Shlomo Ezagui

Sukkot. Happiness & Joy.

When Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak was still a little boy in Russia, he fell asleep in one of the temporary huts, Sukkot, that we live in for the seven days after Yom Kippur. It was cold, and his mother came in to bring him back into the house. The little boy’s father, Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber, said to his mother, “Let him remain here in the Sukkah,” but the boy’s mother said, “It is cold in here, and he could get sick.”

The father answered, “He will not catch any colds. When he sleeps [here in the Sukkah] in the company of the learned, he will be warmed, and this warmth will last him for generations to come.”

Rosh Hashanah (according to the strict rule of the Bible) at the beginning of the year, and the Day of Atonement each last one day. These are serious days of meditation, introspection, and judgment. However, the period we are instructed to eat and live in the Sukkah is seven days in length (in Israel, according to the Bible), and the Bible tells us no less than THREE times to be joyous!

God wants us to be happy and joyous much more than He wants us to fast and be serious. “Serve God in Joy, come before Him in song”. “Because you did not serve God in joy, all these difficult things come upon you.”

During this holiday, when the Temple was still standing in Jerusalem, there was a grand celebration recorded in the Talmud. “Whoever did not see this celebration never saw true and real joy in their lives.” The root of this Joy came from the practice of pouring not only wine on the altar but also water.

Wine and water represent two very different approaches to serving God. Wine has a distinctive taste and is enjoyed differently by each person according to his or her unique palate and appreciation for the drink. This represents serving God with logic and rational thinking, each person according to their specific individual unique level of appreciation.

Water, on the other hand, has no taste. It is the same for everyone. This represents the service of God that comes from dedicating and committing oneself totally, beyond understanding or logic. This is a service of God where the self is set aside. It goes beyond anything personal.
At first, this method (water) seems dry and subservient, whereas a logical understanding of how one derives benefit from the service (wine) would seem to have more excellent personal value and enjoyment.

However, we see that great Joy does not come as a result of the pouring of the wine that was performed all year long, but rather from the pouring and the service of the water.

Real, deep, and powerful Joy results from an experience beyond expectations or understanding. That is why it moves a person beyond their limitations. We see that when someone is totally overwhelmed with Joy, they will jump, sing, talk, and bubble over with energy, even if usually this behavior is not in their nature.

For one to achieve a joy that carries them beyond their regular self, the cause of such Joy must also be beyond personal limitations. If it all makes sense, my happiness will be contained within my boundaries.

When I have, however, given of myself totally for something worthwhile and the dedication is beyond the confines of logic, that is when I take on a limitless sense of existence. There, one will experience real joy, personal fulfillment, AND happiness.

Happiness is the expansion of self. Happiness expands our boundaries. Joy is the dissolution of self. Barriers of skin and bone disappear, and the self is forgotten. Total self-abnegation brings intense and profound Joy. Happiness is good; Joy is a deeper, richer experience.

When we connect (as in the performance of a Mitzva while enjoying a meal with family and friends, especially in a Sukkah in the embrace and in the shadow of God) through the spirit of Godliness, we communicate in a flow of total and inexplicable warmth. There is exhilaration in the air. Even in a cold Sukkah inhabited by a sleeping child, the energy is contagious and will remain in his being for generations to come.

Chapter 160

About the Author
Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui is an author and lecturer. "A Spiritual Soul Book" ( & "Maimonides Advice for the 21st Century" ( In 1987, Rabbi Ezagui opened the first Chabad Center in Palm Beach County, Florida, and the first Orthodox Synagogue on the island of Palm Beach, Florida.
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