When is one required to eat, sleep and sit in the Sukkah?
On Erev Sukkos one should not eat more than a kebeitzah (54 grams) of bread from the tenth halachic hour of the day onwards, in order to be able to eat with a good appetite in the sukkah in the evening. However, one may eat fruit and vegetables or meat or fish – even if it is more than a kabeitzah – so long as he does not become full up from this.
Being In The Sukkah
When making Kiddush in the sukkah, one first makes the leshev basukkah brachah and then shehecheyanu. When saying shehecheyanu one should have in mind the Yom Tov as well as the mitzvah to sit in the sukkah.
There is a Torah obligation to eat bread in the sukkah on the first night of Sukkos. Ideally one should eat at least a kabeitzah, but if this is difficult one may eat a kezayis (27 grams) of bread within four minutes (kedei achilas pras). Some Poskim rule that one has up to seven and a half minutes to eat the kezayis. It is proper to eat this bread without accompanying salads or dips. When eating this bread one should have in mind that he is performing the Torah mitzvah of “in huts you shall dwell for seven days.” One should also have in mind that he is sitting in the sukkah as a remembrance of the clouds of glory with which Hashem protected the Jewish People when they left Egypt, keeping the climate pleasant for them.
If one is in the middle of a meal in the sukkah one may not eat anything at all outside the sukkah, nor may he even drink water outside the sukkah. Even if he is chewing his food as he exits the sukkah, he should stop chewing until he returns to the sukkah.
If one wishes to start his meal in one sukkah and continue or finish it in a different sukkah, he should have in mind the second sukkah when he makes the leshev basukkah brachah. If he forgot to have it in mind, nevertheless he should not make a new brachah at the second sukkah. Still, it would be better in such a case to bench in the first sukkah before leaving to the next sukkah.
During benching one must add ya’aleh veyavo, and if one forgot to add it on the first night he must repeat the whole birkas hamazon. However, if one forgot to add it on any other occasion during Sukkos he would not have to repeat benching. If one is unsure if he mentioned ya’aleh veyavo, he does not have to repeat benching even on the first night of Sukkos. Women do not repeat benching even if they know they forgot ya’aleh veyavo.
One is required to eat, drink and sleep in the sukkah, although this is not an absolute requirement in every case. For example, one must eat in the sukkah only if one is eating at least a kabeitzah of bread, baked goods or a cooked dish containing one of the five types of grain, such as pasta and the like. The Poskim debate whether one has to make the leshev basukkah brachah if one eats mezonos without sitting down to a formal meal in the sukkah. The minhag is indeed to make a brachah, and it is proper to sit in the sukkah afterwards for a while – having in mind both his eating and his staying in the sukkah when making the brachah.
One is required to sleep in the sukkah, even if it is a brief nap. However, a very particular person who will easily catch cold if he sleeps in the sukkah is not required to sleep there. It is proper for one to spend all of his time in the sukkah, especially on Shabbos and Yom Tov. If one’s wife is in a weakened state (for example, if she has just given birth), and they have young children who wake up at night and cry, and it is necessary to go to them at night to comfort them – if he will not know when to go to them at night as a result of sleeping in the sukkah, he may sleep in the house to enable him to care for his children.
If one is planning to eat at least a kabeitzah of bread or baked goods, one must make the leshev basukkah brachah. If one forgot to make the brachah, he should still make it so long as he has not finished his meal yet – even if he has finished the main course and is just having dessert or a drink.
Since the sukkah is a very holy place, it is proper to limit one’s profane speech inside the sukkah.
Children who have reached the age of chinuch (generally around 5 or 6 years old) are rabbinically required to sit in the sukkah, in order to teach them the mitzvos.