By Anessa V. Cohen
I remember years ago putting up a sukkah before Sukkos and being so proud that we finished it and had everything ready several days in advance. Little did I realize that the day before Sukkos we would get a hurricane warning for high winds and rain, with emergency warnings to prepare for the storm by tying down everything that could fly around the yard.
We could not figure out how to tie down a sukkah and keep the walls and s’chach from flying around if the winds reached 60–75 mph, so out we went and took down the entire sukkah, tied all the walls together and weighted them down, and then took the s’chach, lights (yes, I had even set up the lights in advance), tables, chairs, and decorations back to the garage, where they would be safe.
That evening, the hurricane veered off, and we did not even get so much as a drop of rain or gust of wind! The next morning (erev yom tov) we got up early and rushed to bring everything back outside again and to re-erect the sukkah with all the other stuff we had brought into the garage—the s’chach, tables, chairs, lights, and decorations. Definitely not a fun day, and to say that I was exhausted when we were finished was putting it mildly. It’s lucky I was young!
Even without the worry of a storm or hurricane, putting up a sukkah should take a little more thought than just throwing something together like they did way back when in the Midbar. Back then they did not have to worry about hurricanes or storms; the worst-case scenario was probably a sandstorm, which, given the Divine protection enveloping them, they probably did not have to worry about,
Just as you take time to plan and decide what kind of sukkah you want and how you will build it, also take some time to think about how to achieve this in the safest manner possible. Remember that once it is up, you will be sitting in it for eight days, and you want it to stay sturdy and safe for everyone who will be using it.
• Make sure that the lighting for your sukkah is attached safely and rated for outdoor use. Also make sure that when you install it, you do so in a manner that is far away from inflammables so that nothing can overheat and catch fire.
• Make sure the extension cords you are using are rated for outdoor use. Utilizing indoor extension cords can cause a short or, worst-case scenario, a fire if it is not meant for outdoor use.
• When building your sukkah, remember to use materials that are waterproof or at least water-resistant as well as sturdy and pretty. You are going to have this sukkah up for a minimum of eight days and the weather may not be balmy and sunny.
• Give some thought as to how your materials will fare if it rains or if the weather turns windy. For rain you need something waterproof or at least water-resistant, but also take some extra time to make sure that your sukkah is put up in a fashion that will withstand possible windy conditions. If, G‑d forbid, a storm comes through, there is not that much you can do. But if you take some precautions for average windy conditions, this should basically hold things together under normal circumstances.
• Stringing up a couple of sheets balanced by a few pieces of wood tied together is really not the way to go unless it is for a backyard overnight for a few hours. If you are thinking of trying this route, maybe you should reconsider; I had a neighbor years ago who used to do things this way, and people would hold their breaths when passing his house each day, wondering how long it would hold up. Usually by the second day, it was starting to fall apart and by the fourth day he was eating by himself in the only corner left standing. I cannot imagine that this is a fun way to go through yom tov.
• You should practice the same safety rules when planning which s’chach you will use and what you will use to brace it on the top of your sukkah.
• If you are using the s’chach mats, make sure the lumber or poles you are using underneath to hold them in place are solidly attached to the rest of the sukkah before unrolling the mats on top.
• The same holds true if you are using bamboo. Make sure whatever bracing you are using for the bamboo to rest upon is solid and spaced properly so that the bamboo sits firmly on top and cannot fall.
• When the brace of whatever you are using to hold the s’chach is not secured properly, you could find yourself sitting in the sukkah with everything coming down on your head, and aside from probably ruining the food you are eating, this will not be a pleasant experience!
Making sure your sukkah is safe as well as inviting will create a much more enjoyable yom tov for you and any family and guests you may be entertaining.
Chag sameiach! v
Anessa Cohen lives in Cedarhurst and is a licensed real-estate broker and a licensed N.Y.S. mortgage broker with over 20 years of experience, offering full-service residential and commercial real-estate services (Anessa V Cohen Realty) and mortgaging services (First Meridian Mortgage) in the Five Towns and throughout the tri-state area. She can be reached at 516-569-5007 or via her website, www.AVCrealty.com. Readers are encouraged to send questions or comments to anessa.cohen@AVCrealty.com.