These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

[PCJE Dvar Torah] Sukkot: A Time for Rejoicing

Posted on October 7, 2014 by Daniella Adler

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daIn Rambam’s Laws of Sukkot 8:12, he writes,“Even though it is a mitzvah to rejoice on all the festivals, there was an additional celebration in the Temple on the festival of Sukkot, as [Leviticus 23:40] commands: “And you shall rejoice before God, your Lord, for seven days.”

אף על פי שכל המועדות מצוה לשמוח בהן, בחג הסוכות היתה שם במקדש שמחה יתירה שנאמר +ויקרא כ”ג+ ושמחתם לפני ה’ אלהיכם שבעת ימים, וכיצד היו עושין ערב יום טוב הראשון היו מתקנין במקדש מקום לנשים מלמעלה ולאנשים מלמטה כדי שלא יתערבו אלו עם אלו, ומתחילין לשמוח ממוצאי יום טוב הראשון, וכן בכל יום ויום מימי חולו של מועד מתחילין מאחר שיקריבו תמיד של בין הערבים לשמוח שאר היום עם כל הלילה.

The holiday of Sukkot is known within Rabbinic literature and liturgy as “זמן שמחתנו”: “the season of our rejoicing”. As we have just emerged from a time of deep personal reflection and introspection over the course of the ימים נוראים (Days of Awe) and יום כיפור (Yom Kippur), it is fitting that we now transition into a mode of happiness and rejoicing. It is only through deep reflection that we can cultivate and prepare for a true feeling of happiness — happiness and rejoicing which has purpose, commitment, and fulfillment.

It is a time for each of us to start our year on a positive note, filled with joy and personal contentment, where we are committed to the choices we make. Our joy needs to have כונה (intentionality). In this time of Sukkot, when we are dwelling in temporary homes, we have the opportunity to see the bigger picture. Life is impermanent. We can easily become too comfortable and lose our sense of direction and purpose. Sukkot is making us stop and recognize the bounty and blessings of our lives: that is true happiness. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said regarding Sukkot, “Joy comes from a roof open to heaven, a door open to guests and a heart open to thanksgiving.”

As we move forward this year at Pardes we should all think about what our rejoicing will look like. As we enter the long haul, with winter’s rainy season around the corner, we will have the challenge of staying motivated and engaged. It is therefore in this context that we need to cultivate a mode of happiness. What are our choices? What are our commitments? How can we bring כונה to all the we do? How can each of us achieve a meaningful, purposeful happiness this year?

!חג שמח