferably use an etrog that grew in certain orchards in Italy where the land is especially fertile. There is a tradition that the etrogim from those orchards were not grafted. If these are not available (or, if they are unaffordable) it is preferred to use an etrog from the orchards in Kfar Chabad whose trees originated from a seed taken from an Italian etrog.
In any event, one should make sure to buy etrogim that have Rabbinic supervision to ensure that the etrogim were not grafted (or not from a line that has grafted).
If possible, one should look for the following when choosing an etrog: It should be beautiful looking, have bumps, the stem should be somewhat sunken into the fruit, it should slope upwards rather than have the shape of a ball, and the pitum should be aligned above the stem.
An etrog may not be as green as a leek. Lighter shades of green are acceptable, but yellow is preferred.
As the Aravot (willows) and Haddasim dry easily, it is a good idea to exchange them for new ones during Chol HaMoed.
If most of the leaves of the aravah (or hadass) fall off, it is no longer valid. It is best to have hadassim and aravot to which all of the leaves are still attached.
Preparing the Lulav
It is customary to prepare the Lulav on Erev Sukkot in the Sukkah.
One may not use more than one lulav and etrog. One may, however, use more aravot (willows), or hadassim (myrtle) although some recommend against it. In practice, it is not customary to add aravot (perhaps for Kabbalistic reasons), and many communities do not add hadassim either. Some communities (including Chabad) have the custom to add hadassim. (The different numbers according to Chabad custom that are mentioned for this custom are: 4, 6, 12, 13, and 26.)
The Chabad custom is to bind the hadassim and aravot directly on the lulav. One should place one hadas and arava on the right side, one hadas and arava on the left side, and one hadas in the center (leaning slightly toward the right). If using more than the required number of hadassim, they should be spread (more or less) equally between the center and the right and left side.
The aravot should be placed behind the hadassim so as not to appear too conspicuous (Siddur Pg. 240).
All of these should be tied together by three rings (these can be taken from the Lulav.). The three rings are placed within one tefach (handbreadth – approx. 3 inches). An additional two rings should be placed on the Lulav itself in a manner that they are (at least) partially covered by the hadassim and aravot.
Many have the custom of using keishelach (a holder made of lulav leaves) for the hadassim and aravot and to place the three hadassim on the right side and the two aravot on the left side. There is Kabbalistic significance is this custom. (As mentioned above, this is not the Chabad custom.)
By letter of the law one may use other materials (such as a rubber band) to tie the hadassim and aravot to the lulav. It is customary however to use lulav branches.
It is customary to tie three rings on the Lulav. These correspond to the three patriarchs. (The rings used to bind the hadassim and aravot to the Lulav are all considered to be one.)
The top of all of the hadas and aravah branches should be at least 3 inches (one tefach) below the top of the spine of the lulav. The spine is defined as the center of the Lulav, up until the point that the last leaves part from it towards the top.
Preparations for the Holiday
One who did not take a haircut before Rosh HaShana (and needs one) should take one before Sukkot. This is an obligation by Rabbinic law. In addition, one whose nails are long should cut them before the holiday.
It is a mitzvah (for men) to immerse in the mikvah on this day. This is based on the principle that one must ritually purify oneself before a holiday. Although this is no longer a Biblical commandment, it is customary to do this immersion as a memory of the Temple era.
While immersing, one should intend to draw the holiness of the holiday upon himself. One who cannot immerse in a mikvah should take a shower for 3 to 4 minutes in such a way that it covers his entire body.
One should not eat grain foods (or other filling foods) in the last three hours of the day (approximately 4 pm). Some are strict from midday (1:09 pm). This is in order to ensure that they will have a good appetite for the mitzvah of eating in the Sukkah.
It is customary to give Tzedaka generously on this day and to ensure that all who need have enough for the holiday. An additional reason for this is that now that we have spent so much money on our own mitzvot (Lulav and Sukkah), we must show that we also care about the needs of others.
First night of Sukkot and Shabbat
Friday night Oct. 2/15 Tishrei
Candle-lighting time is at 7:47 p.m.
The candles should be lit in, or at least be visible from, the Sukkah.
The following two Brochos should be recited: Baruch…L’hadlik Ner Shel Shabbat Veshel Yom Tov and Baruch…Shehechiyanu. According to some customs, women should not say Shehechiyanu.
We recite an abridged version of Kabalat Shabbat. We start from Mizmor LeDavid according to Chabad custom and from Mizmor Shir according to Ashkenazi custom.
The Chabad custom is to recite Sholom Aleichem and Eishet Chayil in an undertone.
Kiddush (Siddur pg. 329)
The first night the procedure for saying the Kiddush is as follows:
Borei Pri Hagafen
Bracha of Kiddush for Shabbat and Yom Tov
Bracha of Leisheiv Ba’sukkah (to dwell in the Sukkah)
On the first two nights of Sukkot, it is mandatory for all men to eat at least one Kezayit (one ounce) of Challah (or bread) in the Sukkah.
If it is raining, one must eat at least an olive-size piece of bread in the Sukkah. The rest of the meal may be eaten indoors.
According to the Mishnah Berurah, the following rules apply. If it is raining on the first night, it is best to wait for an hour or two (or, perhaps, even until midnight) to see if the rain lets up and then eat in the Sukkah. If the rain does not let up, one should make Kiddush in the sukkah (but not recite the blessing of leshev basukkah) and eat an olive size piece of bread there. One may then eat the rest of the meal in the house. If it stops raining before one goes to bed, they should return to the Sukkah and eat a kebeitzah (the size of an egg) of bread after reciting the blessing of leshev basukkah.)24
If it is raining on the second night one may be lenient and not do so at all. Even if one wishes to be strict, he may make Kiddush and eat the meal indoors and then enter the Sukkah to eat one kezayit (olive) size piece of bread without reciting the blessing of leshev basukkah.
The challah or bread should be eaten after nightfall, even though one may accept the Yom Tov early.
One should dip the Challah of Hamotzi into honey. One should use honey on the Yom Tov of Sukkot and Hoshana Rabba. On Chol Hamoed (the intermediate days), its use is optional.
Laws of Eating in the Sukkah
On the first two nights of Sukkot, it is mandatory for all men to eat in the Sukkah as mentioned earlier. During the rest of the holiday, it is only mandatory to eat in the Sukkah if one is eating bread or other grain food in excess of two ounces. Nevertheless, it is praiseworthy to eat and drink (even water) only in the Sukkah. Chabad custom is to be very particular about this. Some say that when drinking wine in a fixed manner (e.g., drinking with a few friends), one should do so in the Sukkah.
One should only say the bracha of Leshev Basukkah when eating bread or grain that is two ounces (the size of an egg) or more.
The Mishnah Berurah rules that one should not say the bracha of Leshev BaSukkah if eating a small amount of grain food that is not bread. It should only be recited when eating this in a group or if eating a large amount. In addition, he recommends that one not eat fish, meat and other filling foods in a group, outside of the Sukkah.
While eating in the Sukkah, one should bear in mind that the Sukkah reminds us of the clouds of glory with which G-d encompassed us when He took us out of Egypt.28
If one leaves the Sukkah with no intention of returning within an hour or two, one should say the bracha of Leshev Basukkah again (if one eats the amount of food mentioned earlier), regardless of when one returns.
Similarly, if a person returns to the Sukkah after one or two hours, he must recite the bracha again even if he planned to return earlier. If one goes from one Sukkah to another, one must recite the bracha again in each location where one eats the above-mentioned amount of grain food.
If one forgot to say the bracha of Leshev Basukkah and remembered during the course of the meal, the bracha may be recited at that point, but one should remain in the Sukkah for a little while afterwards.
Although women are not obligated to eat in the Sukkah, if they wish to do so, they are fulfilling a mitzvah and may recite the Leishev Basukkah bracha.
Sefardic women should not make a bracha on the Sukkah.
One should not leave dirty pots or garbage bins in the Sukkah. It is best not to bring any pots into the Sukkah at all.
One should spend time in the Sukkah during as many activities as possible, for example, studying Torah or talking with a friend.
It is a mitzvah to sleep in the Sukkah. Even a short nap should only be taken in the Sukkah.
The Chabad custom is not to sleep in the Sukkah. See here
for an explanation of this custom.
If it is raining to the point that it is uncomfortable to eat in the Sukkah, one may eat outside of the Sukkah. It is the custom of some Chassidim to eat in the Sukkah even in the rain.
Boys should be educated in the Mitzvah of dwelling in the Sukkah from the age of five or six approximately.
According to the Zohar, there are seven special guests who visit our Sukkot on the seven nights of Sukkot. They are called Ushpizin (Aramaic for guests). All seven visit on each night, but the main guest varies from night to night. These seven Tzadikim are:
Avraham Avinu (first night)
Yitzchak Avinu (second night)
Yaakov Avinu (third night)
Moshe Rabeinu (fourth night, some say the fifth night)
Aharon HaKohen (fifth night, some say the sixth night)
Yosef HaTzadik (sixth night, some say the fourth night)
David HaMelech (seventh night)
Some have a custom of saying a special prayer inviting them into the Sukkah. This is not the Chabad custom, however.
According to Chabad tradition, there are also Chassidic Ushpizin. These are the souls of the Holy Rebbes who visit on the seven nights of Sukkot in the following order:
The Ba’al Shem Tov, the Maggid of Mezritch, the Alter Rebbe, the Miteller Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek, the Rebbe Maharash, and the Rebbe Rashab.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe would often explain the connection between these two sets of Ushpizin.
First day of Sukkot
Shabbat, Oct. 3/- 15 Tishrei
We do not shake the Lulav today since it is Shabbat.
The Chabad custom is to not recite Hoshanot. According to Nusach Ashkenaz, Hoshanot are recited without walking around the Bimah (or holding the Lulav and Esrog – obviously). The Kiddush of today includes both the verses for Shabbat and Yom Tov (in that order). One should also say the bracha on the Sukkah (leishev BaSukkah).
One should remember to eat the third meal in the afternoon but one should not fill up on food so as not to ruin one’s appetite for the Yom Tov meal.
Second night of Sukkot
Saturday night Oct. 3 /16 Tishrei
Candle-lighting is not before 7:38 and may only be lit from an existing flame.
The candles should be lit in, or be visible from, the Sukkah.
The following two Brochos should be recited: Baruch…L’hadlik Ner Shel Yom Tov and Baruch…Shehechiyanu.
Kiddush and Havdalah (Siddur Page 329)
The second night the procedure is as follows:
Borei Pri Hagafen
Bracha of Kiddush for Yom Tov
The Bracha on the flame. (An existing flame should be used. The Chabad custom is to simply glance at the Yom Tov Candles without touching them at all. Asheknaz custom is to hold two flames together and look at one’s nails at that time. Neither of the flames may be extinguished.)
- Bracha of Havdalah
- Bracha of Shehechiyonu
- Bracha of Leisheiv BaSukkah (to dwell in the Sukkah)
The reason that the order of Shehechiyanu and Leisheiv BaSukkah is reversed is that, on the second night, the bracha of Shehechiyanu is only referring to the Yom Tov and not to the Sukkah since the hehechiyanu on the first night was referring to the Sukkah. As such, it is preferred to say Shehechiyanu immediately after the bracha of Kiddush.3
According to some customs the order of these brachot remain the same as they were on the first night.
See above as to what to do if it is raining on this night.
Second Day of Sukkot
Sunday, Oct. 4 / 16 Tishrei
Shaking the Lulav
It is best to not eat or drink anything before shaking the lulav on every morning of Sukkot. According to the Arizal it is best to shake the lulav in the Sukkah. It is therefore best to shake it before davening, as soon as possible after sunrise, and in the Sukkah.
Although women are not obligated in this mitzvah, if a woman has accepted it upon herself, it is best that she not eat (a full meal) before fulfilling the mitzvah.
Sefardic women should not recite a bracha when shaking the lulav and etrog.
In the first place one should wait until sunrise before doing this mitzvah. If one needs to travel, however, he may do this mitzvah and recite the blessing, after dawn before sunrise.
In some Shuls, the entire congregation goes to the Sukkah before Hallel to recite the bracha at that time. If one is in a shul that does not do this and he did not say the bracha beforehand, he should not leave during the repetition of the Amidah to be able to recite the blessing in the Sukkah. He should rather make the bracha and shake the lulav in Shul.
See Siddur page 306 for the blessings and directions as to how to shake. Also, click here
for a video on how to assemble and shake the lulav and etrog.
One should hold the lulav in the right hand with the spine (green smooth part) facing oneself. One should say the bracha on the lulav and then pick up the etrog with his left hand and shake them as described below. The Chabad custom is to say the bracha of Shehechiyanu (on the first day of Yom Tov) while holding the Etrog in the left hand before touching it to the Lulav.
Some have the custom of holding the etrog upside down for the bracha and then turning it the right way up when completing the bracha.
Some say that one who holds (or shakes) all four species in one hand does not fulfill the mitzvah while others say that he does. In practice, one who did this should shake again while holding them in two hands, but should not repeat the bracha.
An Ashkenazi left-handed person should reverse the above, i.e., he should hold the lulav in his left hand and the etrog in his right hand.
A Sefardic left-handed person should hold them in the same way as a right-handed person (i.e., the lulav in his right and the etrog in his left).
One who held the lulav and the etrog in the “wrong” hands (i.e., the lulav in the left and the etrog in the right) while doing the mitzvah, should do it again in the “correct” hands but should not repeat the bracha.
If one wears rings on one’s fingers it is best to remove them before saying the bracha and shaking the lulav.
This way of holding should be done during Hallel and Hoshanot as well (i.e., the lulav and etrog should be held in separate hands).
If one is paralyzed and is unable to use both of his hands, he should hold the Lulav in one hand, make the bracha, put it down and then pick up the Etrog.
After the bracha is said, one should shake the Lulav and Etrog in various directions. This is called nanu’im. There are many different customs as to how to do this.
The Chabad custom is to face east and the shake the lulav and etrog as follows:
Three times to the right (south) while bringing it back to the heart after each time.
Three times to the left (north) while bringing it back to the heart after each time.
Three times straight ahead (east) while bringing it back to the heart after each time.
Three times upwards while bringing it back to the heart after each time. (It is best to extend it downwards, below the heart a little bit, before bringing it back up to the heart.)
Three times downwards while bringing it back to the heart after each time. (It is best to extend it upwards, above the heart a little bit, before bringing it back down to the heart.)
The lulav should remain pointed upwards while one extends it in a downward direction.
Three times behind oneself (west) while bringing it back to the heart after each time.
When one brings it “back to the heart” it means that it should actually touch the left side of the chest, where one strikes when saying the confessionary prayer (ashamnu).
The Sefardic custom (that I have seen) is to follow the same order except that one turns their entire body towards the direction in which they are shaking.
The general Ashkenazi custom is to shake it to the front, right, back, left, up and down while extending it three times in every direction as above.
It is good to wake up early to do this Mitzvah, especially for the first time.
We shake the lulav as above during Hallel as well (see instructions on page 309 and 311 of the Siddur). Following this, we do Hoshanot (page 368).
One who is lending someone else his set of Lulav and Etrog to allow that person to do the Mitzvah on the first two days of Sukkot should say that the set is being given as a gift on condition that it be returned.
One should hold his lulav and esrog in his right and left hands respectively while saying Hoshanot (page 368 in the Siddur). One Torah Scroll is taken out and held by someone who doesn’t have a lulav and Esrog set. That person should stand at the Bimah for the duration of the Hoshanot. The Aron Kodesh should be left open for the Hoshanot. If everyone in Shul has a lulav and etrog set, the Sefer Torah should be placed on the Bimah for Hoshanot.
In some congregations the Hoshanot are recited after Musaf.
If one is in a shul which differs from his custom in this regard, he should do the Hoshanot together with the community.
Share the Lulav
The Lubavitcher Rebbe encouraged those who have a Lulav and Esrog to share this Mitzvah with as many people as possible.
One should recite the bracha of Shehechiyanu on the lulav on this day since it was not taken on the first day This bracha is not recited on subsequent days unless it is the first time one is taking the Lulav on this holiday.
The holiday ends at 7:37pm.
One should make Havdalah in the Sukkah. Some say that one should recite the blessing of Leishev BaSukkah after Havdalah before drinking the wine. Others say that due to the doubt in this matter is it best to eat cake or bread immediately after havdalah in order to be able to recite the blessing according to all opinions.
This Havdalah does not include spices or a candle.
Monday– Friday, Oct. 5– 9/ 17 – 21 Tishrei
During Chol HaMoed it is proper not to do work that does not relate to the needs of the Yom Tov. One who would lose his job by not going to work may go to work. Also, one who would suffer a great financial loss may work.
Simple work may also be done. See here
for more information.
One should spend extra time studying Torah during Chol HaMoed.
Men should drink a glass (revi’it size) of wine on every day of Chol HaMo’ed.
Women too should experience joy on the holiday by having a new piece of clothing or a new piece of jewelry.
Simchat Beit HaSho’eivah
It is customary to remain awake on the nights of Chol HaMo’ed Sukkot and sing and dance in memory of the Simchat Beit HaSho’eivah that took place in the Bait HaMikdash during these days.
This custom can also be fulfilled on the nights of Shabbat and Yom Tov, though without musical instruments, of course.
One Who Prays Alone
- It is preferable for one who is praying alone on Sukkot to pray in the Sukkah (if he can concentrate there).
- One who prays alone should wave the Lulav and Esrog as usual during Hallel.
- One may say the Hoshanos while holding the lulav and Esrog. There is no need to walk around while holding them.
- The Laws of Hoshana Rabbah, Shemini Atzeret and Simcah Torah will be discussed in a future email, G-d willing.
Wishing everyone a Shabbat Shalom, a Good Yom Tov and a Gut Yohr!
Copyright 2020, Rabbi Aryeh Citron