Shabbat Chol Hamoed Sukkot
Written by the rabbi
Dedicated to the memory of
Hana Bat Haim
The essence of the Festival of Sukkot is simcha:
"And you shall observe the Festival of Sukkot for seven days...and you shall rejoice in your Festival...indeed, you shall be nothing but joyful (Deuteronomy 16:13-15)."
What is simcha? Is it merely the emotion of happiness and joy?
A reading of Sefer Devarim would have us believe that it is far more. The Torah instructs us that there are two requisite conditions for ultimate simcha.
The first is sham or shammah - there.
In every instance (except in the one time that it that has nothing to do with the holidays) the term simcha is either preceeded or followed by a form of the word Sham.
Furthermore the term sham is defined either as "before the Lord your God" or as the "place that there the Lord shall choose to rest His Name." Clearly all these references point to Jerusalem.
The second indispensable condition is the inclusion of "you, your son and daughter, your servant and maid-servant, the Levite and the convert, the orphan and the widow... (ibid) ".
Thus the Torah teaches that true simcha can only be achieved in Jerusalem and even there only when you are surrounded by your brethren from all walks of life, from the lofty Levite the bearer of Jewish tradition to the simple handmaid and lonely orphan.
Given these parameters, I would suggest that the Biblical Vesamachta goes far beyond simple joy. Rather it is the excitement and the emotional high that comes with the sudden understanding of what it means to be a Jew. It is the reaching of new heights of self-value with the realization of being part of this glorious nation. It is the burst of fresh commitment to the service of the Almighty, the God of Israel.
The significance of Vesamachta is as cogent today as it was then. One has only to witness the results of a program such as Birthright to realize the powerful force that Jerusalem and the people of Israel exert on young people who have had little contact with Judaism.
Parents in the Diaspora who wish to inculcate strong emotions of Jewish self-worth in their children would be wise to shower them with this kind of simcha.
This is a weekly column contributed by Aloh Naaleh an organization devoted to motivating Jews to make Aliya.
Aloh Na'aleh POB 4337, Jerusalem 91042
Tel: 972-2-566-1181 ext. 320 ~ Fax: 972-2-566-1186
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