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From Days of Awe to Days of Joy

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg


Library » Holidays » Sukkot » Season of Rejoicing | Subscribe | What is RSS?


The holiday of Sukkot is characterized by two themes: joy and unity. Although we are required to be joyous on all festivals, the joy of Sukkot surpasses the joy of any other holiday. In the holiday prayers, Passover is called “the season of our liberation” and Shavuot is described as “the season of the giving of the Torah.” Sukkot, on the other hand, is identified simply as “the season of our rejoicing.” Indeed our sages tell us that “whoever did not witness the festival of the water-drawing [which was celebrated in the Holy Temple on the nights of Sukkot], has not seen joy in his lifetime!”

Both Mitzvahs associated with this holiday are devoted to increasing Jewish unity. The Sukkah is a place where Jews gather to socialize, eat, drink, and speak words of Torah. Indeed, the Talmud says “All Jews are worthy of occupying the same sukkah.” Everyone eats his own Matzah and drinks his own four cups of wine, but all the occupants of the sukkah share the same walls and sechach (roof of foliage). The Four Species are also an expression of Jewish unity [see What is the significance of the Four Species?].

Unity and joy, are products of the spiritual awakening the Jew is supposed to experience on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur...
Both these qualities, unity and joy, are products of the spiritual awakening the Jew is supposed to experience on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. During the High Holidays the Jew repents, wipes away his sins, and reignites his relationship with G-d. A person who has a clean slate and is focused on his priorities in life is a happy person, because (on the most part) depression stems from feelings of guilt and a lack of direction. Conflict and ill-feelings toward others are usually the outcome of self-centeredness and jealousy of another’s material possessions or position – issues which are not overly pressing for the spiritual person who values most his relationship with G-d.

“The mind controls the heart” is the mantra of Chabad philosophy. This means that not only does the mind have the ability to overrule the heart, but it can actually control the emotions of the heart, dictating to the heart how it should feel. On this holiday of Sukkot we should all commit ourselves to being happy, whether we are in the mood or not. If you need some help perking yourself up, turn on a CD of cheery Jewish music, and think about how special it is to be part of the nation that has the ability to connect to G-d every day, every hour, every minute, through studying His Torah and observing His holy mitzvahs.

And most importantly, be sure to find a Sukkot party where you can join other people as they sing, dance, and say a l’chaim.



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Holidays » Sukkot » Essays

Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
(pl. Matzot). Unleavened bread which is eaten on Passover, especially at the Passover Seder (feast), commemorating the Matzah which the Jews ate upon leaving Egypt. It consists of only flour and water and resembles a wheat cracker.
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.
Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
A seven day autumn festival commemorating the miracle of the Heavenly Clouds which enveloped the Jews while traveling in the desert for forty years. On this holiday we dwell in makeshift booths and shake the Four Species.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
The temporary structure in which we are required to dwell for the duration of the holiday of Sukkot. The Sukkah must have at least three walls and its roof consists of unsecured branches, twigs or wooden slats.
Chabad, an acronym for Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding, is the name of a Chassidic Group founded in the 1770s. Two of the most fundamental teachings of Chabad are the intellectual pursuit of understanding the divine and the willingness to help every Jew who has a spiritual or material need.
Early summer festival marking the day when the Jews received the Torah at Mount Sinai in the year 2448 (1312 BCE).
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.
The roof of foliage which covers the sukkah (the hut used during the holiday of Sukkot).