Lulav and Etrog: To assemble the lulav, hadasim and aravot, begin by holding the lulav so that the thick green spine is facing you. The hadasim (of which you have three) go on the right side of the lulav & the aravot (of which you have two) go on the left. The hadasim should extend just a little higher than the aravot & the lulav should extend several inches higher than the hadasim. The procedure for performing the mitzvot of lulav & etrog is as follows: We take the lulav (with the hadasim & aravot) in our right hand & the etrog -with pitum facing downward - in our left. (If we were to take the etrog right-side-up, we would at that instant be fulfilling the mitzvah before we had a chance to recite the bracha.) Then we recite the bracha "al netilat lulav" (& the first time we do this, we add "shehechiyanu"). After we've recited the brachot we turn the etrog right-side-up & wave the entire package in front of us, then to the right, then behind us, then to the left, then upward & finally downward.
*Please note: Since the first day of Sukkot is Shabbat this year, we will commence taking lulav and etrog on the second day of Sukkot.*
Waving the lulav during Hallel:
During Hallel, the chazzan waves at "Hodu laHashem"and "yomar na," and again at "ana Hashem". The tzibur (congregation) waves each time they respond "hodu" and at "ana Hashem." Everyone waves twice at the last "hodu" before the concluding bracha of hallel.
Mechanics for the "hodu" waiving:
Facing towards the east, simply remember: clockwise around, up and then down, which translates to forward, right, backwards, left, up, down. We do not wave the lulav when reciting God's name. This year if you are reciting Hallel at home without a minyan, you should still wave the lulav as explained above!
May we lay schach over a patio roof to create a valid Sukkah?
This question is addressed in Shulchan Aruch 626:3. There we learn that the slats of the patio roof are themselves considered invalid schach (as they weren't originally placed there "for the sake of creating the shade of the sukkah" - see Mishna Brura #17). However, they are no worse than any other form of invalid schach that is mixed in with valid schach. Accordingly, as long as at least 51% of the total coverage is being provided by valid schach (i.e. the schach that you lay over the patio roof), the sukkah is kosher ("kshayra" to be precise).
At what point are Sukkah walls too flimsy to be considered walls?
Interestingly, the measure of a sukkah wall's "flimsiness" is not its solidness. The laws of Sukkah, like the laws of eruv, have a very generous definition of what a wall is, allowing for much airspace. Rather, the crucial factor is the wall's ability to withstand the wind. If under normal wind conditions, a sukkah wall will be blown 8 inches from its original vertical axis in either direction, the wall is pasul (invalid). As such, if you have a canvas sukkah or the like, you need to be sure to secure the top and bottom (and if possible, the middle) as tightly as possible to insure the kashrut of the sukkah.
Palm fronds dry up as Sukkot goes along. When would the resultant airspace create a problem for your sukkah?
There are 3 ways you'd need to be concerned:
(1) If as a result of the drying you no longer have more shade than sun in the sukkah (as measured at solar noon) than the schach must be supplemented.
(2) If a space 8 in. wide were to open up along the entire width or length of the sukkah, the space would halachicly cut your sukkah into 2 pieces. This would carry serious implications.
(3) If an area of eight inches square were to open, no one should eat or sleep beneath that area.
Let's say you're building your sukkah using the back wall of your house as one of the sukkah walls, and your roof hangs over the back wall of the house. What impact does the overhang have on your sukkah?
The answer is, that as long as the overhang is not more than 4 "amot" long (about 6 feet), then the halacha will view it as if it is part of the back wall, i.e. the back wall is seen as suddenly turning 90 degrees, and continuing until the edge of the overhang. Thus the overhang would not figure into the kashrut of the schach (which is good news for you), but no one should sit beneath the overhang, as one can only fulfill the mitzvah of sukkah by sitting under the schach - not by sitting under the "wall."
What if I don't have access to a sukkah this year because of Coronavirus?:
B'nai David-Judea is offering 'pop-up' sukkahs in the yards of several homes. See the complete list in the bulletin.
For Yom Tov, you can sign up for slots to make just kiddush and motzi in the 'pop-up sukkahs'. This means you bring your own kiddush and motzi items. When reciting "hamotzi", have in mind that you will be completing your meal at home. After eating bread, you may return home and eat your festive meal and bentch at home with the normal Sukkot additions (and see below, "What foods need to be eaten in a sukkah?"). Alternatively, you may make kiddush and motzi (and make sure to eat at least an olive-sized amount of bread) and then bentch in the 'pop-up sukkah' with the normal Sukkot additions.) Make sure to say לישב בסוכה either way!
What foods need to be eaten in a sukkah?
It is meritorious to go to the sukkah for any and all eating and drinking that we do over the holiday (including not on Yom Tov). The bottom-line halacha though permits "casual eating" outside the Sukkah, and this includes all foods over which the bracha is neither המוציא nor מיני מזונות בורא (such as dairy products, meat, fish, fruit and vegetables - technically even in large, meal-size quantities!). In addition, even מזונות (cake, pasta...) can be considered "casual eating" and be eaten outside of the sukkah unless:
(1) You are eating them with other people
(2) They are part of one of your regularly-scheduled meals
(3) You are eating a particularly large amount (a whole meal's worth)
What about when you are in your office, or on a day-long outing? The general rule is that if you wouldn't ordinarily interrupt your office-day or your day-long activity to return to your home for lunch, then you are also not required to return to your sukkah for lunch. In other words, you are exempt from the mitzvah at that time, and there are no restrictions on what you may eat (though if you wanted to limit yourself only to those foods that don't require a sukkah, you may certainly do so). However, if there is a sukkah within a reasonable distance of where you are, you are not exempt from the mitzvah, and are obligated to go to the sukkah and eat lunch there.
This year, if due to health concerns there is no sukkah that you can eat in over chol hamoed, then you are also exempt.
Finally, it's worth remembering that although women undoubtedly perform a mitzvah each time they eat in a sukkah, and recite the bracha לישב בסוכה when doing so, sukkah is a "time-bound" mitzvah from which women are granted an exemption if they so choose.