Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Happiness of Yom Kippur and Succos

This is a summation of this post and this post. Comments are closed for this post, as they can be posted on the other two posts relating to this same issue.

Yom Kippur/Succos—Happiness of Yom Kippur and Succos

The Mishnah[1] teaches that the days of Yom Kippur and Tu B'Av are the two happiest days of the Jewish calendar. The Talmud[2] explains that Yom Kippur is a happy day because it is a day of forgiveness and atonement and the day on which the second pair of tablets containing the Decalogue was delivered to the Jewish nation on Mount Sinai. Tu B'Av was historically a happy day for various reasons (including that it was the day on which intertribal marriage was permitted, the condemned in the desert finished dying, Benjaminites were readmitted into the general nation, the treasury of the Holy Temple stopped collecting wood, and permission was given for the martyrs at Beitar to be buried). Rabbi Yom Tov ben Avraham Asevilli (1250-1330) asks[3] why the Mishnah says that Tu B'Av and Yom Kippur are the happiest days if another Mishnah states[4] that “he has not witnessed the Simchas Beis HaShoeivah (“The Rejoicing at the Water-Drawing”) has not witnessed happiness in his life” which implies that the Water Libations ceremony in the Holy Temple on the holiday of Succos is the happiest occasion. The Ritva himself answers that Tu B'Av and Yom Kippur were only happy days for the Daughters of Israel, while the Simchas Beis HaShoeivah was a happy occasion for all "the great men" of the Israelites, Levites, and Cohanites. However, the answer of the Ritva needs to be explained because the reason for the happiness on Yom Kippur can be applied to the men of the Jewish Nation just as to the women. Furthermore, only one of the Talmud's explanations for the holiday of Tu B'Av applies specifically to the women[5], however the Ritva only assumes like that explanation and ignores the other ones. Additionally, one can ask that according to the Ritva, for the average simple Jew, who is neither "great" nor female, what is the happiest time of the year, for the Ritva only wrote that the Water Libations Ceremony is a a joyous juncture for the “great men” of the nation.

Perhaps one can answer the seeming contradiction between the two Mishnahs by explaining that both Yom Kippur and the Holiday of Succos are the happiest time of the year. In addition, Yom Kippur and Succos are to be considered one long period, so the happiness on both is the same. The Avodah/service of Yom Kippur, forgiveness and atonement, is the same as the service of Succos, which is happiness. On the day before Yom Kippur, Erev Yom Kippur, the Talmud says that there is a commandment to have a special feast[6]. Rabbeinu Yonah of Girondi (1180-1263) explains[7] that this feast is to express one's happiness for the holiday of Yom Kippur, because there is no greater happiness that one being absolved from all sins. However, since HaShem decreed abstinence from food on the day of Yom Kippur to curb one's physical temptations, the the happiness of Yim Kippur must be expressed on the day before. Nonetheless, Yom Kippur itself is to be considered an overly joyous day. Kiddush Levana, the sanctification of the New Moon, is postponed in many communities until Motzei Yom Kippur so that it can be done in a happy mood[8]. In a similar vein, HaShem commands that on Succos one must "be [nothing] but happy"[9]. The numerical value of the Hebrew word Selicha, forgiveness, equals[10] the value for the word Simcha, happiness. This shows that the greatest catalyst for happiness is complete and total forgiveness and atonement. There is no greater happiness than fully knowing that one is completely free from sin.

The parallel between Succos and Yom Kippur is quite clear. The Talmud says[11] that on the holiday of Succos, the world is judged concerning its yearly quota of water. The day after Succos, on the holiday of Shemini Atzeres, Jews begin the prayers of the rainy season. On the day of Yom Kippur, every Jew's fate for the year is sealed, and it is one's final time to repent for sins. The last day of Sukkos is known as Hoshana Rabbah, the Great Hosanna. Extra prayers of repentance and requests for forgiveness are added to the Hoshana Rabbah liturgy as if to imply that one's fate is not completely sealed on Yom Kippur, but rather on Hoshana Rabbah. This is because the tone and service of Yom Kippur actually continues throughout the festival of Succos, until Hoshana Rabbah. There are four days in the Jewish calendar, which are known as the Yomim Nor`aim, Days of Awesomeness; namely, they are the two days of Rosh HaShannah, Yom Kippur, and Hoshana Rabbah[12]. Only on all four of these days is the word "awesome" added to the sentence, "Our G-d is One, great is Our Lord, [and] holy is His name" when the Torah scrolls are removed from the ark. The two days of Rosh HaShannah are considered one long day (Yoma arichta[13]), in maintaining the parallelism one must say that Yom Kippur and Hoshana Rabbah are also to be considered one long period spanning twelve days, including both Yom Kippur and Succos. In fact, immediately after Yom Kippur, one starts preparations for Sukkos by starting to build the Sukkah[14], and Tachanun is not recited starting from Yom Kippur until after Succos to show that all those days are bridged together by the theme of happiness[15].

Furthermore, the Hassidic masters teach that each of the seven liquids, which cause a foodstuff to become susceptible to ritual impurity, as enumerated in the Mishnah[16], corresponds to one of the seven holidays. According to this concept, Dew corresponds to Yom Kippur and Water corresponds to Succos[17]. In essence, dew and water are chemically the same, except that dew is a specific type of water, which falls early in the morning. Similarly, Yom Kippur and Succos are in essence the same, only that Succos is time for general happiness, while Yom Kippur is the time for the specific happiness stemming from the pardoning of sin. Rabbi Avrohom Schorr writes[18] that Succos is the time when one is able to "do battle" with HaShem and use the power of true repentance to become absolved of sins even in circumstances in which forgiveness is not usually granted by HaShem. Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev (1740-1810) writes[19] that the repentance during the Ten Days of Repentance from Rosh HaShannah to Yom Kippur is a repentance out of fear (fear from Heavenly punishment and fear of the awesomeness of G-d), while the repentance during the holiday of Succos is a repentance from love. The difference between the two types of repentance is that repentance from fear only erases one's sins, while repentance from love transforms one's sins into fulfillments of positive commandments, a merit not blot on one's record. Thus, Yom Kippur and Succos are simply two means to achieve the same end, the cleansing from sin.

Three times a year, Pesach, Shavuos, and Succos, a Jew is commanded to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem[20] to draw from the Holy Spirit, which rested in that holy place. However, on the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur, a Jew is not commanded to ascend to the Temple Mount, and rather is supposed to stay in his own town and pray wherever he might be. Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv explains[21] that this is because sometimes one is supposed to draw spiritual nourishment from a place, and sometimes, from a time. During the festivals, one is expected to draw spiritual nourishment from the place of the Holy Temple[22], but on Yom Kippur, the spiritual nourishment comes from the day itself. When one sins, even if it is a small sin, that sin accompanies him and draws him to continuing sinning[23]. One sin causes another sin[24], and when one sins, other sins seem permitted to him[25]. Therefore, even if a person sinned once in his life, he has been initiated into a vicious cycle of sinning and it is almost inevitable for him to not sin again[26]. Therefore, the Day of Yom Kippur itself must come to cleanse one of all sins[27], so that one can stay pure and clean without being drawn into more sinning. This explains why the Talmud says[28] that there is no better day for the Jewish nation than Yom Kippur, because it is a day of forgiveness and atonement. Only after achieving such a cleansing can one draw from the sanctity of the location of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem by attending the pilgrimage on Succos.

Each of the holidays has an additional appellation by which it is described in the Torah and/or in certain liturgical prayers. Rosh HaShannah is also known as Zichron Terua (A Remembrance of the Shofar Blasts)[29] because it is the day that the Shofar is blown, Pesach (Passover) is also known as Zman Chayroosaynu (A Time of Our Freedom) because it commemorates the Jewish exodus from Egypt. Succos is called Zman Simchasaynu, "A Time of Our Happiness". What is the source of this special happiness that specifically applies to Succos and no other holiday? On each holiday, there is a commandment to rejoice[30], so why is only Succos described as a time of happiness? Rabbi Dovid Povarsky (1902-1999) explains[31] that the happiness on Succos stems from the assurance that the judgment on Rosh HaShannah was concluded with a favorable verdict. Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher Ba'al HaTurim (1270-1340) says[32] that is the meaning of the verse, which says, "Go eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine in good heartedness because G-d has approved of your deeds.[33]" The absolving of sins is the greatest reason for happiness. The Midrash explains[34] that the Holy Temple is described as the "happiest [place] from the entire world" because while the Holy Temple existed, no Jew was ever despondent because when a Jew would enter the Holy Temple while being sinful, he would offer sacrifices and be forgiven of his sins. The Midrash concludes that there is no greater happiness than one who was pronounced innocent in judgment and this is why the Holy Temple is called the happiest place on earth. Perhaps one can say, as Rabbi Elyashiv said above, that Succos is a happy day because of the location (because people are in a Sukkah, or in Jerusalem, or in their Synagogue), while Yom Kippur is not a happiness of place, but of time (because the day of Yom Kippur itself creates the happiness). It is for this reason why there is a custom amongst many Jews to sing and dance immediately following the N`eilah services at the conclusion of Yom Kippur.

Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Braun writes[35], based on the words of Rashi[36], that when one is atoned from his sin, he is joyous. He also writes that this is the basis for the words of the Midrash[37], which explains that, when the Torah says, "Go eat your bread in happiness,[38]" it refers to the night after Yom Kippur. During the entire day of Yom Kippur, the Jews fast and ask for His forgiveness. After the pardon is granted, a heavenly voice calls out to the Jews, "Go eat your bread in happiness." This explains the opinion of Tosafos[39] who write that on the night after Yom Kippur, there is a special commandment to eat a festive meal. The source of this special commandment is the fact that after Yom Kippur, there is an extra special sense of happiness stemming from the forgiveness of sins.

The happiness on Yom Kippur is a controlled happiness. The rejoicing on Yom Kippur should be a rejoicing while shaking in fear of what His judgment might conclude with, the Psalmist writes, "…And rejoice with trembling.[40]" Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv says that the verse said before Kol Nidrei on Yom Kippur Eve is a prime example of this type of rejoicing. The verse says, "The light is sown for the righteous, and for those of an upright heart, happiness.[41]" The happiness in this verse refers to the happiness of one's soul on Yom Kippur because of the atonement of sins. Even the happiness of Succos is only because of the cleaning of sin, just like the happiness on Yom Kippur. The Talmud says[42] that at the Simchas Beis HaShoeivah on Succos, the pious men would dance, and say that they are happy that they did not sin in their younger years because it would embarrass them in their older years. Meanwhile, the penitents would dance singing that they are happy that their older years serve as atonement for the sins of their younger years. Both groups of men would join for the refrain of their song and agree that "happy is one who did not sin." This shows that even the happiness of Succos is because of the lack of sin, which comes from Yom Kippur. The Mishnah in the end of the Tractate Yoma, which deals with the laws of Yom Kippur and the Temple services on that day, says that just a Mikveh purifies the impure; HaShem purifies Israel from their sins. This is the happiness of Yom Kippur.

In describing the commandment of Lulav and Esrog on Succos, the Torah says, "And you shall take for yourselves, on the first day, the fruit of a citron tree, branches of date palms, twigs of plaited [myrtle] trees, and brook willows, and you shall be happy in front of HaShem, your G-d, for seven days[43]." The Midrash asks[44] why the Torah calls the first day of Succos "the first day", if it is actually the fifteenth of the month, not the first (the other holidays in the same passage are referred to by their date in the month). The Midrash explains that Succos is called "the first day" because it is "the first day" for the accounting of sins. This is because from the day of Yom Kippur, when all sins are forgiven, until Succos, no one sins because each person is so busy preparing for the Mitzvos of Succos, including the Lulav, Sukkah, etc…[45]. Parenthetically, Rabbi Elyashiv asks whether this reasoning applies in present times, for who is to say that they remained completely free of sin between Yom Kippur and Succos. Rabbi Elyashiv reiterates the point that the entire happiness on Succos is a result of the atonement of sins from Yom Kippur, five days earlier. This explains why in the Talmud's description of the Simchas Bais HaShoeivah that all the songs sung concerned repentance and freedom from sin.

Furthermore, when G-d told Moses about the Quails which the Jews in the desert were about to be given in response for their request to eat meat (after having eaten only Manna until then), G-d said[46], “Not for one day shall you eat it, nor for two days, nor for five days, not for ten days, not for twenty days, [rather] a month…” The Tosafists explain[47] that G-d is coming to exclude certain intervals of time for which there is already a precedent of happiness and explains that “one day” refers to Yom Kippur, “two days” refers either to the two days of Rosh HaShannah or the two days of Shavous, “five days” refers to the five days from Yom Kippur to Succos, “ten days” refers to the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur, and “twenty days” refers to the twenty-one days on which the entire Hallel is recited[48]. From the Tosafists’ explanation one sees that the period spanning from Yom Kippur to Succos is one long continuation of happiness. The Talmud[49] writes that the word “the Satan” equals in gematria three hundred and sixty-four alluding to the fact that the Satan only maintains his power for three hundred sixty-four days a year, but one day he remains powerless: Yom Kippur. Rabbi Chanoch Zundel of Bialystock asks in the name of Rabbi Yehonason Eyebschitz [50] that while the numerical value of “the Satan” equals three hundred and sixty-four, the Satan’s name is not “the Satan” rather his name is “Satan” which only equals three hundred and fifty-nine. In his conclusion, he concurs with the basic premise of the question and says that indeed the Satan remains powerless for five less days than mentioned in the Talmud: the five days between Yom Kippur and Succos. This shows that the period between Yom Kippur and Succos is viewed upon by Talmudic scholars as being one long continuation spanning the days in between the two holidays. This can be understood based on the abovementioned principle that the happiness of Succos is attributable to the exoneration and absolution of sin as introduced by Yom Kippur.

Perhaps one can explain the happiness on Succos is a result of the sealing of one’s fate on Yom Kippur. A popular Hebrew dictum states, “There is no happiness like the answering of a doubt”[51]. Indeed, the feeling of doubt is potentially the most negative and destructive emotion. Uncertainty can cause one to resort to drastic measures as a means of achieving closure. In fact, a famous Hassidic lesson related in the name of the Ba’al Shem Tov, Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezer (1698-1760), explains that the numerical value of the Hebrew word for doubt (safek/safeq) is equivalent to that of the word “Amalek” because just as Amalek, the grandson of Esau can attack a person and adversely affect one’s sanity through his venom, so does a doubt hit at the core of a person’s functionality to destroy him from the inside. Accordingly, it serves to reason that there can be no greater feeling than the feeling of relief in answering a doubt. The Talmud[52] states that on Rosh HaShannah those who are completely righteous are written and sealed with a favorable judgment, and the those who are completely wicked, the opposite, but everyone in between is in a state of limbo until Yom Kippur at which time they are judged and, according to their actions, are written and sealed. This state of limbo stands as an indecision of one’s fate is surely the worst situation in which one can be, therefore one can understand that on Yom Kippur when sins are forgiven, one can revel at the happiness of knowing that his destiny has been finalized. This serves as the underlying reason for the happiness of Yom Kippur and the subsequent days including Succos. To answer the question of the Ritva, one can explain that the happiness of Succos and Yom Kippur are indeed one and the same, and indeed they are the same as Tu B’Av. The joy of Tu B’Av originated in the fortieth year of the Jews’ travels in the Sinai Desert when until then every year on Tisha B’Av, all the Jews slept in a grave and a segment of those who sinned by accepting the Ten Spies’ false slanderous testimony about the Land of Israel died. However, in the fortieth year, every person woke up on Tisha B’Av, no one died that year. The Jews assumed that they must have miscalculated the date, and performed the same rite the next day. Yet, even the next night, no one died. They again assumed that they erred in calculating the date, and this continued until they saw the full moon on the fifteenth of the month at which point they know with certainty that Tisha B’Av had passed a no one died. This was the cause for celebration on Tu B’Av, the fifteen of Av. Indeed this explanation also conveys the idea of being happy at resolving an uncertainty for each night until Tu B’Av every man who slept in a grave was uncertain whether the next day he would wake up, but from Tu B’Av and onwards, he knew that he would. Therefore, the root of the happiness on Yom Kippur and Succos is the same as the basis for the happiness of Tu B’Av.

The holiday of Sukkos is sometimes called "Tabernacle" in English. After the Jews sinned with the Golden Calf at Mount Sinai, which caused the Clouds of Glory to be removed from their place protecting the Israelites, Moses ascended the mountain for forty days to request a pardon on behalf of his nation. After the pardon was granted, on Yom Kippur, HaShem commanded the Jews to build for Himself a temporary moving sanctuary to travel with His nation in the wilderness. Once this temporary temple, the Tabernacle (Mishkan) was built, HaShem sent the Clouds of Glory once again to protect his nation. The holiday of Succos commemorates this return of the Clouds of Glory, the security mechanism of the Jews in the desert for forty years[53]. Accordingly, just as the original Succos was so connected to and dependant on Yom Kippur for forgiveness, the present-day holiday of Succos depends on the holy day of Yom Kippur for its effectiveness. Eventually, the Tabernacle's use became obsolete because a more permanent structure was built in Jerusalem, the Holy Temple. However, two of these Holy Temples were destroyed because of the Jews' sins, and presently the Holy Presence of HaShem has no place to rest as it once did. May HaShem forgive His nation from all of their sins so that they may merit the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, speedily and in our days and they should be able to appear before Him pure[54], and continue the thrice-yearly pilgrimages to Jerusalem[55]: Amen.

[1] In the end of Tractate Taanis

[2] Taanis 30b

[3] Chiddushei HaRitva to Bava Basra 121a

[4] Sukkah 51a

[5] See Pnei Shlomo, by Rabbi Shlomo ben Joseph Ganzfried (1804-1886), to Bava Basra 121a

[6] Rosh HaShana 9a

[7] Sha'arei Teshuvah 4:8-9

[8] See Rema to Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim §602:1

[9] Deuteronomy 16:15

[10] Assuming that a Sin and a Samech are interchangeable, which they are because they make the same sound.

[11] Taanis 2a

[12] Although, according to Rabbeinu Yonah (Sha'arei Teshuvah 2:5) all Ten Days of Repentance from Rosh HaShannah to Yom Kippur are considered Yomim Nor`aim.

[13] See Beitzah 30b

[14] Rema to Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim End of §624

[15] Rema to Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim §624:5

[16] Machshirin 6:4

[17] Oil is Chanukah, Wine is Purim, Blood is Pesach, Milk is Shavuos, Honey is Rosh HaShannah

[18] HaLekav V'HaLibuv

[19] Kedushas Levi

[20] Deuteronomy 16:16

[21] In Divrei Aggadah

[22] Tosafos to Sukkah 50b says that the Simchas Beis HaShoeivah is called so because one draws holiness in spirituality from the presence of HaShem, which rested at the Holy Temple.

[23] Sotah 3b

[24] Avos 4:2

[25] Yoma 86b

[26] To explain why this idea does not stand contrary to the Jewish concept of free will is beyond the scope of this essay.

[27] Leviticus 16:30

[28] Taanis 30b

[29] Leviticus 23:24

[30] E.g. see Deuteronomy 16:11

[31] Yishmiru Da'as, Chol HaMoed Succos 5756

[32] Tur, Orach Chaim §624

[33] Ecclesiastes 9:7

[34] Exodus Rabbah 36:1

[35] Shearim Mitzuyanim B'Halacha to Bava Basra 48a

[36] To Menachos 20a

[37] Ecclesiastes Rabbah

[38] Ecclesiastes 9:7

[39] To Yoma 87b

[40] Psalms 2:10

[41] Psalms 97:11

[42] Sukkah 53a

[43] Leviticus 23:40

[44] Tanchuma, Emor §22

[45] Yalkut Shimoni, Torah §651, see also Tur, Orach Chaim §581

[46] Numbers 11:19

[47] Da’as Zekanim Numbers 11:19

[48] That is, eight days of Chanukah, the first two days of Pesach, the first seven days of Sukkos, the two days of Shavous, the two days of Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah

[49] Nedarim 32a

[50] Eitz Yosef to Yoma 20a

[51] See Mutzadas Dovid to Proverbs 15:30,

[52] Rosh HaShannah 16b

[53] See Kol Eliyahu, a compilation of writings in the name of the Vilna Gaon, to Parshas Emor and Biur HaGra to Song of Songs 1:4 in which the Vilna Gaon uses this to explain why Succos is during the month of Tishrei as opposed to during Nissan, for during Nissan the Jews exited Egypt and entered the desert whereupon they were immediately engulfed by the Clouds of Glory. According this explanation, since the Clouds of Glory left and only returned after Yom Kippur, Succos which is a commemoration of those clouds is dated right after Yom Kippur. However, Rabbi Aryeh Malkiel Kotler, Rosh HaYeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha (Rabbi Aaron Kotler Insitiute for Advanced Learning) in Lakewood, NJ asked (The Night of Motzei Yom Kippur, 5771) that this does not necessarily answer the question at hand because one is still required to explain why the month in which Succos should be held was chosen to correspond to the month in which the Second Clouds of Glory came after the original left as a result of the Sin of the Gold Calf, why was it not chosen based on when the first set of Clouds of Glory appeared which was immediately after the Exodus in the month of Nissan? Rabbi Kotler answered that the first clouds were only temporary, so the holiday of Succos’ date was not chosen based on their beginning, rather the date of Succos was chosen based on when the second set of clouds first came because those clouds continue to stay with the Jews until this very day like Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato writes in Derech HaShem Section 4, Chapter 8, §2.

[54] Leviticus 16:30

[55] Deuteronomy 16:16

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