There are many times throughout the Jewish calendar when we are meant to be joyful and celebratory. This week is one of those times. Not only are we celebrating Sukkot (festival of booths), the harvest festival that is nicknamed “the time of our joy” (Z’man Simchateinu), but this weekend, we can look forward to Simchat Torah, which literally translates to “rejoicing in the Torah.”
We’ve just spent time reflecting on the past year, atoning for our mistakes, and planning for a better year to come. Sukkot, a holiday which connects us to the harvest, gratitude, and the Jewish value of welcoming guests (hachnassat orchim), and Simchat Torah, when we finish reading the Torah and begin again, with lots of dancing to celebrate, provide a joyful place to start!
For both holidays, joy is an essential element to the celebration. In fact, it’s required; on Sukkot, for example, the commandments about being in the sukkah for meals and sleeping are contingent on that being something comfortable to do. If the weather or stinging insects would make you unhappy to be in the sukkah, you don’t need to be in it. Happiness is essential.
Why would we be commanded to be happy? Wouldn’t that be the default mode for most people?
Yes, and no. Sometimes, we as humans, and particularly as parents, can forget the joy while handling the daily grind of the household, work, and holiday activities, or when handling the stress of both everyday life and of crises. In those moments, it can be harder to appreciate or even see the joy to be found. Like your child pulling on your hand to stop working and come play with them, these holidays are reminders that we do need to pause to rejoice and see all the reasons to be happy that surround us. Hopefully, that will last longer than this one week.
I wish you much joy and happiness, for this week and always.
Chag Sameach (happy holiday),