Sukkot: Simcha and Chedva

Estelle Frankel, Sacred Therapy

The Hebrew word for oneness—echad—comes from the same root as the word for joy—chedva. We experience joy when we feel a sense of oneness and connectedness. This is the central aim of all Jewish spiritual healing—to restore a sense of unity, joy, and connectedness in a world in which brokenness seems inevitable.

Rabbi Alan Lew, z''l, from This is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared

...when we speak of joy...we are not speaking of fun. Joy is a deep release of the soul, and it includes death and pain. Joy is any feeling fully felt, any experience we give our whole being to. We are conditioned to choose pleasure and to reject pain, but the truth is, any moment of our life fully inhabited, any feeling fully felt, any immersion in the full depth of life, can be the source of deep joy.”

Questions:

  • What is joy to you? Do either of the texts above resonate (or not) with your experience of joy?

David Whyte, Consolations

Joy is a meeting place, of deep intentionality and of self-forgetting, the body alchemy of what lies inside us in communion with what formerly seemed outside, but is now neither, but become a living frontier, a voice speaking between us and the world: dance, laughter, affection, skin touching skin, singing in the car, music in the kitchen, the quiet irreplaceable and companionable presence of a daughter: the sheer intoxicating beauty of the world inhabited as an edge between what we previously thought was us and what we thought was other than us...

To feel a full and untrammeled joy is to have become fully generous; to allow ourselves to be joyful is to have walked through the doorway of fear, the dropping away of the anxious worried self felt like a thankful death itself, a disappearance, a giving away, overheard in the laughter of friendship, the vulnerability of happiness felt suddenly as a strength, a solace and a source, the claiming of our place in the living conversation, the sheer privilege of being in the presence of a mountain, a sky or a well-loved familiar face—I was here and you were here and together we made a world.

  • What brings you joy? In general? In challenging times?

Mindful by Mary Oliver

Every Day

I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight,

that leaves me like a needle in the haystack of light.

It is what I was born for—

to look, to listen, to lose myself

inside this soft world—

to instruct myself over and over in joy, and acclamation.

Nor am I talking about the exceptional, the fearful, the dreadful,

the very extravagant—

but of the ordinary, the common, the very drab the daily presentations.

Oh, good scholar, I say to myself,

how can you help but grow wise with such teachings as these—

the untrimmable light of the world, the ocean's shine,

the prayers that are made out of grass?

וַיִּחַדְּ יִתְרוֹ עַל כָּל הַטּוֹבָה (שמות י״ח:ט׳).
Va’yichad Yitro (And Yitro exulted) over all the good”
כִּי אֵצֶל סְתַּם בְּנֵי־אָדָם אֵין הַשִּׂמְחָה שֶׁל כָּל הַטּוֹבוֹת בְּיַחַד, כִּי יֵשׁ חִלּוּקִים רַבִּים בְּעִנְיַן הַשִּׂמְחָה. לְמָשָׁל כְּשֶׁבָּאִין עַל חֲתֻנָּה, יֵשׁ מִי שֶׁשָּׂמֵחַ מִן הָאֲכִילָה שֶׁאוֹכֵל, דָּגִים וּבָשָׂר וְכַיּוֹצֵא, וְיֵשׁ אֶחָד, שֶׁשָּׂמֵחַ מִן הַכְּלֵי־זֶמֶר, וְיֵשׁ שֶׁשָּׂמֵחַ מִדְּבָרִים אֲחֵרִים כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶם, וְיֵשׁ שֶׁשָּׂמֵחַ מִן הַחֲתֻנָּה עַצְמָהּ, כְּגוֹן הַמְחֻתָּנִים, שֶׁאֵינָן מַשְׁגִּיחִים עַל אֲכִילָה וּשְׁתִיָּה, רַק שְׂמֵחִים מִן הַחֲתֻנָּה עַצְמָהּ, וְכַיּוֹצֵא שְׁאָר חִלּוּקִים.
The average person does not rejoice in all the types of good at once. There are very many distinctions in the matter of joy. For example, when attending a wedding, one person rejoices in the food he eats—fish, meat and the like—another rejoices in the music, and another rejoices in some other such thing. Others rejoice in the wedding itself, such as the in-laws, who do not focus on the food and drink, but are happy about the wedding itself. And there are other such distinctions.
אֲבָל אֵין אָדָם שֶׁיִּהְיֶה שָׂמֵחַ מִכָּל הַשְּׂמָחוֹת בְּיַחַד. וַאֲפִלּוּ מִי שֶׁשָּׂמֵחַ מִכָּל הַדְּבָרִים הַנַּ"ל, אַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן אֵין הַשִּׂמְחָה מִכָּל הַדְּבָרִים בְּיַחַד, רַק מִכָּל אֶחָד בִּפְנֵי עַצְמוֹ בָּזֶה אַחַר זֶה. גַּם יֵשׁ אֶחָד, שֶׁאֵין לוֹ שׁוּם שִׂמְחָה כְּלָל, לֹא מִן הָאֲכִילָה וּשְׁתִיָּה וְלֹא מִשְּׁאָר דְּבָרִים, וְאַדְּרַבָּא, יֵשׁ לוֹ קִנְאָה וָצַעַר, שֶׁמְּקַנֵּא עַל הַשִּׁדּוּךְ, עַל שֶׁזֶּה נִשְׁתַּדֵּךְ בָּזֶה.
However, no person rejoices in all the types of joy simultaneously. Even someone who rejoices in all the aforementioned things, does not rejoice in them all together but in each thing separately, one after the other. And there is even an individual who has no joy whatsoever, not from the food or drink or any of the other things. On the contrary, he feels envy and pain, because he is jealous of the match, that this one made a match with that one.
אֲבָל שְׁלֵמוּת וְגַדְלוּת הַשִּׂמְחָה הִוא, מִי שֶׁזּוֹכֶה לִשְׂמֹחַ מִכָּל הַטּוֹבוֹת בְּיַחַד. וְזֶה אִי אֶפְשָׁר כִּי־אִם כְּשֶׁמִּסְתַּכֵּל לְמַעְלָה עַל כָּל הַטּוֹבָה, דְּהַיְנוּ עַל הַשֹּׁרֶשׁ, שֶׁמִּשָּׁם נִמְשָׁכִין כָּל הַטּוֹבוֹת. וְשָׁם בְּהַשֹּׁרֶשׁ הַכֹּל אֶחָד, וַאֲזַי שִׂמְחָתוֹ מִכָּל הַטּוֹבוֹת בְּיַחַד,
However, the perfection and magnitude of the joy is when a person merits rejoicing in all the good things at once. And this is only possible when he directs his attention above, “over all the good”—i.e., to the root from which all the good is drawn. There, at the root, everything is one, and so he rejoices in all the types of good simultaneously.
וְאָז הַשִּׂמְחָה גְּדוֹלָה מְאֹד, וּמְאִירָה בְּאוֹר גָּדוֹל מְאֹד. כִּי עַל־יְדֵי הַכְּלָלִיוּת שֶׁנִּכְלָל שִׂמְחָה בַּחֲבֶרְתָּהּ, נִגְדָּל בְּיוֹתֵר אוֹר הַשְּׂמָחוֹת.
Then, the joy is very great and radiates with a very great light. This is because the intermingling of one joy with its companion increases the magnitude of their light.
וְכֵן כָּל מַה שֶּׁנִּכְלָלִין יוֹתֵר רִבּוּי הַשְּׂמָחוֹת זֶה בָּזֶה, נִגְדָּל וְנִתּוֹסֵף אוֹר הַשִּׂמְחָה בְּיוֹתֵר וְיוֹתֵר, כִּי נִגְדָּל וְנִתּוֹסֵף הָאוֹר מְאֹד, עַל־יְדֵי הִתְנוֹצְצוּת שֶׁמִּתְנוֹצֵץ מִשִּׂמְחָה לַחֲבֶרְתָּהּ. וְכָל מַה שֶּׁיֵּשׁ יוֹתֵר שְׂמָחוֹת שֶׁנִּכְלָלִין בְּיַחַד, נִתּוֹסֵף בְּיוֹתֵר וְיוֹתֵר אוֹר הַהִתְנוֹצְצוֹת. וְעַל־כֵּן כְּשֶׁנִּכְלָל הַשִּׂמְחָה שֶׁל כָּל הַטּוֹבוֹת בְּיַחַד, אֲזַי אוֹר הַשִּׂמְחָה גָּדוֹל מְאֹד עַל־יְדֵי רִבּוּי הַהִתְנוֹצְצוּת מִזֶּה לָזֶה וּמִזֶּה לָזֶה כַּנַּ"ל.
And the more that the numerous types of joy intermingle, the brighter and brighter the light of the joy grows and the more and more it increases. For the light of the joy grows brighter and increases as a result of each joy shining into its companion. And the more the types of joy that intermingle, the brighter the light shines. Therefore, when the joy in all the good things are merged together, the light of the joy is then very bright on account of the shining from this one to that one, and from that one to this one.
וְזֶהוּ: וַיִּחַדְּ יִתְרוֹ עַל כָּל הַטּוֹבָה – שֶׁהָיָה שָׂמֵחַ מִכָּל הַטּוֹבוֹת בְּיַחַד. וְזֶהוּ: עַל כָּל הַטּוֹבָה, כִּי הָיָה מִסְתַּכֵּל לְמַעְלָה עַל כָּל הַטּוֹבָה, הַיְנוּ עַל הַשֹּׁרֶשׁ, שֶׁשָּׁם הַכֹּל אֶחָד, וְשָׁם נִכְלָלִין כָּל הַשְּׂמָחוֹת יַחַד, וְעַל־כֵּן הָיָה שָׂמֵחַ עַל כָּל הַטּוֹבוֹת בְּיַחַד כַּנַּ"ל:

This is the meaning of “va’YiChaD Yitro (And Yitro exulted) over all the good.” His joy was from all the good things b’YaChaD (together). And this is “over all the good.” He directed his attention up above, over all the good—i.e., to the root, where everything is one and where all the types of joy are united. He was therefore joyous over all the good things together.

Sefat Emet 5:182

The joy of the water- drawing place is one of the ceremonies of Sukkot. For it is from there, from joy, that we draw the holy spirit. Joy is the vessel with which we draw the living waters, the holy spirit, of which it is says: "[God] blew into his nostrils the breath of life" (Gen 2:7). As a person holds fast to the lifeforce that each of us has from God, life spreads forth through all of her limbs.

It says [of these festive days]: "We saw no sleep." The Midrash says the same of Moses, that for forty days and nights he was unable to sleep, knowing there was no measure to that which he was receiving in every hour... The light of the entire year depends upon these seven days [of Sukkot]. And the vessel through which we receive that light is joy.