The Bible instruction just says “Build a sukkah (or booth).” Rabbis have added details about size, materials, location, etc. You only need to follow the Bible instructions.
You can use any scrap lumber you have available, pitch your tent, or use old sheets to create an adventure for your children (attach tarps with bungee cords to your deck or swing set).
One family had sick children and made a booth out of old sheets in their living room. Meals were eaten in it and they occasionally spent the night. The importance of this and each holiday is about making a memory – not getting hung up on customs.
Plan for Building a Sukkah
Building and decorating a sukkah is a fun family project. Jim Gerrish, with Bridges for Peace in Jerusalem, describes one plan for building a sukkah:
Actually it is not such a difficult job. You will need to start planning early though, in order to begin your construction as quickly as possible after Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. In Israel some devout Jews begin construction as soon as the sun is down on Yom Kippur, four days before the Feast of Tabernacles starts.
Since the sukkah is not to be an elaborate or permanent structure, the most inexpensive materials may be used. You will need:
- 4 sturdy posts (2 x 4s in the U.S.) for the corners,
- 4 smaller poles (2 x 2s) for the roof. All of these boards should be approximately 7 or 8 feet (2.5 meters) in length.
- To cover the roof you will need several slats or small boards capable of holding up light tree branches.
- For the sides, old bedsheets seem to work well. Other materials like canvas, cane matting or even light plywood are also fine.
- You will need enough to enclose three sides, with a drape for the entrance. For the top you simply need to trim a few trees in the back yard.
Now for the actual construction. The tabernacle can be almost any size so long as it is large enough to sit in. A seven-foot cube (2.5 meters) is recommened, since this will allow plenty of room for guests (make a larger sukkah if you are blessed with a big family).
First you will need to sink four holes in the ground for the four upright corner poles. In lieu of this, you may anchor the uprights in the holes of stacked concrete blocks, or design other sturdy legs for them. If you want to do it the easy way, you may use an existing building for one side of your sukkah. Once the uprights are firmly in place, attach the horizontal rods at the top along the outside. With this finished, you can now place the slats or other small support boards on the roof.
The next step is to drape the bed sheets or other coverings around three sides. In the front, a bed sheet attached on a wire track works well for a door. Finally, place the tree branches on top; but if you like to see the stars, don’t make the roof too thick.
The sukkah can now be outfitted to your own taste. A table and chairs are a must.
It is customary to decorate the inside of the sukkah with pictures, hangings, and the agricultural produce for which Israel is famous: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, olives, dates, and pomegranates. You may wish to decorate the walls with pictures or Bible verses. Fruit may be hung from the ceiling; paper chains and other decorations may be hung on the walls. Use your imagination; and by all means, let the children participate.
All that is left now is the enjoyment. Invite your friends to see your masterpiece and rejoice with you. Try a meal out in the sukkah, or even spend the night there. It will be an unforgettable and blessed experience.
What to do in a Sukkah?
- Praise God through prayer.
- Praise God by singing praise songs.
- Invite relatives, friends, and neighbors to celebrate with you.
- Wave the lulav (explained in the following pages).
- Eat, drink, relax, nap.
- Read the section titled “God is Our Shelter” and “Jesus is Preparing Our Permanent Home” from the “Messianic Significance of Tabernacles.”
- Sing songs to celebrate the birth of Christ. Such as “Joy to the World,” “Silent Night,” “Away in a Manger,” “The First Noel,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” etc.
- Decorate the sukkah with strings of light. The light from the Feast of Tabernacle lamps illuminated the whole city. Read Bible verses about Jesus being our light (John 1:1-9; 8:12; 9:5).
- Set up a nativity scene. Read the story of Christ’s birth in Luke or one of the gospels.
- Pour water on the ground and read Jesus’ proclamation (John 7:37).
- Read aloud the verses explaining this feast (Lev. 23:34-43 Deut. 16:13-15, and Num. 29:12-40).
- Read John 7:2-39 about Jesus celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles.
- Many Bible prophecies tell of the Messiah’s reign over all nations. Read some of them aloud to your family (Psalms 2, 47, 93, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 110, and 126).
- Tell Bible stories.
Get started, evaluate each year, and have fun. Plan to eat at least one meal in your sukkah, and perhaps use it for your time alone with God. Younger children will want to “play house” which is all right since the Israelites were “housed” in them for forty years.