Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

11 Tishrei 5766 - October 15, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Seeking Simchah on Succos

When some non-Jewish people enjoy someone else's company, they express their approval by suggesting that the person would make a good drinking buddy, and they would like to go out for a night on the town and hit the bars with them sometime.

The Jewish concept of simchah and the non-Jewish concept of having a good time are quite different, and simchah is one of the main aspects of Succos. In our state of golus we have to work hard to fully understand what this concept of simchah is. We can only work with what remains with us in our current state, without the Beis Hamikdosh, mired in our current state of shibud malchuyos where we have so many distractions. Even for those who knew exactly what they were seeking on Succos, the Rambam says, "The simchah that man achieves in doing a mitzvah and in loving Hashem Who commanded it, is a great labor (avodoh)" (Rambam, Hilchos Lulav 8:15).

The simchah that is found in a mitzvah is very much a part of this world, but it includes an essential spiritual component. The physical world is fleeting. Pure physical pleasures are temporary and leave the soul untouched and empty.

But the body and its world is very much a part of us and they are not ignored in Torah life. The simchah of Succos engages every part of a person, and speaks to everyone.

There is meat and wine on yom tov that is part of the simchah — but this is not the eating and drinking of a glutton. Rather it is ideally meat that is a product of one of the most sublime processes available to man: bringing a korbon in the Beis Hamikdosh.

Contributing to our simchah even today are the main mitzvos of the day: succah and lulav. These can be understood and enjoyed as celebrations of the bounty of the harvest — but they also have deeper spiritual dimensions.

They involve physical actions, but they also have a social aspect. Lulav is part of the Hallel that we say with the community, celebrating Hashem's salvation for us in the past and anticipating the Geulah in the future. Succah is where the family itself lives for a week, "We eat and drink and sleep in the Succah all seven days, day and night" (Hilchos Succah 6:6).

The simchah of Succos is part of the month of Tishrei. As HaRav Shamshon Rafael Hirsch points out (Collected Writings, "Tishri III" p. 85) there is only one day of Rosh Hashonoh specified in the Torah and only one day of Yom Kippur. But the simchah of Succos lasts for seven days.

The experiences of the first part of the month, of Rosh Hashonoh and Yom Kippur, are in part preparation for the final simchah of Succos. Accepting Hashem as our King, accepting responsibility for our actions and in consequence seeking atonement where it is necessary, are the prelude to the simchah of Succos.

We do not seek cathartic release or, chas vesholom, abandonment to our animal nature. We do not seek to lose our inhibitions through drink or just to gratify our senses. Nor do we seek to negate this world or abandon it.

We seek — and can achieve — fulfillment of all aspects of our beings: the physical and the spiritual. We seek — and can achieve — the pleasure that comes from having everything as it was meant to be, and the joy that comes from linking our limited selves with the bliss of eternity.

"For all time and for all generations this is G-d's eternal truth: Joy, the joy of earthly life, does not flee from G-d's countenance; instead hasimchah beme'ono — it is a joy that resides with Him. Both seriousness and joy have their place in G-d's presence. Seriousness will find its bloom and perfection in joy, and G-d's truth will lead to the lasting and fulfilling joy on earth" (Ibid.).

This is what we seek on Succos — and we can find it if we work hard.

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.