Regarding the festival of Sukkot ( feast of tabernacles) we read the following;And you shall take for yourselves on the first day, the fruit of the hadar tree, date palm fronds, a branch of a braided tree, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before Hashem your G-d for a seven day period.( Leviticus 23:40)
Hashem is saying “and you shall rejoice before Hashem your G-d for a seven day period”. Is that a command? Is Hashem commanding us to enter into Joy as if it is something that is so easy to achieve. Or is He telling us a fact or truth of reality..” you will rejoice on sukkot. That too needs explanation.
In Deuteronomy we read ;And you shall rejoice in your Festival-you, and your son, and your daughter, and your manservant, and your maidservant, and the Levite, and the stranger, and the orphan, and the widow, who are within your cities….and you will only be happy.( Deuteronomy 16 :14-15)
The concept of living in Joy is critical in Torah thinking.The Torah describes the difficulties that will be experienced by the people “because you did not serve Hashem, your G-d, with happiness and with gladness of heart, when [you had an] most of everything ( Rov Kol) ( Deuteronomy 28:47).
When the farmer brings his BIKURIM ( first fruits ) to the Temple we read ;“And now, behold, I have brought the first of the fruit of the ground which you, O Lord, have given to me.” Then, you shall lay it before Hashem, your G-d, and prostrate yourself before Hashem, your G-d. Then, you shall rejoice with all the good that Hashem, your G-d, has granted you and your household you, the Levite, and the stranger who is among you”.(Deuteronomy 26: 10-11)
The Torah does not tell us that then “you should rejoice “but rather, “ you shall rejoice”.
What would lead to such a dramatic and unwavering statement? What is the secret of this rejoicing?
The festival of Sukkot teaches us the secret.During the days of Elul and Tishrei each individual soul undergoes a spiritual voyage that is unparalleled in its intensity and awesome in its implications.
It is in the month of Elul that we begin again the courtship with the Beloved, The letters of Elul standing for the first letters of the verse ” Ani Ledodi VeDodui Lee-I Am My Beloved’s and my Beloved is Mine. The soul clothed in the physicality of reality then enters into the day of Judgment .Yet on this day the focus seems not to be on the judgment but rather on the simple and awesome act of declaring G-d to be Ruler and Majesty of the earth. Only after comprehending the fact of that Rulership can the soul move on through the intensity and supreme focus of the ten days of repentance.
Eventually on the Day of Atonement the soul attempts to disconnect from the physicality of his existence .A day that is spent attempting to mirror the existence of angels. We desist from actions that speak of our physical existence, eating , washing ourselves, the wearing of comfortable shoes and intimate relationships between husband and wife. All this is done in order to remove the spiritual impediments that stand in the way of our relationship with our Creator. Eliminating the sins that impede the intimacy of true connection with the Divine. Yet the process of that purifying and self-inspection leaves our hearts and souls spiritually content and yet they are somewhat felt as seared and broken vessels.
The only way to mend a seared and fractured heart is with Joy.
The feast of Sukkoth is the antidote as it is the Feast of Joy. ”VaHayitem Ach Sameach- and you shalt be altogether joyful” (Deuteronomy 16:15)
G-d is not commanding us to be happy. G-d is telling us that we will be!
In Deuteronomy we readAnd now, O Israel, what does Hashem, your G-d ask of you? Only to fear Hashem, your G-d, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, and to worship Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart and with all your soul.”(Ibid 10:12-13)
When G-d ”asks “ for our love , what He is doing is empowering us with the sense that our love is important and that our essence is critical in the Divine plan. To be told by G-d that he loves us would be important but G-d seemed to determine that His empowerment of us is critical for His plan of Destiny. It is important to know that we are loved by Hashem but it is dramatically more crucial to know that our love and our obedience is critical to His plan.
So Sukkot offers us that opportunityWhat then is the greatest Joy? It is the ability to give to one’s true beloved what it is that beloved truly desires. After leaving the intensity of G-d’s very throne room on Yom Kippur we are then told what our Beloved’s desires are.“And ye shall take you on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm- trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and ye shall rejoice before Hashem your G-d seven days. And ye shall keep it a feast unto Hashem seven days in the year; it is a statute for ever in your generations; ye shall keep it in the seventh month. Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are home-born in Israel shall dwell in booths; that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am Hashem your G-d. And Moses declared unto the children of Israel the appointed seasons of Hashem. (Leviticus 23:40-44 )
Throughout the country even in the midst of Lockdown and Covid fears people are anxiously looking for the perfect gift to bring to their BELOVED. A Lulav branch with willow and Myrtle branches and an etrog ( citron fruit).
One cannot describe the Joy of bringing those gifts together “and you shalt be altogether joyful” (Deuteronomy 16:15CHAG SAMEACH
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