Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

12 Tishrei 5764 - October 8, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Pleasure-Seeking and Simchah on Succos

If the cultural leadership of the Western World in New York and Hollywood were to organize a Time of Happiness, it would probably take the form of many huge gatherings at which there would be freely available vast quantities of food, intoxicating beverages, public performances of all forms of modern music and entertainment -- and, certainly not least, a relaxing of whatever restraint is left in modern society. All the celebrants would seek to "have a blast" as they sought to overwhelm themselves with whatever carnal pleasure attracts them most strongly.

Zman simchoseinu as organized by the Torah is quite different.

The main commandments of Succos are living in the Succah and taking the four minim: esrog, lulav, hadassim and arovos. These are small, relatively private acts.

The Succah, in particular, is obviously a family-based mitzvah. The family home is moved to a temporary structure, and there is the celebration: "He should eat, drink and live in the Succah for the entire seven days, day and night, in the manner he lives in his house the rest of the year . . . 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)

There is no mass gathering and no special bombardment of the senses. Although we do enjoy festive meals, they are similar to what we have every week on Shabbos. Altogether the idea is to take our entire lives -- eating, sleeping, learning and talking -- and move them into the Succah. The Torah is not striving to give us an unusual and intense experience of some kind, but rather to take our everyday life and transfer it to the Succah. For a full week we eat our regular meals, sleep our regular sleep and live our lives within the environment of the Succah. This is the Torah's idea of zman simchoseinu!

To be sure, the original idea of the Torah -- may we be zoche to it soon -- is for the entire community to come together in Yerushalayim and in the Beis Hamikdosh during Succos. But that experience, including bringing the korbonos, was certainly very different from anything that we can fully conceptualize.

The main element in the simchah of Succos is not that we satisfy our carnal desires. The main thing is that we are fully engaged in satisfying the desires of Hashem for us. During this week, all our usually mundane activities -- eating, drinking and sleeping, and spending the entire day with our families -- are, when performed within the Succah, direct fulfillment of commands of Hashem. When going about our daily business we are entirely enveloped within the structure that Hashem commanded, whose purpose is to recall the time in the desert when we were evidently under Hashem's hashgochoh.

Our time in the Succah brings us closer to our families and even closer to Hashem, since we are fulfilling one of His mitzvos essentially the entire time.

"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 is our job for Succos. We must work for something entirely unknown to the modern world that is so obsessed with pleasure, but unaware of the sublime delights of Torah and mitzvos.

The simchah of Succos is certainly a "great labor," but it is a great pleasure as well.

Chag somei'ach!

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