Sukkah Decorations

 Courtesy of Ohr Olam Mishnah Berurah

Question: Are sukkah decorations a requirement?

Discussion: Obviously, one’s main efforts should be invested in ensuring that the sukkah meets optimal halachic standards.98 However, though decorating the sukkah is not a true requirement, it is certainly a correct thing to do.99 Shelah infers from the Gemara100 that one’s decorations should include fine tapestries and quality fruits.

Question: May one hang decorations from the sechach?

Discussion: Decorations may be hung from the sechach, but they must be within four tefachim of the sechach.101 This is because a decoration (or anything else) of substantial width that hangs lower than four tefachim from the sechach is considered a separate entity from the sechach, and as such, one is considered to be sitting under the decoration instead of the sechach. Now, essentially, this applies only to an item that is four tefachim wide, yet the custom is to avoid hanging anything, of any width, lower than four tefachim from the sechach.102 However, it is sufficient if the top of the decoration is within four tefachim of the sechach, even if its bottom hangs lower.103 (See footnote regarding decorative chains.104)

Question: What should be done if a sukkah decoration falls down?

Discussion: Sukkah decorations are considered muktzeh until after Simchas Torah, even if they have fallen down.105 Additionally, if Simchas Torah is on Friday, the decorations are customarily treated as muktzeh on the following Shabbos as well.106 Therefore, the following halachos apply:

On Shabbos or Yom Tov,107 one may not move them, unless one does so in an unusual manner.108 In addition, if they fell on a chair or the like, one may tilt it so that they fall to the floor. If a fallen decoration is repulsive and, as a result, disturbing to a person sitting in its presence, one may remove it even in the usual manner.109

On Chol Hamoed, there is no problem with moving the fallen decoration. However, it may not be used for other purposes. Rather, it should be put back or, if this is not possible, put away.110

98. A’aleh B’tamar (p. 90) relates that the Brisker Rav did not have decorations in his sukkah, since his intense and exclusive focus on the sukkah’s optimal validity left no room for attention to anything else.

99. See Mishnah Berurah 638:11.

100. Sukkah 10a.

101. Shulchan Aruch 627:4.

102. Mishnah Berurah 627:15.

103. This is the ruling of R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (He’aros, 10b; cf. Sukkah Kehilchaso 7:2), R’ Shmuel Wosner (Kovetz Mibeis Levi II:26), and R’ Nissim Karelitz (Chut Shani, p. 203). Some Poskim are unsure about this (see Halichos Shlomo 7, footnote 31; Mikra’ei Kodesh, III:5). However, one may certainly rely on the lenient view with regard to a decoration that is not four tefachim wide.

104. In the case of a chain, one should presumably ensure that each individual link is within four tefachim of the sechach (that is, the top of each link, as above).

105. Shulchan Aruch 638:2. The Poskim debate about the status of such items as a flower vase set on the sukkah table; a wall clock, and a decoration placed outside the sukkah for the purpose of being viewed from the sukkah. For discussion, see Piskei Teshuvos 638:4; Avnei Yashfeh VII:85; IIX:108.

106. Mishnah Berurah, 667:4. However, according to strict halachah, they are not considered muktzeh on this Shabbos.

107. Some maintain that on Yom Tov, if a decoration falls on the table in a manner that hinders eating, one may move it in the usual manner. Practically, however, one should prefer one of the methods suggested for Shabbos; see Beiur Halachah 638:2, ד”ה וביום טוב.

108. See Mishnah Berurah 308:13.

109. Beiur Halachah 638:2, ד”ה וביום טוב.

110. Mishnah Berurah 638:14.