“מצווה גדולה להיות בשמחה — It is a Great Mitzvah to be Happy”
It seems like a big ask this year.
With all of the change and uncertainty looming over the minds and hearts of individuals all around the world, rejoicing and rest seem like they should be last on the agenda. However, G!dly time and plans say otherwise as we have now been commanded to dedicate ourselves, our time and space to ultimate jubilation. How can we? Although we take a break from “Zoom” which may be a blessing within itself, we actually are doing the most beautiful “Zoom” that has been given to us. We are zooming into our inner truths, our interpersonal relationships with those closest to us and ultimately, with G!d.
Along with the title of “Season of our Rejoicing,” Sukkot is additionally associated with the abundance of fruit and grain which consequently is why we are commanded to bask in our blessings. Lao Tzu says, “Nothing in nature is rushed, yet everything is accomplished,” The celebration of harvest should offer deep lessons to our times required to grow and flourish. “The fruits of our labor,” whether that be in the literal sense of enjoying our delicious meal placed on our table, or maybe through a more symbolic approach; the fruit of our spiritual and emotional labor that we’ve invested to become the individuals we are today.
Rav Shlomo Katz beautifully equates the time of Rosh Chodesh Elul to Yom Kippur as one enters and exits the mikvah. After immersing ourselves in prayer, in introspection and in reflection we exit renewed. Halachically, we only are considered “Tahor” (Pure) once we’ve fully left the mikvah, which offers bountiful opportunity in the place we are in now, after Yom Kippur both at an individual and national level.
The Sefat HaEmet, a deeply insightful Rav from the early Chassidic dynasty offers a beautiful message connecting to the Haftorah of Sukkot Torah reading. He focuses on the difference between how Moshe receives verses how the nation of Bnei Yisrael receives the intricate beauty that is Torah. As we know, Moshe was individually and directly learning Torah on Har Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights while Bnei Yisrael learned the Torah in a more distilled, slower process. The question is, why did there need to be a divide between Am Yisrael and Moshe, couldn’t they have all just had a “Chaburah” (learning group) together?
The Sefat HaEmet answers his question beautifully by stating that the individuals of Bnei Yisrael were not yet ready to hear the Torah that Moshe was hearing directly from Hashem. However it was the integral time that granted Moshe the blessing and opportunity to give as well as the period of growth and anticipation that allowed Bnei Yisrael to be equally ready to receive. The Sefat HaEmet equates this relationship between Moshe and Bnei Yisrael to that of a soul with many different layers and intricacies and just as higher levels of our soul can exist in Shamayim (heaven) simultaneously as our lower levels exist within this realm. This relationship, trifecta of Hashem, Moshe and Bnei Yisrael–is the essence of unity.
Unity is something worth celebrating…but how can we celebrate unity if we aren’t technically, fully together?
Spending Sukkot distant from our community, friends and even some family casts such a deep pain and dread for the holiday season, so again we must ask, how can we find joy?
The answer is in the print.
It was the blessing of the 40 days and 40 nights that catalyzed our national ability to accept the light of Torah. There are 40 days (and nights) between Rosh Chodesh Elul and Yom Kippur. 40 days we just spent immersed, but now we are out and ready. We are now in a place of pristine connection and pulsing anticipation for Geulah, both on individual and national levels.
It is this newfound purpose and direction that allows us to access to the deepest joy there is; the ultimate joy of preparedness to receive. Let’s not be discouraged if we see we are 41 days past and the answers haven’t come. We are just like the young child waiting in the Makolet line happily and patiently with their ice cream or Doritos in hand. We already have the gifts in our hand; the Torah, our community, our experiences and with all of the hardships this last year brought, we enter this year with a refined sense of celebration.
Rav Yonny Sack beautifully articulates this concept:
“Our hard times don’t bring us lower, they take us deeper.”
With the understanding that our circumstances are different and difficult and that we are in a waiting period looking up and begging for answers–we have a monumental opportunity to fully prepare ourselves to welcome redemption, to welcome true simcha and celebration.
May our merits and efforts on good and bad days offer themselves in an abundance to Hashem and with that bring the coming of Mashiach, a celebration and healing of all.
Wishing you all a healthy, happy, holy and fulfilling year!
Chag Sameach, it’s a big mitzva!