Dei'ah veDibur - Information & 

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5 Tishrei 5760 - September 15, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Learning About Joy on Succos

Succos is called by Chazal zman simchoseinu, the time of our simcha. We are obligated to experience simcha, and the Torah summarizes the reason for the horrible punishments in parshas Ki Sovo, as due to a lack of simcha in our worship of Hashem.

There are many different types of simcha. In a famous incident in which he was visited by a maskil, the Vilna Gaon enumerates six different terms that are applied to simcha in Tanach: sosson, simcha, giloh, rinoh, ditzoh and chedvoh. Surely Succos is meant as our time of simcha in an inclusive sense, that we can fulfill the general mitzva of simcha through any of the various nuances. To be sure there are specific directives as to how to fulfill the mitzva -- eating meat, drinking wine, buying and wearing new clothes for the women and treats for the children -- but it is very instructive to consider the ideas themselves, especially for our time.

The Vilna Gaon (in Mishlei 23,24, quoted in the Machzor HaGra on Rosh Hashanah) explains that the difference between giloh and simcha is that giloh is something that comes from a steady source, while simcha is the result of something new. The example that he gives is important in itself. The Gaon says that we see this when someone has a son. At the birth he feels simcha since the son is newly born. "And after that, all the son's life there is giloh for his father."

In these days in which children are unfashionable, it is easy to point out that by discouraging having children, the world is missing a major source of happiness in life. Yet there is a deeper and a broader problem of perspective.

Modern life in the West puts a premium on intense experiences to the virtual exclusion of the steady feelings that are truly no less important. Examples of this are in the fact that so much is reduced to mere sound bites in the electronic media, and even the "long" stories they tell condense years of events into some 20 or 40 minutes, or a long presentation of maybe 90 minutes, of largely intense scenes that may capture some highlights but will necessarily ignore the bulk of any real world event.

Children are encouraged (by society) to go to things like amusement parks with thrill rides that also whip up intense emotions for seconds or maybe minutes, and this we consider a day well spent.

But all this ignores an important part of what life should be all about. It smothers the very real possibilities of day-in- day-out joy and happiness that are the result of living a properly balanced life as the Torah teaches. In stressing a few intense seconds of heightened emotion, the West can empty our lives of the true components of simcha that can fill them so well. There is an obvious reason for this: the little steady things that give joy cannot easily be packaged and sold. There is no money in them, as there is in the intense experiences that are sold everywhere.

Buffeted by the temptations of Madison Avenue, there is no better use that we can make of Succos than to emphasize and to remind ourselves of the small things that bring us giloh throughout the year.

Chag somei'ach!

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