Torah Fax

Friday, October 10, 2003 - 14 Tishrei, 5764

Candle Lighting Time (10/10): 6:05 PM
Candle Lighting Time* (10/11): after 7:03 PM

Yom Tov ends (10/12): 7:02 PM
* from a pre-existing flame

Gathering It In

Sukkot is one of the three joyous pilgrimage Holidays along with Passover and Shavuot. Yet Sukkot is the only one of these Biblical Holidays that is designated as "Zman Simchateinu-the Season of our Rejoicing."  On the face of it, one would have argued for Passover as the season of rejoicing since it was when we were granted freedom. Some would have argued that Shavuot, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah, is  the most joyous holiday since it is when we really became a free nation, in the spiritual sense of the word. 

Yet, Sukkot, the festival that commemorates the sojourn of the Jewish nation in the desert for forty years, is the one Holiday that is so designated. What is it about Sukkot that makes it more joyous than any other Biblical Holiday?

On the surface the explanation is that Sukkot is also an agricultural celebration. In the Torah it is called Chag Ha'asif-The Festival of Ingathering, at which time people in Israel would bring all of that year's harvest into their homes. And while this explanation is a valid one, there is still a need to understand what the relationship is between the physical cause of celebration-the ingathering of the produce-with the spiritual nature of the Holiday.

To understand the connection between the ingathering aspect of Sukkot and the dwelling in the Sukkah, and to understand why Sukkot specifically is the Season of Rejoicing, there is a need to answer another basic question: Why do we observe the commemoration of the Jewish people dwelling in booths at this particular time of year? Unlike Passover and Shavuot that are anniversaries of the pivotal events of the exodus and the giving of the Torah, the Festival of Sukkot is not an anniversary. The key to answering all of these questions is to view Sukkot in the context of the preceding Holidays of  Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. During these Days of Awe, the Jewish people generate all of their "spiritual produce." It is during the Festival of Sukkot that we gather in this spiritual yield into our lives.  The covering of the Sukkah-known in Hebrew as Schach-is symbolic of the Divine energies that envelop us. However, these Divine energies were around before; we just did not have the ability to feel their effects until the Ingathering Holiday of Sukkot.

We can now appreciate the reason for the intense joy on this Festival. True joy is experienced only when there is a spiritual component to it. Any other form of happiness is more like a drug that provides one with a fleeting sense of satisfaction.  In truth, joy that is generated by a physical cause is not only fleeting, it is also not real even when it is experienced. True joy is defined by the degree to which our inner-G‑dly-self is allowed to surface. When we enjoy something material, the soul-because of its closeness to the body-is led to believe that is has just been given something it craves. In a way, when we experience a purely material pleasure, we are teasing the soul. After a few moments, when the soul realizes that the pleasure was not of a spiritual nature, the soul feels a letdown and the fleeting sensation of pleasure turns into a downer. We then need a new and stronger dose of material pleasure to induce the same feeling.

However, when the soul gets a dose of spiritual pleasure, the soul is energized and revels in its newly discovered spiritual energy. That energy is then translated into a profound sense of joy and satisfaction.

There is, however, one "drawback" when it comes to spiritual joy. A person who is in possession of a very materialistic body, will not feel the soul's sense of joy. And even a more refined individual will have to make an effort to tap into and appreciate the soul's euphoria. When do we feel the joy in the most real and palpable way? It is when the material and spiritual go hand in hand.

This is precisely what Sukkot is all about. It is when the spiritual energies that we've generated in mega doses during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur parallel the intense joy and satisfaction at having gathered in all of our material goods. Here the body and soul experience harmoniously the maximum sense of happiness.

Sukkot is thus understandably the ultimate Season of Rejoicing. And this perhaps is also alluded to in the possessive and plural usage-the Season of our rejoicing-not just the "season of rejoicing." It is the possessive and complementary nature of the rejoicing of both our body and our soul. This is also why the Messianic Age is noted for its intense sense of joy. Indeed, the word Moshiach in Hebrew rearranged forms the word yismach-he shall rejoice: The Messianic Age is when we will experience the greatest spiritual energy. However, what makes that age truly extraordinary in terms of the joy is that the spiritual energy felt by the soul will coincide with the incredible physical joy that we will experience as well. Moreover, in the Messianic Age we will feel the complementary nature of these two dimensions of joy, guaranteeing us a perpetual Zman Simchateinu-Season of our rejoicing. Have a Happy Sukkot!  

Moshiach Matters

“Rabbi Yishmael taught: In the merit of three things, one of which is the Mitzvah of Lulav, we will merit three things, the destruction of (the evil nature of) our enemies, the building of the Third Temple and the name of Moshiach.” (Talmud, Pesachim, 5A)

Moshiach - It's a Jewish issue. For more info, visit

© 2001 - 2005 Chabad of the West Side