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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

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Rabbi takes Sukkot to dizzying heights

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The inside of Rabbi Blum’s sukkah

TORONTO — A Toronto rabbi will be marking 25 years celebrating Sukkot 12 storeys above the ground.

Rabbi Catriel Blum will once again enjoy the holiday in his sukkah, located on the balcony of his top-floor apartment at 2900 Bathurst St., south of Lawrence Avenue.

“I tell people it’s like eating on the CN Tower, except the food is kosher,” he jokes.

He says he can see for almost 50 kilometres – as far as Pickering and Richmond Hill – and with binoculars, he can glimpse the Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls.

He has built the sukkah, which he says can comfortably fit four, every year for the past 25 years.

It takes Rabbi Blum roughly 30 hours to put together the plywood and bolts that hold the structure together, so he begins the process about a month before Rosh Hashanah.

He says he has used the same wood for all 25 years.

Although the construction has remained the same, some things have changed. His sukkah now boasts venetian blinds, a stereo system and a Wi-Fi connection.

He has mastered the art of building a tough sukkah, and says he has never had one fall.

The only problem is the wind, which he describes as almost hurricane-like.

“The wind downstairs is not the wind upstairs,” he says. “The sukkah has to be built stronger than any house on the ground.”

The sukkah’s frame is made of two-by-fours that are screwed into the building and the balcony railing. Altogether, there are 400 screws.

It needs to be strong, Rabbi Blum says, “because if anything falls off, it falls onto Bathurst Street.”

He recalls one Sukkot 24 years ago when somebody ran to him in shul to let him know that his sukkah was falling down. There was wood all over Bathurst Street – but it wasn’t from his sukkah.

The biggest change he’s noticed over the past several decades is the weather. He recalls one time 40 years ago when he found refuge from the snow in a sukkah.

Nowadays, he jokes, he needs an air conditioner in his structure – although he has no plans to install one, given that the holiday is only eight days long.

Despite the lack of air conditioning, Rabbi Blum says he’s looking forward to spending the holiday in what may be the highest sukkah in the city.

“It’s really a real thrill to be in there,” he says.

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