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14 Tishrei 5765 - September 29, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Happiness Must Bring Unity

by Mordecai Plaut

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 happiness is.

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 created.

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 Yisroel.

Chag somei'ach.

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