Parshas Emor – The Truest Simcha

In chapter 23 of this week’s parsha, Parshas Emor, the Torah outlines the festivals on the Jewish calendar year.  And G-d spoke to Moshe saying, Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: מוֹעֲדֵי ה’, אֲשֶׁר-תִּקְרְאוּ אֹתָם מִקְרָאֵי קֹדֶשׁ אֵלֶּה הֵם, מוֹעֲדָי – Hashem’s appointed festivals which you shall designate as callings of holiness – these are My appointed festivals (Vayikra 23:1-2).

After commanding us regarding Shabbos (23:3) and the sanctification of the new moon (23:4 with Rashi), the Torah moves on to Chag Ha’Pesach, the Omer offering, Sefiras Ha’Omer, Atzeres, Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur, and the final chag of the year (counting from Nissan), Succos. 

In regard to chag ha’Succos, the pasuk says: וּלְקַחְתֶּ֨ם לָכֶ֜ם בַּיּ֣וֹם הָרִאשׁ֗וֹן פְּרִ֨י עֵ֤ץ הָדָר֙ כַּפֹּ֣ת תְּמָרִ֔ים וַעֲנַ֥ף עֵץ־עָבֹ֖ת וְעַרְבֵי־נָ֑חַל וּשְׂמַחְתֶּ֗ם לִפְנֵ֛י ה’ אלקיכם שִׁבְעַ֥ת יָמִֽים – and you shall take for yourself on the first day, the fruit of a tree of splendor (esrog), fronds of date palms (lulav), and branches of a cordlike tree (hadasim), and brook willows (aravos), and you shall rejoice before Hashem, your G-d, for seven days (23:40). 

Elsewhere, the Torah furthers commands us regarding the mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov as it relates to Succos, and the pasukim say: חַג הַסֻּכֹּת תַּעֲשֶׂה לְךָ, שִׁבְעַת יָמִים – the festival of Succos you shall make for yourself, seven daysוְשָׂמַחְתָּ, בְּחַגֶּךָ: אַתָּה וּבִנְךָ וּבִתֶּךָ, וְעַבְדְּךָ וַאֲמָתֶךָ, וְהַלֵּוִי וְהַגֵּר וְהַיָּתוֹם וְהָאַלְמָנָה, אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ – and you shall rejoice on your festival, you and your son and your daughter, and your manservant and your maidservant, and the Levi and the convert, and the orphan and the widow that is in your city (Devarim 16:13-14).

Once again, in regard to Chag ha’Succos, we see the concept of being b’simcha

What is the connection between “you, your son, your daughter, your man and maidservants” to the second category of people listed who are to be b’simcha, the Levi, convert, orphan and widow?

Chazal teach that Hashem is saying to us: אַרְבָּעָה שֶׁלִּי כְּנֶגֶד אַרְבָּעָה שֶׁלְּךָ, אִם אַתָּה מְשַׂמֵּחַ אֶת שֶׁלִּי אֲנִי מְשַׂמֵּחַ אֶת שֶׁלְּךָ – My four (the Levi, convert, orphan and widow), says Hashem, are corresponding to your four (your children and your servants); If you bring joy to Mine, I will bring joy to yours (Rashi to Devarim 16:11). 

We see, then, that the mitzvah of simchas Yom Tov is not merely to rejoice with the abundant bounty that G-d grants us, nor to rejoice only with our families, reveling in our wealth and the blessings of life.  It is to share our abundance, our good fortune, and our blessings, with those who have less than we do. 

If you bring happiness to Mine, says Hashem, I will reward you and bring happiness to yours.

On the command in our parsha, בַּסֻּכֹּת תֵּשְׁבוּ, שִׁבְעַת יָמִים – and you shall dwell in Succos for seven days (Vayikra 23:42), R’ Dr. Abraham J. Twerski tells over the following story:

The Chassidic master, R’ Pinchas of Koritz (d.1791), was beloved by his community.  His home was constantly buzzing with people.  Some sought advice, some sought his blessing and some simply wished to unburden themselves of their troubles.  But all this distracted him from his Torah study and prayer, and he was greatly distressed by this.  He prayed to G-d, “Let the people not love me.  Let them leave me alone.”

Since a righteous man decrees, and G-d, so to speak, fulfills his wishes, the very next day, his prayer had been answered! 

The next day, no one came to R’ Pinchas’ home.  He had a difficult time finding ten people for a minyan.  However, he was happy because he could pray as long as he wished, and his Torah study was not interrupted.

One day, R’ Pinchas’ wife said to him, “I don’t understand what has happened.  The people in the marketplace seem to be avoiding me.  They always used to talk to me, but now when I try to talk to them, they turn away.” 

R’ Pinchas explained to his wife that he had prayed for solitude, and apparently his wife was given the status along with him.  His wife said that she was not pleased with being shunned, but if this was necessary to allow him to devote all his time to Torah study and prayer, she was willing to accept it.

Every Succos, many people helped R’ Pinchas put up his Succah, but this Succos no one came to help.  He had to put up his Succah singlehandedly, but he was willing to forego the help as long as he was free to devote himself totally to the Divine Service of the festival.

Every Succos, R’ Pinchas’ Succah was full of guests who joined him in the meal, but this Succos he was alone.  R’ Pinchas regularly welcomed the Ushpizin (the seven special Succah guests: Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon, Yosef and Dovid) to his Succah.  This Succos, however, R’ Pinchas saw the patriarch Avraham standing outside his Succah!  He invited Avraham to come in, but Avraham Avinu, the very epitome of acts of gemillus chassadim and hachnasas orchim (welcoming guests) replied, “I do not enter a Succah where there are no guests.”

With this admonishment, R’ Pinchas realized that he had erred.  He understood that as important as Torah study and prayer are, they should not be at the expense of closeness with, and doing kindness for, others.  R’ Pinchas then prayed to have his charm returned to him.  Soon, his home – and Succah – were bustling with guests once again. 

Concludes R’ Dr. Twerski, “The Talmud says that receiving guests surpasses in importance even welcoming the Divine Presence (Shabbos 127a).  Our homes should always be open to others, and we should offer our hospitality to everyone” (Twerski on Chumash, p.250).

Let us strive to always be mesamayach others – on the chagim, and every day of the year –  and in return, may G-d be mesamayach us and our families, with good health and bountiful nachas

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,


1 Comment
  • Sondra Gottesman
    Posted at 13:27h, 07 May

    Beautiful and so relevant to our current situation. Thank you. Shabbat Shalom. Sondra Gottesman