Where is My Joy Button?

Thursday, 28 September, 2023 - 11:54 am

You cannot legislate an emotion. We cannot be commanded to feel something. So how can Hashem command us to be joyous on the festival of Sukkot? What compels this joy, to the extent that the holiday is called “the season of our rejoicing?”

There are many angles taken by the sages over the generations to help us appreciate the joy of Sukkot.

We have covered some of them over the years and can be accessed here:

The wedding:

The victory party:

I would like to share an angle that struck me this year towards the end of Yom Kippur (it is not my own idea but rather based on things that I have learned over the years in Chassidic thought.)

Imagine a person goes through life under the assumption that they are an insignificant speck on the tapestry of humanity that houses billions of other insignificant specks. (That itself is an inaccurate assumption, because each speck contributes to the full picture, but I digress.) One day the person uncovers something very significant about themselves. There is a joy in that self-discovery that is very powerful.

Imagine someone living a simple or even poor lifestyle. They simply don’t have the resources to enjoy the “finer things” of life. One day they are informed that there has been a dormant account in their name filled with money left to them by a distant relative many years ago. The lawyers and the bank were unable to trace them for all that time. They had been wealthy all along, they were just unaware of the wealth that was theirs. The joy is not just in the newfound wealth, but in the discovery that this is what they have had for a long time.

Imagine someone goes through life not knowing who their biological parents were. They are assumed to be from humble stock (not that there is anything wrong with that). Then all of a sudden, they find out that they are from a noble and gracious background. The joy in discovering one’s special identity is uniquely profound.

Throughout the High Holidays, especially on Yom Kippur, we are engaged in a journey of self-discovery. Our appreciation for the identity of our soul as being very connected to G-d, grows exponentially as the day goes on. At Neilah, we finally achieve the breakthrough that opens us up to our reality. The “doors of heaven” close, but we are left inside to experience an intimate union with G-d. We discover that the “real me” is that core essence of my Neshama that is totally bound up with Hashem. The joy that follows is indescribable. It compels us to want to celebrate and experience this newly discovered identity in every way possible. The holiday of Sukkot is that celebration, with all of its opportunities to experience and rejoice in our true selves. The celebration reaches a climax at the end of the holiday on Simchat Torah, after which we settle in to daily life in our new reality.

So, whoop it up. Shout joyously to the world about how excited you are to have discovered your true identity. Celebrate it with everything you’ve got!

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Sukkot
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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