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