Jeffrey Levine
CFO | Seeking a just world I Author

Sukkot — a time for Joy and Reflection

Sukkot (also known as Succoth, Sukkos, Feast of Booths or Feast of Tabernacles), is a Jewish festival that occurs in autumn on the 15th day of the month of Tishrei.

In this blog, I share teachings about Simcha (Joy, Happiness), some meditations From Reb Shlomo when waving the 4 species, and a story about being humble.

I would like to pose a question – which is harder?  Fasting on Yom Kippur or being Happy. I would like to suggest that being Happy is a harder challenge, especially if you sensitive to the needs and suffering of others. For example, I read recently that some 1.3 billion people live in multidimensional poverty, which is almost a quarter of the population of the 104 countries of which half are children. So, how can one have Simcha with so much suffering in the world? This is just example – Yet we are commanded to have Simcha. On Sukkot we leave the comforts of our home, rebuild our homes (lives). It is a time of reflection, to reflect on all the good that God has given us, all the good in our in our lives even in our frail and broken world. That is why we read the book of Kohelet which reflects both on the Simcha and the Futility of Life.

The Sukkah is our healthy and joyous address!

As is well known, Sukkos is known as  זמן שמחתנו Zman Simchateinu – the Season of Our Joy. We are ‘commanded’ to be b’simcha! ושמחת בחגך “V’SAMACHTA B’CHAGECHA … V’HA-YEETAH ACH SAMEY-ACH – And you shall rejoice on your holiday … and you shall be entirely joyous. Devarim 16:14-15.

Joy is a critical element in ‘avodat Hashem’- the service of Hashem. The Rabbis state in the Talmud Brachot (30b-31a) אין עומדים להתפלל לא מתוך עצבות ולא מתוך עצלות… אלא מתוך שמחה של מצוה – one must pray with the joy of doing a mitzvah.

Reb Shlomo זצ”ל said “If you are not filled with joy, you are not one with G-d.”

Sukkot is the headquarters of joy for the whole year- Sukkot infuses us with ‘simcha’ for the coming year- open your heart to receive it. Right now, you can ‘stock up’ on true joy and joy consciousness. And throughout the year you can ‘return’ to your Sukkah and draw from its wellsprings of joy.

Rebbe Nachman says that we need to pray for joy, at every moment, for it truly is a gift from heaven.

Well over ten years ago, a wonderful 13 years old girl had a severe emotional breakdown. She had to remain in a special unit for several weeks. Her parents were at a loss and were quite pained for their daughter and it caused them a lot of sadness. In addition to getting all the professional help they could, they also met with their Rabbi, who told them, “your job now is to keep on being b’Simcha- you must keep on being filled with joy.”

When the girl’s father told me this story, he told me that at fir,st he thought that the rabbi was out of his mind. Nevertheless, he and his wife decided that they would listen to his advice, and so they did. Then he said, “Sholom, I must tell you the rabbi’s advice was the best advice that we ever got over all these years. Eventually, I came to understand why it was so important that we stay happy. That is what our daughter needed most of all from her mother and father. She needed “a healthy address” to look forward to. She needed to see that though we must deal with some very harsh things, there is always a positive and joyous side to life.”

Almost everyone I know has very fond and happy Sukkah memories. Here in Yerushalayim many come to just walk around and drop into the many Sukkot lining the streets. You can see the joy and happiness on their faces.

In the Sukkah you get a new perspective on life, a deeper understanding of what is really important in life. Joy is beyond materialism. You realize that there is beauty and joy in sincere friendship and love – and that we can achieve it. The Sukkah is our healthy and joyous address! Excerpted from Rav Shlomo Brodt’s z”l Sukkot Dvar Torah from 2016


Some meditations about waiving the 4 species;

 *נטילת לולב*
The following is adapted from Rabbi Carlebach’s teachings:

*דרום – South*
*ימין – Right*
First face right. Right in Kabbalah signifies the attribute of hesed, kindness, mercy, overwhelming beneficence. It’s a reminder of Abraham, master of hospitality. Facing right, slowly shaking the lulav in and out three times, think about all the hesed, the giving in your life, and pray to God to perfect it. Do you find it too hard to be generous? Or are you suffering from an excess of generosity, of kindness, of love? “We don’t know when to love and how to love and we always put so many borders inthe wrong place,” explained Rabbi Carlebach. Facing right, pray for God to grant you the proper measure of hesed.

*צפון – North*
*שמאל – Left*
Then face left. Left in Kabbalah is gevurah – strength, strict judgment, limits. Gevurah is Isaac – bound for sacrifice on Mount Moriah, unflinching, accepting of judgment. Take this opportunity to think of the limits, the judgments in your life. Are your circumstances too confining? Do you need more boundaries, or fewer? Do you need more strength? This is an opportunity to invite God to help you fix the limits in your life.

*מזרח – East*
Next, face straight ahead: tiferet, or beauty. This is the balance, where the beneficence and the boundaries are in their proper proportions. It is Jacob, it is the middle course.

*מעלה – upwards*
Then, look up. Can you connect with God? What’s the holiness you need in your life? How high can you rise this year?
Then, aim down.

*מטה – downwards*
This is about groundedness, about your foundations. And it’s about your ability to find the buried treasures, under your feet; the truths buried in the dirt.

*מערב – West*
The essence of repentance is being able to go back and fix your past. This is a prayer that your past be fixed by your coming to terms with it.

Reb Shlomo’s Torah
Cry Over Every Stitch

Transcribed for Connections by Miriam Rubinoff
Brooklyn, Elul 5748

The heilige Porisover Rebbe had a chassid, a tailor who made just enough for bread and herring. A nobleman came to the tailor’s shop, took a liking to him, and appointed him his tailor. When you are a tailor of a nobleman, you don’t need a Rebbe and you don’t eat bread and herring anymore. He kept away from Yidden, kept his nose in the air, and was a very outstanding tailor.

One day, the nobleman came with material from Paris, and he said to the tailor, “ This is the best material I have eve bought, and I want you to make me a suit like you never made before.” The tailor thought, “ I am the best tailor in the world. I once was a chassidisher Yid; all I had was bread and herring, and now, thank G-d, I have bagels and lox.”

He made the suit, and it really was beautiful. He brought it to the nobleman, who put it on and couldn’t get it off fast enough. He yelled at the tailor, “This is the most terrible suit I ever wore.” Cursing him, he took out his pistol and said, “If I ever see you again, I’m going to kill you,” and he took the suit and threw it out of the window. The tailor picked it up and ran for his like, thinking it’s time to the Rebbe again.

He said to the heilige Porisover, “Rebbe, believe me, it’s a beautiful suit. What did I do wrong?” The heilige Porisover replied, “i’ll tell you what. Undo the suit, and then put it together the same way. Just put it together, and tomorrow night take it to the nobleman, and G-d be with you.”

The tailor was up all night, crying over every stitch. The next day, he brought it to the nobleman and said, “Please give me just one more chance.” The nobleman put it on and said, “This is the masterpiece of the world. I never had such a suit. You outdid yourself.” The tailor went back to the Rebbe, “Rebbe what’s going on?”

The Rebbe said, “I want you to know, arrogance smells so bad. Even for a low person like the nobleman, the smell was so bad he could not stand it. There was no other way; you had to start all over again. This time, when you put the suit together, you cried over every stitch, all your arrogance was gone and you pleaded: “Master of the World, have compassion on me. I have a wife and children. Please G-d let the suit be beautiful.” And anything you do with great humility, with tears and with prayers, is so beautiful, so good”

You know, friends, once a year the Ribono Shel Olam tells us, take everything apart and put it together again. On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, when you do teshuva, you take everything apart. The whole world is falling apart, everything is wrong. And then comes Succos. I build the Succah and put my life together again. But do you know what I do over every stitch? I yell, “Master of the World, this is the best I can do for You, but i’m begging You help us.” And on Simchas Torah, I put on this new suit and go back to my house. Suddenly I realize, the world is so beautiful; there is no day when there is more humility in the world, for this is Moshe Rabeinu’s day.

On Simchas Torah, every Jew dances with children and the biggest Rosh Yeshiva dances with Moishele the water carrier, and it’s clear to all: Maybe Mosishele knows the Torah better than I do. Maybe the way I put my sefer together was with a little bit of arrogance, and this smells so bad. So on Simchas Torah, everybody is taking the sefer apart and putting it together again- and gevalt, what a Torah it is.

About the Author
Jeffrey is a CFO | Seeking a just world I Author -living in Jerusalem. He is a young grandfather who has five kids and seven grandchildren. Jeffrey is promoting a vision for a better and fairer world through and is the author of Upgrading ESG - How Business can thrive in the age of Sustainability
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