Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

11 Tishrei 5763 - September 17, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Seeking Permanent Simchah

by Mordecai Plaut

Thanks to the wealth which Hashem has showered upon us in recent generations, many of us enjoy temporary succahs that are nicer and more comfortable than the permanent housing of generations past. This is altogether appropriate. The charge to leave our permanent dwellings for temporary accommodations on Succos is not to make us suffer in primitive conditions, but to learn from the experience. We should try to make our fulfillment of this mitzvah as pleasant and as elevating as possible, and investing in decoration and conveniences of the succah is a well-known way of doing this. It enhances the immediate goal of the mitzvah, which is simchah on Succos.

The most obvious lesson to be learned is that we do not need our usual surroundings in order to achieve simchah -- and this is an important lesson indeed, especially in this age of information overload. Bombarded as we all are with information, we are often unduly influenced by the wrong things. The whole year round our moods are strongly influenced by the media; on Succos we are actually commanded to seek higher sources.

Events that take place thousands of miles away are now as immediate as those that occur next door. Details of conditions across the world are broadcast instantly.

If crime is rising in Toronto, it can depress us. If there is a good harvest in Kansas it can make us optimistic. If there is a huge forest fire in Colorado it can worry us. If unemployment is falling in the European Union it can make our day. We might lose sleep over saber rattling between India and Pakistan, while we are thrilled at a new scientific breakthrough in Los Angeles.

While the world is so interconnected these days that most information is potentially relevant to us, it is all part of nothing more than the passing, ephemeral scene. Most of what we hear about is here today and gone already later today. It is often calculated and presented in such a way as to make us happy or sad, but this is because it is aimed directly at our emotions.

On Succos we are commanded to leave the routine, to go out of our permanent dwellings. We are to spend the week in the clouds -- the clouds of Hashem's glory. The flimsy roof over our heads that affords a view of the heavens reminds us that the material of this world should be a path to higher things.

The way to true simchah -- and not just an emotional high -- is not based on news of the day but on universal principles and, centrally, on our relationship with Hashem. "How do we perform the mitzvah of living in the Succah? By eating, drinking and living in the Succah for the entire seven days, day and night . . . We eat and drink and sleep in the Succah for the entire seven days, both in the day and at night." (Rambam, Hilchos Succah 6:5-6)

All of our usual lives, specifically including the mundane activities of eating, drinking and sleeping, are in the Succah, done in the performance of an explicit command from Hashem. "The simchah that man achieves in doing a mitzvah and in loving Hashem Who commanded it, is a great labor (avodoh)." (Rambam, Hilchos Lulav 8:15)

This true simcha we must achieve on Succos. "When [a person] does what he was created to do, he should be happy and rejoice, because the happiness of all other things is dependent on ephemeral things but the simchah in doing mitzvos and learning Torah and chochmoh is the true simchah." (Magid Mishneh on the Rambam in Hilchos Lulav mentioned above)

Chag somei'ach!

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.