28 Sep 2023 Chag HaSuccos, Zman Simcha’seinu – the Mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov
Chag Ha’Succos 5784. Chag Ha’Succos is known as Succos, the Festival of Booths; Chag ha’Asif, the Festival of Gathering In (ALL-NEW Chag ha’Asif shiur I presented this week: https://www.yutorah.org/sidebar/lecturedata/1075965/The-Lesser-Known-Name-of-Succos:-Chag-Ha’AsifProfound-Lessons-From-the-Festival-of-Gathering-In); and Zman Simcha’seinu – the Festival of Our Joy.
While Pesach is known as The Time of Our Freedom, Zman Cheiro’seinu, and Shavuos is referred to as Zman Matan Torah’sainu, the Time of The Giving of our Torah, only Succos is called the Time of Our Rejoicing. In regard to Succos, the pasukim tell us:
וּלְקַחְתֶּם לָכֶם בַּיּוֹם הָרִאשׁוֹן, פְּרִי עֵץ הָדָר כַּפֹּת תְּמָרִים, וַעֲנַף עֵץ–עָבֹת, וְעַרְבֵי–נָחַל; וּשְׂמַחְתֶּם, לִפְנֵי ה’ —שִׁבְעַת יָמִים – And you shall take for yourselves on the first day, the fruit of the hadar tree (Esrog), date palm fronds (Lulav), a branch of a braided tree (Hadassim), and willows of the brook (Aravos), and you shall rejoice before Hashem your G-d for a seven day period (Vayikra 23:40).
חַ֧ג הַסֻּכֹּ֛ת תַּֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה לְךָ֖ שִׁבְעַ֣ת יָמִ֑ים – the festival of Succos you shall make for yourself for seven days… וְשָֽׂמַחְתָּ֖ בְּחַגֶּ֑ךָ אַתָּ֨ה וּבִנְךָ֤ וּבִתֶּ֨ךָ֙ וְעַבְדְּךָ֣ וַֽאֲמָתֶ֔ךָ וְהַלֵּוִ֗י וְהַגֵּ֛ר וְהַיָּת֥וֹם וְהָֽאַלְמָנָ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר בִּשְׁעָרֶֽיךָ – And you shall rejoice in your Festival – you, and your son, and your daughter, and your manservant, and your maidservant, and the Levite, and the stranger, and the orphan, and the widow, who are within your cities… וְהָיִ֖יתָ אַ֥ךְ שָׂמֵֽחַ, and you shall be only happy (Devarim 16:13-15).
The mitzvah of simcha is fulfilled with wine and meat (and in Temple times, with the bringing and eating of the festival offerings), and giving gifts to the children and women, wearing nice and new clothing, and partaking of delicious foods in honor of the yomtov (see Sefer HaChinuch mitzvah 488, and Rambam Hilchos Y”T 6:17-18).
For what purpose did Hashem command us to be b’simcha? For the simcha associated with the chag is not mere advice, it is an actual mitzvah d’Oraisa. The Sefer Ha’Chinuch (mitzvah 488) teaches us an incredible and deep insight into the mitzvah of simchas Y”T, and in the Torah’s understanding of human nature and our emotional, psychological and metaphysical well-being.
מִשָּׁרְשֵׁי הַמִּצְוָה. לְפִי שֶׁהָאָדָם נָכוֹן עַל עִנְיָן שֶׁצָּרִיךְ טִבְעוֹ לִשְׂמֹחַ לִפְרָקִים, כְּמוֹ שֶׁהוּא צָרִיךְ אֶל הַמָּזוֹן עַל כָּל פָּנִים, וְאֶל הַמְּנוּחָה וְאֶל הַשֵּׁנָה, וְרָצָה הָאֵ–ל לְזַכּוֹתֵנוּ, אֲנַחְנוּ עַמּוֹ וְצֹאן מַרְעִיתוֹ, וְצִוָּנוּ לַעֲשׂוֹת הַשִּׂמְחָה לִשְׁמוֹ לְמַעַן נִזְכֶּה לְפָנָיו בְּכָל מַעֲשֵׂינוּ. וְהִנֵּה קָבַע לָנוּ זְמַנִּים בַּשָּׁנָה לַמּוֹעֲדִים, לִזְכֹּר בָּהֶם הַנִּסִּים וְהַטּוֹבוֹת אֲשֶׁר גְּמָלָנוּ, וְאָז בָּעִתִּים הָהֵם צִוָּנוּ לְכַלְכֵּל הַחֹמֶר בִּדְבַר הַשִּׂמְחָה הַצְּרִיכָה אֵלָיו, וְיִמָּצֵא לָנוּ תְּרוּפָה גְּדוֹלָה, בִּהְיוֹת שֹׂבַע הַשְּׂמָחוֹת לִשְׁמוֹ וּלְזִכְרוֹ
The root of this mitzvah is because man is designed in such a way that his nature requires rejoicing occasionally, just like it requires nourishment in every instance, and just as it requires rest and sleep. And God wanted to give us — “His people and the flock of His grazing” — merits, so He commanded us to make the rejoicing for His sake, so that we would merit in all of our deeds in front of Him. And behold, He fixed for us times during the year for holidays, to remember upon them the miracles and the goodnesses that He granted us. And He commanded us then at those times to support the physical with something of joy that it needs. And it comes out as a big healing for us, that the satiation of joyous occasions be for His sake and to remember Him.
What a profound and amazing insight! HKB”H, Who created us, understands and knows that just as we have many physical needs, we also have deep spiritual and emotional needs. And just as our physical needs must be met and taken care of – we need to eat, rest, sleep, wash, relieve ourselves, breathe and exercise – we also need to be sure that our emotional needs are taken care of. As our health is a composite of physical, emotional and spiritual – each aspect of ourselves must be nurtured. Hence, since humans need simcha in any event, HKB”H, our Loving Father, wants to make us meritorious – רָצָה הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְזַכּוֹת אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל – and so, He gave us the mitzvah of simchas Y”T. When we rejoice with the intention of serving G-d – and bring joy to others on the chag – the simcha itself becomes a mitzvah.
As the world at large storms around us, the understanding of this mitzvah can infuse us with tremendous chizuk (strengthening). Rejoicing on Succos – despite the confusion [and often seeming insanity] of the world in which we live – enhances our relationship with HKB”H, our emotional health, our connection to others, and our overall well-being.
Rabbi Lord J. Sacks z’l teaches, “What is left when the world we live in looks less like a house than a sukka, open to the wind, the rain and the cold? What remains, other than fear, in a state of radical insecurity? The answer is simcha, joy. For joy does not involve, as does happiness, a judgment about life as a whole. Joy lives in the moment. It asks no questions about tomorrow. It celebrates the power of now. The Talmud says that each Sunday, Shammai, the great sage of the late 2nd Temple period, was already preparing for Shabbat. Hillel, however, lived by a different principle: “Blessed be G-d day by day” (Beitza 16a). Joy blesses G-d day by day. It celebrates the mere fact of being here, no, existing when we might not have existed, inhaling to the full this day, this hour, this eternity-in-a-moment that was not before and will not be again. Joy embraces the contingency of life. It knows that yesterday has gone and tomorrow is unknown. It does not ask what was or or will be. It makes no calculations. It is a state of radical thanksgiving for the gift of being. Even in an age too fraught for happiness, there can still be simcha, joy” (Ceremony & Celebration, p.127).
May we merit to fulfill all the mitzvos and minhagim of Succos with kavanos l’shem Shomayim and with a great measure joy: sitting in the Sukkah, taking the arbah minim, welcoming guests, greeting the Ushpizin, remembering the Exodus from Egypt, and rejoicing in the mitzvah of rejoicing itself – וְשָֽׂמַחְתָּ֖ בְּחַגֶּ֑ךָ, and you shall rejoice on the Festival, וְהָיִ֖יתָ אַ֥ךְ שָׂמֵֽחַ, and you shall be only happy.
בברכת חג סוכות שמח ושבת שלום,