Shlomo Ezagui

The Holiday of Sukkot – the Elixir of Joy

The holiday of Sukkot has the unique power of Joy. The Bible repeats THREE times the extraordinary connection this holiday has with joy. Over the holiday, the people enjoyed the grains and fruits harvested, and the atonement received over the holiday of Yom Kippur.

The holy book of Mysticism, the Zohar, says that when entering a Sukkah, we are sitting under the shadow of God. In Hebrew, the word “Sukkah” has a numerical value of 91, and the two names of God that describe God’s attribute of mercy also equal 91. The Holy Baal Shem Tov says when a person spends time in a Sukkah, he is refined and draws a Godly light, similar to when a person is immersed in a Mikvah, a ritual bath.

“Strength and joy are in the place of God.” Where there is God’s perfection, clarity, and fullness, there is complete joy. When one sits in a Sukkah, “God’s right hand embraces [him].” Just as a person embraces his friend out of great love, in a Sukkah, the four walls, which correspond to the four letters of God’s name, and the roof, which is God’s shadow, surround the person from every side with holiness and closeness to God.

Once, a student of the Tzemach Tzedek wrote to tell him that he (the student) had difficulty feeling joy. The Rebbe responded, “Your thoughts, speech, and actions have the greatest influence on your behavior. Therefore, one must think only thoughts that evoke happiness, refrain from speaking about the negative and dispirited things, and behave joyfully even if at the moment one feels he is not up to it.”

The Baal Shem Tov taught that worry and sadness are the sources of all negative energy. One cannot truly serve God without joy. The evil inclination tries to find excuses to make a person sad.

The main goal in getting a person to fall into temptation is not so much the sin as the guilt and sadness that come afterward. Once we identify this strategy of the evil inclination, we can learn to ignore its malicious efforts; the truth is, even when one fails, he can always learn from the experience and get back up again, whereas being sad is a prescription for further failure.

By being focused on all the good in our lives, we can more easily be joyous. Every morning when we wake up, right from the start of the day, we should realize that God has faith in us and has given us another day and another chance.

The Talmud says if a person worries his heart, he should “suppress it.” The word “suppress” in Hebrew can also be interpreted in two other ways, which are methods of getting rid of worrying thoughts. One possible reading is to divert the mind away from worrying thoughts by focusing on more positive thoughts or the solution rather than the problem. A second interpretation is to speak things over with a trusted friend.

Once, after Yom Kippur, the Baal Shem Tov made every effort to accomplish a particular effort but was unsuccessful. The students, happy the fasting was over, broke out in a dance, and the desired objective of their teacher was realized. The Baal Shem Tov said, “What I could not bring about through my prayers and deep concentration, the students were able to accomplish with the power of Simcha — joy.”

The great Rabbis taught that even if it takes pointless activities to spark the engine of joy, as long as we are far from frivolity, this might often break the ice and eventually lend itself to a deeper and more meaningful joy.

Enter the Sukkah and allow God to embrace you, feel the Godly energy envelop you, and come into your life. 

Chapter 208

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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