Sleeping Under the Stars


Dear Mordechai,

Due to some unforeseen enthusiasm from my kids, I’m sleeping in the sukkah this year, apparently. Any advice? Also, there are no alarm clocks out here, and I’m afraid I’m going to overshoot Shacharis.

Everyone eats in their sukkah, but when it comes to sleeping, we all have excuses. Never mind that most of us will cheerfully fall asleep pretty much anywhere — the living room, the dining room, cars, public transportation… And there’s no way that what wakes you up sniffing next to you in a sukkah is going to be any worse than what will wake you up on the subway.

A lot of people are afraid to sleep in the sukkah, but it turns out that with a little bit of preparation and the right supplies and some kind of weapon, anyone can do it! Except, for some reason, your wife.

That said, if you tend to sleepwalk, sleeping in a sukkah might not be for you.

Here are some tips that will not only help make your sukkah-sleeping experience rewarding, but you can also sleep with it to help you feel safe:

  • Don’t sleep on the floor. Adults do not sleep on floors and then get up to have productive days shaking arbaah minim without some kind of back spasm. Either drag a mattress out there or sleep on one of those beds that gradually folds on you in the middle of the night. An air mattress is also an option, if you know how to hint to a non-Jew that you need him to refill it at four in the morning.

“My mattress is running out of air.”

“Wait… Are you locked out of your house?”

  • Invite lots of guests for Yom Tov. (“Come to our house! It’ll be great! You can sleep on the porch with me.”) One of the benefits to sleeping in your sukkah is that it allows you to have more guests for Sukkos than your house can physically sleep. Until it rains. If that happens, and there’s no room in the house for the people who were supposed to sleep in the sukkah, you have to put up a schlock and then stay awake all night watching parts of your s’chach sag.
  • Another nice thing about sleeping in the sukkah is that if it’s dark enough, you can lie on your back and look up at the stars and listen to the crickets snore. If you can’t see the stars, that probably means it’s going to rain. Or that you’re under the table.
  • The best way to guarantee that it will rain is to sleep in a sukkah.
  • Be aware that if it rains in the middle of the night, it will probably take you at least a full minute to realize what that means for you. The water wakes you up, and you go, “Oh, it’s raining.” Then it keeps raining on your face, and you think, “Wait… Oh, that means I have to get up.” And then you dart out of bed and run inside miraculously carrying your mattress, your bedding, AND all your stuff in one trip.
  • Don’t bring your good linen out there. Bring your daughter’s old flowery princess ones or something.
  • A good way to be more protected from the rain and also be available to leap right up as soon as you notice the rain is to climb into your sleeping bag headfirst. Be aware that this might lead to you running face-first through your patio door.
  • Being cold in a sukkah is not a problem. If you’re cold, close the storm window. It won’t help, but you’ll feel like you made some hishtadlus.
  • If you have a really small sukkah, sleeping on the table is always an option. Unless it’s one of those tables that has its legs in the middle.
  • Really, there’s no such thing as a sukkah that’s too small to sleep in. You’re supposed to live in a sukkah as if you’re living in your house, which means probably falling asleep at the Yom Tov table. If you can bring pillows to the table on Pesach, there’s no reason you can’t bring them on Sukkos.
  • If you need to keep mosquitoes away, convince the kids to sleep out there with you. Mosquitoes always go for the kids first.
  • Make it fun for them. Make it into a camp-out or something. You can sit around and tell spooky stories until you hear noises outside the sukkah, at which point you will all climb into the same sleeping bag upside down.
  • The correct age for sleeping in a sukkah is “Big Enough to Grab Their Own Mattress and Run Into the House Because You Are NOT Coming Back Out in Your Pajamas in the Rain to Get Them.”
  • If your sukkah is such that nocturnal animals can hypothetically come in, make sure to sweep the sukkah thoroughly before the lights go out. And if you didn’t sweep, definitely don’t sleep on the floor. You’re going to wake up with a back full of challah crumbs, and an animal trying to decide whether it’s worth waking you up to get to them.
  • If you’re nervous about sleeping in a cloth sukkah, you can always tell yourself that the only animals that can fit in are the ones that fit under the flaps — like raccoons, and skunks, and small goats. Plus any bears that can figure out the zipper.
  • If you think there’s a large animal outside trying to get in, have everyone lift a corner of the sukkah and then take off down the block.
  • If you wake up and see an animal snuffling across the floor or drinking your negel vasser, don’t panic. Actually, you can probably panic if you want. The human voice is the biggest deterrent for animals, so if you see one, just shriek in a panic and you’ll be fine. Or you can do the same thing you’d do if you woke up and found your kid snuffling near you: Pretend to be asleep and wait for it to wander into the kitchen.
  • If you wake up to see a skunk sniffing around you in the dark, don’t panic. Don’t scream, “Skunk!” He already knows he’s a skunk. If you do that, you’re going to have a sukkah full of skunk stink that won’t dissipate until you reopen the storm window.
  • Also, if you’re in an area with a lot of sukkahs, yelling, “Skunk!” will make everyone on the block panic. You will literally see entire sukkahs picking themselves up and running into each other with legs sticking out underneath.
  • Make sure you don’t smell like food. This is not the night to try out your new shampoo that smells like strawberries.
  • If you want to keep animals away with your voice while you’re asleep, the best advice is to snore. The good news is that in every family, Hashem made at least one person who snores. Unfortunately, no one thinks it’s him.
  • If you live in bear country, don’t grill meat near your sukkah. (“Bear country” is any country with bears in it.)
  • Also don’t store honey in your sukkah.
  • Also, if you live in a region with pandas, your bamboo s’chach might be a problem. So make sure to trim those trees around your sukkah if you don’t want pandas landing on you from above.
  • If you’re sleeping in a sukkah on Chol Hamoed, carry a firearm. One shot in the air will scare away most animals, as well as put out a light if you forgot to do so before getting into your sleeping bag.
  • Pepper spray would be a great idea as well.
  • Animals hate the smell of mint. Make sure to use mouthwash before bed, and to pour some around your mattress for good measure.
  • Another way to stay off the floor is to fill your air mattress with helium.
  • You might want to worry about burglars, because given a choice between your little one-room hut with folding chairs and a sleeping bag versus a house that you left unlocked so you can get back in if it rains, the burglar’s definitely going to come to you.
  • The good news is that if it IS a burglar, you’re going to see him as soon as he comes in. You don’t have to sneak around the sukkah holding a lamp upside down.
  • Make sure you have a spare key to the house in case your wife “accidentally” locks you out.
  • Overall, sleeping in the sukkah during the day is a lot less stressful, until all the sukkah hoppers come in and see you in your flowery princess bed sheets. With a weapon. Covered in mouthwash.

And as far as waking up, you’ll probably wake up as the sun rises, which is a highly recommended way to wake up. (You can also get a rooster, or keep the one you used for kapparos.) If there’s no sun, that means it will rain, and that will wake you up as well. And if it’s neither, you can always set the alarm clock in your bedroom so it wakes your wife and she dumps water on you from the upstairs window. If nothing else, that will scare away the opossum.

Or get it to freeze in place.

Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer/editor and a humor columnist for Inyan, as well as a published author. He can be contacted through Inyan.

Caution: Taking the ideas and halachos expressed in this article literally can be hazardous to your health.

(Inyan magazine, Sukkos Edition, page 64)

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