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I live in an apartment with a balcony that is fully covered by the balcony two floors above (the balconies are zig-zagged). This means that I cannot build a kosher sukka in my balcony. I don't have any other place to build a sukka instead, so if I don't build it in the balcony, I won't build one at all.

Is it preferable to build a sukka that I know in advance that will not be kosher, or to not build a sukka at all? Does a "best effort" count for anything?

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Is there anyone nearby whose sukkah you'd be able to use instead? –  Alex Oct 9 '11 at 0:38
    
Not really. The entire neighborhood is like that. Besides, even if I did, it would only solve my personal problem. It would not answer the general question for those who really have no alternative. –  Nathan Fellman Oct 9 '11 at 7:31
    
@Alex: Actually, this would probably be a good part of the answer. –  Nathan Fellman Oct 9 '11 at 7:31

1 Answer 1

I'll start with the usual caveat: CYLOR. The more so since someone local will be more familiar with your specific situation.

It's pretty basic to the definition of a sukkah that it be under the sky. So a sukkah under a balcony, as much of a good-faith effort as it may be (and as much as G-d might appreciate the thought), simply isn't a sukkah - no more so than an Etch-A-Sketch, even one given with the best of intentions, will perform the functions of an iPad.

There might indeed be halachic considerations of which I'm unaware, though, so that alone is a good reason to consult with a reliable authority.

One other factor that might come into play: granted that in your entire neighborhood there are no balconies that can be used for sukkahs (and actually, what about the ones on the top floors of the buildings?), are there any other conceivable possibilities within walking distance? For example, your building might have a courtyard, or perhaps even you could get permission to build one on the roof, or on the sidewalk right near the building, or you could borrow a neighbor's pickup truck and build your sukkah on its bed, etc. (Bear in mind that the footprint of a minimum-sized kosher sukkah isn't all that much; it's about 28"x28" even according to the most stringent opinions, or as little as 21"x21" according to more lenient ones - basically, the amount of space in which one person can sit with a dinner tray. A refrigerator carton would do the job, as long as it's braced so it won't fall over; indeed, one time my father-in-law did just that.) For that matter, your synagogue (again, if it's within walking distance) probably has a sukkah. These are all things to consider before giving up on such a beautiful mitzvah or doing it in a less-optimal way.

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FYI: CYLOR means "consult your local Orthodox rabbi" for those (including myself) who might not know. –  Paperjam Oct 9 '11 at 19:51
    
I disagree with your etch-a-sketch analogy. Under the assumption that the purpose of the mitzvah is to commemorate the temporary housing of the Israelites in the desert, it would seem that something that is almost a sukka, except it is not under the sky, does a pretty good job of it. The walls and roof are temporary, made from the right materials and don't give adequate protection from the weather, and if you look through the sechach at the correct angle you can probably see stars as well. It performs 99% of the functionality of the sukkah... (more in the next comment) –  Nathan Fellman Oct 9 '11 at 21:06
    
...Whereas an etch-a-sketch can only draw... in black on a grey background, using one continuous straight line broken by right angles, but an iPad is pretty much a full-fledged computer. A more apt analogy would be an iPad vs an Android tablet. They're not identical, but for most purposes they're interchangeable, with or without best intents. In fact, I would argue that a sukkah should be made of temporary materials, and the idea of sechach lanetzach is a bit of a stretch to me, but it's perfectly kosher. I think that such a sukkah commemorates the desert worse than a sukkah under a roof. –  Nathan Fellman Oct 9 '11 at 21:11
    
@Nathan, a better analogy would be to getting a degree in medicine from a non-accredited program. You may or may not know as much as the end as a real doctor, but by the definition laid down by the authority who decides such things, you're not a doctor. –  Isaac Moses Oct 10 '11 at 2:03
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@Nathan: I know it's a little difficult, perhaps, to see what is so special about sechach as compared to some other covering that might still allow in the rain. I'd like to recommend a couple of essays on the subject: Flying Branches - note particularly its last two paragraphs; Letting Go of the Roof; Automatic Service. Perhaps those will help to show the vast difference between, to use your metaphor, the seemingly similar iPad and Android, and why after all they're not interchangeable. –  Alex Oct 10 '11 at 2:36

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