Sukkot, Z'man Simchateynu, the Time of Rejoicing comes on the heels of the most serious and solemn days of the Jewish year. Individuals, together with their community, have prayed, and fasted and atoned and now it is time to rejoice.
But how do we rejoice in a time of adversity? This year, celebrating Sukkot in the midst of a pandemic poses new challenges. Luckily, we aren't the first to experience adversity and our texts have a lot to say about the role of joy and happiness and how we can attain it.
There is a special power of happiness which comes from rejoicing with another, or causing another to rejoice. In light of the following sources we might call it the sacred side of joy.
During Moses's conversation with God at the burning bush, Moses tells God that he would like God to pick someone else to go to Egypt to demand that Pharaoh free the Children of Israel. God is angry with Moses and tells him that his brother, Aaron, will accompany him.
Emotions are not often mentioned in the Torah. Why does it say that Aaron will be happy to see Moses? What are we to learn from this? A midrash in Yalkut Shimoni illustrates the importance of being happy for others and rejoicing with them.
Lifting the Spirits of Others
The Talmud stresses the importance of lifting the spirits of others in the following text.
Seeking God is its own source of endless joy, because there is always more to pursue.
Beginning with a verse from Psalms, the 18th century Torah commentary by David Solomon Eibeschutz, Arvei Nachal, explains why those who seek God find happiness.
Rejoicing, Even When it Hurts
Life often presents difficulties and bumps in the road. What is the value of being happy even during the tough times? How does one actually accomplish this?
The great Hassidic teacher, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, turned rejoicing into a mitzvah in the well-known teaching that is often sung in the sukkah.
Rebbe Nachman continued by acknowledging that life is full of gloom and depression. For that very reason, he said that a person must put effort into being happy and bringing happiness into the world.
Putting it all Together