Succos is known as zeman simchoseinu, the time of our
happiness, but modern society, and certainly modern secular,
non-Jewish society, has completely lost touch with what
One of the characteristics of the yetzer hora is that
he is divisive, and so are the pleasures that he offers. The
material lusts that are so familiar to modern society are all
private and often exclusive. If one person eats a food,
someone else cannot. Two people cannot be the center of
attention; the fame and honor that the material world can
offer is very limited. Even the kind of spectator pleasures
that the modern world offers, like circuses for example, are
spectacles that each watching person experiences by himself.
He or she may be sitting together with thousands, but the
experience is a private one that has little or nothing to do
with everyone else there. The spectacles do not provide the
observers with anything lasting or intrinsically valuable --
just a momentary rush of emotion at best.
In contrast, the aliyah laRegel that used to take
place on Succos brought all of Klal Yisroel together
at the place that defines our national identity and whole
purpose in life.
Nefesh HaChaim (Shaar 2,17) explains that the word
Shechinah means domicile, and that since the Beis
Hamikdosh was Hashem's home, as it were, the place in our
world that he had decided to live in, so to speak, one could
encounter him without any intervening layers since He was at
home and did not have to "dress up," as it were.
Moreover the olim brought sacrifices which was a
profoundly uplifting experience. The Kuzari explains that
bringing a korbon -- as unlikely as it may sound to us
today -- was a profoundly spiritual experience. He says that
there are other experiences which, when they are described to
those who have never experienced them, seem strange and even
repugnant. However those who have experienced them know that
they are positive. Bringing a sacrifice was something like
that: anyone who ever brought one had an experience of the
presence of the Shechinah that was an unmistakable
encounter with indescribable kedushoh.
All those who made aliyah on Succos brought at least
two korbonos (an oloh and a chagigoh).
In addition there were the ten steady miracles that were
evident at the Beis Hamikdosh at all times. These were
also not bombastic Hollywood-type occurrences, but rather
specific low- key conditions that showed clearly the effect
of the Divine Presence that was there.
Everyone came together, physically, spiritually and socially.
We know that Klal Yisroel was never more unified than
when they arrived at Har Sinai to receive the Torah, but
certainly the aliyah laRegel in Yerushalayim when
everyone was united to "see and be seen" at the Beis
Hamikdosh recalled that unity in the desert. The shared
willingness and commitment to serve Hashem is the strongest
unifying power that there is, for with that as their motive,
everyone truly fulfills the purpose for which he or she was
Even if, due to our golus, we do not have this
ultimate unifier in Yerushalayim, the forces of the mitzvos
that remain with us still serve to bring us all together. We
have special mitzvos at shul and at home that recall those
better days and exert their power even today.
Unity is not an explicit goal of our avodoh on yom
tov; it is just an incidental consequence, a Divinely
engineered "coincidence." Nonetheless you can be assured that
the source of your happiness is holiness, if you feel
yourself closer to your family and to all Klal