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My wife and I love the holiday of Sukkot, as do many of our friends. We build the sukkah every year and have friends over for an evening meal, preferably on shabbes - if someone else in our group of friends isn't doing those. It's a wonderful, community-building holiday.

I've heard that one can only commence sukkah construction after Yom Kippur. I've been doing it this way for years. I often inventory the wood and and schach ahead of time, but I always hold off on construction.

Nevertheless, when riding around town during the days of awe, I've seen people start building before the end of Yom Kippur. Sometimes even synagogues will jump the gun a bit.

From a legal standpoint, is there any truth to the assertion that one should build the sukkah only during these four days? If there are dissenting opinions in law, what are they?

(I'm a conservative jew with reconstructionist leanings, and I would personally prefer answers that are friendly towards non-orthodox movements. By this I mean stuff in English, or at least sources I can track down and find translations of.)

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I'm not sure why you would expect an answer about sukka building timing to say anything one way or the other about non-orthodox movements. –  Isaac Moses Oct 5 '11 at 2:11
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If I don't ask, how can I know if there are such differences? Is my asking this a problem? –  neilfein Oct 5 '11 at 3:53
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You asked about friendliness toward movements, not differences of opinion. Did you actually mean to specify "from non-orthodox sources" or "that don't disagree with whatever opinions on this issue may exist in non-orthodox sources"? If so, I'd recommend that you edit your question accordingly, since such specifications would make a great deal of difference to the locus of possibly valid answers. If not, I just don't get what sort of [un-]friendliness toward non-orthodox movements is possible in answers to a technical question of this nature. –  Isaac Moses Oct 5 '11 at 4:55
    
@IsaacMoses - This embodies an area completely outside the scope of this question. Ping me in chat? –  neilfein Oct 5 '11 at 5:09
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Why do you assume that all orthodox people speak Hebrew and all non-orthodox people don't? –  Double AA Jun 11 '12 at 0:28
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4 Answers 4

up vote 13 down vote accepted

The walls of the sukkah can be constructed anytime you want; you can even leave them up all year, if you're so inclined. (There are even people who have retractable roofs on their houses, so that their sukkah is their dining room or bedrooms or whatever.)

The sechach (plant material used for the roof of the sukkah) is a different story. You can put it up anytime within 30 days before the holiday without a problem. Any earlier than that (or if you leave the sechach on from one Sukkos to the next), you should - although you're not absolutely required to - put new sechach somewhere on the sukkah. The minimum for this is either a square of 4x4 inches, or an extra bit of sechach along the full length of one wall.

(Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 636:1 and Mishnah Berurah there)

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According to Halacha (Orthodox Jewish Law) you may build the Sukkah from 30 days prior to the Yom Tov. If it was made more than 30 days before the holiday, and you do not have in mind that it is being made for Succos, all you got to do is remove some Sechach and replace it and have in mind that it is for Succos and then it is Kosher. If it was put up anytime in the year, and it was done having in mind that it is for Succos then it is good.

http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=49628&st=&pgnum=198&hilite= (Orach Chaim 636)

There are people that put it up between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur with the intent of having another Mitzva to enter with into Yom Kippur.

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Thanks. My Hebrew is quite rusty; do you have a translation of that link? (Or at least a reference as to the location so I can check it locally.) –  neilfein Oct 4 '11 at 17:14
    
I have translated the link in my answer. I put the link for those that want to see it in the original Hebrew. –  Gershon Gold Oct 4 '11 at 17:15
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I'd venture that you've paraphrased the page or relevant parts of it, not translated it. I'm not asking you to translate the entire page, of course! Will look locally. Nice answer, BTW. –  neilfein Oct 4 '11 at 17:20
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Many people consider it especially meritorious to do it after Yom Kippur, as stated above; but by law all that's needed is sechach within 30 days. Beyond that, whatever works for you.

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The Rema (Orach Chayyim 624:5 and 625:1) quotes the Maharil's customs to start building the sukkah the night after Yom Kippur, to go from mitzvah to mitzvah; the following day, to build it completely, so as not to delay an available mitzvah.

This is a custom from the Ashkenazi world regarding the ideal time to build the sukkah, but the sukkah is certainly valid if built another time. It may even be possible that if one can't build the sukkah the day after Yom Kippur, the right time to start should be beforehand, because the custom only mentions the one day. As always, ask your local rabbi.

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