Chag HaSukkot is a special time of simchah. The mitzvah of "Vesamachta--And you shall rejoice" is stressed more on Succot than on any other holiday because Succot follows Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, a time when one is at peace with oneself and with Hashem. Only at such time can true happiness be felt.
Having worked earnestly during the days of awe to improve ourselves and asked G-d to help us on the proper path, we entered Sukkot with ability to enjoy our newfound closeness to Hashem.
Sukkot taught us two great lessons. First, to try to perform the mitzvot we do throughout the year with a greater sense of joy. Just as we enjoyed shaking the lulav and sitting in the succah, so too, should we take pleasure in the mitzvot we do year-around.
Second, to elevate all the aspects of our life, even those that do not fit the strict definition of mitzvot. Just as we enjoyed the days of Yom Tov in a physical sense, with good food, drink, and companionship, so too should we find opportunities throughout the year to bring holiness into the temporal aspects of our lives.
Judaism believes that all natural things are inherently positive and were created for constructive use in the service of Hakodosh Baruch Hu. If the physical pleasures we enjoy help put us in a relaxed yet expansive state of mind, which makes us better able to serve G-d, we have taken the mundane and made it holy.
With these lessons in hand we come to the end of the holiday season, prepared to launch the new year.
Thus we rejoice with the Torah, on Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, at the end of Succot. Our ability to begin the year on a positive, joyous note comes only after the High Holy Days and Succot. With our newly acquired spiritual station, we begin the Torah anew.
The word bereishit reflects not only the dawn of creation, but also the renewal of our commitment to Torah and its values. Our dedication to the study of Torah and to the fulfillment of its mitzvos must be with simcha and enthusiasm.
The hope and prayer of every Jew is that the new year bring health, happiness, and spiritual fulfillment.
A vital sign of spiritual success is the ability to learn G-d's Torah with joy and satisfaction. This is the first challenge we face as we begin the new year.
-Rabbi Yosef Viener
Rabbi Viener is Rabbi of the West Side Jewish Center, New York, NY.
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OU Torah Insights 5757 Parasha Index
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