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A Bond of Joy

This week we have undergone a transformation. We have completed the "days of awe" and reached the days of rejoicing -- the holidays of Sukkot and Simchat Torah.

Not that the days of awe are sad, G-d forbid, but the mood is more serious. It is possible -- and proper -- to return to G-d during these days, and rejoice over the very fact that He offered us this opportunity. Nevertheless, it is a subdued kind of joy, a joy that expresses itself through heartfelt, thankful prayer, not through dancing and singing.

On Sukkot, by contrast, the joy is much more externalized. There is a mitzvah to be especially joyous on Sukkot, more than on other holidays.

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Why, indeed, are we so happy on Sukkot? What does this joy do for us?

The answer can be found in one of the "days of awe" themselves, on Yom Kippur. On this day, every year, our souls become elevated and renew their connection with G-d. This renewed connection causes G-d to erase all memory of our misdeeds and open a new page.

If a person is charged with a long list of weighty crimes, and then the judge suddenly informs him that the charges have been dropped completely -- he will be filled with unimaginable joy and gratitude. Even if he was informed in advance that the judge might acquit him, and the judge is known to look kindly upon him, still, at the moment that the acquittal is announced, he will feel a surge of elation.

So, too, we rejoice at the fact that G-d forgave all our sins on Yom Kippur. Although we knew in advance that G-d loves us and will certainly accept our teshuvah and grant us a good year, our rejoicing doesn't burst forth in full measure until Yom Kippur is over. This explains the great joy we experience on Sukkot.

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The joy that we feel is common to all Jews, and therefore it is fitting to express it in a manner of unity and togetherness. When we rejoice, we naturally seek out others to rejoice with us. The same applies to the joy of the holiday--it is incumbent upon us to see that those around us partake in the joy as well. It is fitting to contribute generously to ensure that all our friends and neighbors have their holiday needs.

In the days of the Holy Temple, during Sukkot there was dancing and rejoicing all night long, every night of the holiday. These celebrations demonstrate to G-d that all of us, young and old, simple and esteemed, share in this bond of unity, through being part of the nation beloved by G-d.

It was said that one who did not see the rejoicing in the Temple on Sukkot had never seen joy in his life. In our days we can say that one who has not experienced the holiday joy as celebrated today by Jews around the globe has not seen true joy either. In the streets, or in the synagogues, large groups of Jews gather to celebrate the traditional Simchat Beit Hashoeva with music and dancing. We dance in complete faith and anticipation that very soon, we will experience the Redemption and the Holy Temple will be rebuilt. Then all Jews will unite as one in Jerusalem, and we will re-experience that wondrous unity.

 

 


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