Elaine Rubin wrote:
Is it acceptable to use window screen material for the walls of the succah, or must it be material through which one cannot see?
Dear Elaine Rubin,
First, thanks for letting us 'screen' your question. Did you hear about the man who ran through a screen door? He strained himself.
The halachic definition of a 'wall' is different than Webster's definition. Halachically, a wall can have a gap of up to three tefachim (handbreadths) and still be valid. This is based on a concept called 'lavud.' Lavud means that we consider any gap of less than three tefachim as though it's connected.
But the laws of lavud are complex. Therefore, the custom is to use full walls, and not to rely on lavud.
However, a screen is a valid wall, even without appealing to the concept of lavud. Since it has wires running both horizontally and vertically, it is a full-fledged wall in it's own right. So screens, although 'holey,' are valid succah walls.
Walls that sway with the breeze are invalid. Therefore, you have to fasten the screens tight so they don't sway. (If they sway in a very gusty wind, that's OK.)
Your succah may not be the most private place (unless you hang curtains in front of the screens) but it's valid.
Story: A thief once took advantage of a crack in a succah wall, to reach in and steal a pair of silver candle sticks. When the incident came to the attention of the Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky, zatzal, he remarked that thief must have been an am ha'aretz - someone ignorant of Jewish law. "A Torah Scholar could never have done such a thing," jested the rabbi. "Knowing the din of lavud (that the halacha considers a break smaller than three handbreadths as though it is sealed), a Torah Scholar would never have been able get his hand through!
- Succah 7a
- Succah 16a and Tosafot D.H. "B'pachot"
- Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 630:5, Rema ibid., Mishna Berurah 28
- Eruvin 16b
- Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 630:10