(HaRav HaGaon Rav Yaakov Sasson Shlit”a, a grandson of Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l)
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)
One of the mitzvot that we have been specifically commanded in during the Chag of Sukkot is the mitzvah of simchah, as the passuk states “You shall rejoice on your Chag…so that you will be only happy” (Devarim 16:14-15).
Included in this mitzvah is that a person eats well prepared food such as meat and drinks wine, and purchases for his wife and children nice clothes to honour the Chag, and for young children he should give them sweets, popcorn nuts.
However, it is clear that the main simchah that we have been commanded in, isn’t a physical joy such as eating and drinking and the like, but in essence a spiritual simchah, that a person rejoices in Hashem Yitbarach, that we merited to come under his Kingship and that He looks after each of us, and that we have merited to [have the opportunity to] serve Him our whole lives.
Indeed we are required to rejoice on all the Chagim, however, on Sukkot there is a stronger element of the mitzvah of simchah, as Rambam writes, “Even though that there is a requirement to rejoice on all the Moadim, during Sukkot in the Bet HaMikdash there was additional simcha, as the passuk states ‘You shall rejoice before Hashem your G-d for seven days’ [Vayikra 23:40], and it is a mitzvah to increase this simcha” (Laws of Lulav [8:12-14]).
We may ask, that if there is such a great mitzvah to rejoice during the days of Chag HaSukkot, if so, why did Hashem specifically command during these days to leave our permanent home and enter a temporary dwelling? Surely, on the contrary, it would be more conducive to rejoice in the living conditions that we are accustomed to, each person in their home.
HaRav Yaakov Neiman z”l [1895-1983] (Founder of Yeshivat Or Yisrael in Lithuania and Petach Tikvah), explained this as follows. On the contrary, since true simchah can only be achieved when we come to the realisation that this world is only a “temporary dwelling”, therefore we have been commanded to specifically rejoice in a “temporary dwelling”. For one who thinks that the purpose of a person in this world and indeed behaves as if this world is a “permanent dwelling”, it is impossible for them to reach true simchah.
He further mentioned regarding this, what a great Rav explained (Rav Moshe Rosenstein z”l [1881-1940] (Mashgiach Ruchani in Yeshivat Lomza, Poland), regarding the minhag that many have, to read Megillat Kohelet during Sukkot. They [people in general], explain the reason for this, because King Shlomoh wrote in Kohelet that this whole world is empty. Therefore they read it, so that they not over rejoice during Sukkot, realising that this world is transient and not permanent.
However the Gaon explained this using reverse logic. The reason that we read Megillat Kohelet is because it is impossible to attain true great simchah, unless a person is no longer attached to the emptiness of this world, and he erases “jealousy, desire and honour” [see Avot 4:21], and he realises and acknowledges that this world is merely a waiting room prior to entering the eternal world [see ibid. 4:16]. Only then may he achieve true great simchah.
The Editorial Board of Halachah Yomit bless all precious subscribers with a b’birchat Chag Sameach, may you merit to many pleasant and good years, and may we merit to witness the arrival of Mashiach Tzidkeinu and the rejoicing of the Water Drawing, with a sound of happiness and jubilation, speedily in our days. Amen