Sukkot: A Time of Happiness
Sukkot is known as our "time of happiness". Although the Misva of ושמחת בחגך (to rejoice with a feast) applies to all holidays, it is especially prevalent during Sukkot. One must wonder why.
As we have explained, the three holidays correspond to the three pillars of the world: Torah, Avodah, and Hessed. Pesah is the holiday of Avoda, as the paschal sacrifice is the main part of the festival. Shavuot is the holiday of Torah, as we accepted the Torah on this day. That leaves Sukkot as the holiday of Hessed.
In fact, this theme is interwoven into the holiday. There is a concept of inviting guests אושפיזין. In fact, the Zohar writes that if the אושפיזין do not see a place set for the needy, they leave the Sukkah in haste. There is a concept of atoning for others with korbanot, again a great act of kindness.
The Midrash in Parashat Vayesse teaches that "because Israel was busy with the Misva of giving, they became happy!" Kindness makes a person happy! Therefore, the holiday of giving is also the holiday of שמחה!
It is also possible as we see in everyday life. When one is offended by a friend, even if he forgives, it is difficult to address the friend with the same love and kinship he felt before being offended. It is even more difficult to rejoice with such a person, regardless of the efforts the "offender" makes to reconcile. However, one the offended party does fully forgive and even rejoices with his friend, the "offender" rejoices greatly knowing that he has fully been forgiven.
Throughout the year we continually betray Hashem with our thoughtless acts. During Elul we supplicate and beg for forgiveness. Yom Kippur arrives, and we are told that our transgressions have been erased. However, one is never really sure if his relationship with Hashem will be as surreal as it was before sinning. Yet, Hashem commands us, ושמחתם לפני ה׳, you must rejoice before Hashem. Hashem WANTS us to be happy with him! He did accept our apologies! There is no greater שמחה!
Rabbi Eliezer Zeytouneh is the Rav of Congregation Bnei Shelomo located at 1305 Gravesend Neck Rd. He is also the Principal of Yeshivat Or Hatorah and the Dean of Peninim Sephardic Seminary. His Shiurim are attended by young adults of all backgrounds and can be heard on LearnTorah.com and Kol Halashon.