945. What to Do in the Succah

135:1 The Torah says (Leviticus 23:42), “You shall dwell in booths for seven days.” By “dwell,” the Torah means that we should reside in the succah for seven days the way we do in the house the rest of the year. Therefore, one should optimally make the succah his main residence, moving his best dishes and nicest coverings into it. He should eat, drink, study Torah, relax and sleep in the succah. Even conversations with a friend should be held in the succah. If one happens to daven alone, he should do so in the succah. (One might not have to study Torah in the succah if the weather makes him uncomfortable or if bringing his books in is a lot of effort – Mishnah Brurah 639:29.)

Leviticus 23:43 tell us that we do all this, “So your descendants will know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths when I brought them out of Egypt.” We must therefore intend that we are dwelling in the succah because Hashem commanded us to do so as a remembrance of the exodus from Egypt. (After the fact, one has discharged his obligation so long as he intended to fulfill the mitzvah of succah – MB 625:1.) There is a difference of opinion regarding the “succos” that are mentioned in the Torah: Rabbi Eliezer says that the word refers to the “clouds of glory” that Hashem placed around our ancestors to protect them from the desert heat, while Rabbi Akiva says that it means actual booths that the Jews built in their camps to protect themselves from the sun. Even though the Jews left Egypt in the month of Nisan, we are not commanded to build succos at that time because it is the start of the warm months, when it is normal for people to make huts for shade. Therefore, if we were to build succos in Nisan, it would not be obvious that we were doing so in order to fulfill G-d’s command. Rather, He commanded us to build succos in Tishrei, which is the start of the rainy season, when people would normally leave their huts in order to dwell in their houses. We leave our houses and dwell in the succah in order to demonstrate that we are doing so in order to fulfill our King’s command.

135:2 We must treat the succah with honor in order to show repect for the mitzvah. Therefore,  we do not bring undignified utensils like pots into it. Other examples of such utensils include a kneading trough, a cauldron, a frying pan, and similar such things. Similarly, the dirty dishes should be removed after eating. Drinking utensils may be left in the succah. The practice is likewise not to bring an earthenware candlestick into the succah because such things become disgusting. Similarly, one should not perform any disrespectful activities in the succah, such as washing pots or dishes. Cups, however, may be rinsed in the succah. One may certainly not urinate in the succah, not even into a vessel, even if one does this inside his home. Having marital relations is permitted in the succah because the mitzvah pertains primarily to matters of a man and his wife. If one does bring disrespectful utensils into the succah, this does not invalidate it. However, one should not recite the bracha on sitting in the succah until they are removed. (If one does not have a serving dish, he may bring food to the succah in a pot – MB 639:5.)