Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Location of Happiness

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)[1] 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[2], so why is only Succos described as a time of happiness? Rabbi Dovid Povarsky (1902-1999) explains[3] 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[4] 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.[5]" The absolving of sins is the greatest reason for happiness. The Midrash explains[6] 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, like 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 end of Yom Kippur.

[1] Leviticus 23:24
[2] E.g. see Deuteronomy 16:11
[3] Yishmiru Da'as, Chol HaMoed Succos 5756
[4] Tur, Orach Chaim §624
[5] Ecclesiastes 9:7
[6] Exodus Rabbah 36:1

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