Sunday, September 22, 2002

Sukka on the Roof

Continuing the lazy theme of last week, I dare say we must have the easiest sukka in the world to build. Our apartment is on the top floor and has a large terrace covered with a pergola. All we have to do to build the sukka is cover the top of the pergola with "schach" - the leafy covering that is usually made of palm fronds (we use the permanent stuff that "rolls out" - think of it as the sukka equivalent of a fruit roll vs. the real thing). The whole process takes no more than 15 minutes to complete with two intrepid kids who don't mind climbing to jaw-dropping heights and doing the rolling and tying (warning kids: don't try this in your home).

All this reminds me of the story of the Sukka on the Roof, one of the few tall tales I remember from my abbreviated Jewish education growing up.

There once was a man in New York who built a sukka on the roof of his apartment building. A particularly cantankerous neighbor caught wind of what was going on and decided he didn't like it one bit. He demanded that the man take the sukka down immediately. When the man refused, the neighbor took him to court, requesting a quick verdict. The court deliberated and decided that yes indeed, the sukka would have to come down. They dutily informed the man "you have exactly 8 days to do it." And the man just smiled, as he knew - which by now you've figured out as well - that Sukkot lasts exactly 8 days.

One of the perils of a rooftop sukka is falling planters. Well, that's how it was this Sukkot day. We have some plastic planters full of flowers and dirt and rocks on our terrace wall. We also have a hammock which the kids like to use as a swing. It's an unusual hammock. A single person sitting up style hammock, rather than the more common lying-down-and-fall-asleep-in-the-sun variety. One of the kids (who shall remain nameless) was swinging a bit too vigorously and knocked the planter off the wall. Normally, a mess but not the end of the world.

Except that down below was the neighbor's sukka, standing proudly in their first floor backyard. The planter crashed through the top of their sukka, leaving a gaping hole in the schach and raining down debris on their table, on their bed, on the leftovers from the night before. We were totally freaked out that their sukka would be rendered 'psul' - not usable for Sukkot - a terrible thing to be responsible for given they had about 15 guests coming in just a few hours. The mother wasn't sure the halachic status of a sukka attacked by falling daisies since on Shabbat you're not supposed to "fix" things, so she waited until her grown children and their families came home from shul. We swept up the mess and went off to synagogue ourselves.

As the day went on, we found numerous occasions to peek over to see what was going on. I saw the mother taking out a tray with kiddush cups...had they just eaten in the sukka or were they cleaning out more of the mess? Now they were moving out the chairs....the sukka must be ruined. How could we live with ourselves? No wait, the men are removing their this some new water ritual we missed while playing hooky from Hebrew School? Now someone is bringing in a mattress...if they're sleeping in it, the sukka must be OK, right?

It appears now that this was no halachic catastrophe and the only thing hurt was our son's pride and his bank account, as he had to pay for a new planter and a couple of plants.

And oh yes, the hammock is now off limits to anyone under the age of 40.

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