Finding Joy and Happiness
We are over the hump of Yom Kippur and now getting ready for the joyous holiday of Sukkot. We all know that on Yom Kippur Jewish people attend synagogue in droves. We also know that unfortunately many will not return until next Yom Kippur. And it is very sad and unfortunate that these one-hit-wonder Jews may miss the most important lesson of the High Holidays.
There is no question that Yom Kippur is up there as one of, if not the most important days in the Jewish calendar. As physically taxing as it may be, it is a wonderful opportunity to truly cleanse oneself spiritually and I must say that I really felt it this year. Just like the prayers say, I feel as pure and white as snow. To the point that I feel bad for anyone who has not experienced a Yom Kippur type scenario of complete fasting coupled with the intense self-scrutiny of every aspect of one’s life, goals and aspirations where we examine our lives under a microscope and judge ourselves with the lofty goal of becoming a better person. It is a draining and tiring experience, both physically and emotionally, but immensely rewarding. We are very fortunate to have a Yom Kippur every year
But it’s not supposed to stop on Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is not the goal. It is not the be all and end all but really a means to something bigger. In fact, the goal of the High Holidays in many ways is the holiday of Sukkot.
Each holiday has a theme, and Sukkot is called zeman simchatenu – the time of our Joy. On Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur we repeatedly focus on requesting and showing our desire for Life. In the prayers we express how much we want and love life and to take pleasure in the gift of creation that God has given us.
Judaism’s view is that the purpose of creation is pleasure and this is reflected in the fact that when God made Adam and Eve he put them in גן עדן Gan Eden, literally the Garden of Pleasure. Hence man has no other purpose than to enjoy the meaningful pleasures in life, and Sukkot holds the key to help us get there.
The Sukkah is a simple structure and does not offer much in the way of protection and security. Whether in humid and hot Florida or in the cold and damp of Toronto, London or New York, we definitely do not eat, drink and sometimes sleep in the Sukkah because it offers comfort from the elements. And yes, it happens to be that the weather in Israel during Sukkot is perfect – no accident there – but it is still a very simple and vulnerable structure. And yet somehow we are to find Joy and Happiness in it.
To understand the joy that camping out in a Sukkah offers, we need to understand that very term, camping. Why do so many people enjoy camping? What would possess millions of people all over the world to leave the comfort of their homes and venture out into the wild with minimal electricity, toilets and warm, comfy beds? Even for those who go Glamping – it is still not as comfortable as their original home.
We all know that people go camping because they like getting back to the simpler things in life. They enjoy extricating themselves from all of the trappings that society says they must have in order to achieve happiness. Being one with nature allows one to get back to basics, if only for a short time, and to refocus on what is really important in life. All the luxuries that society and media deem so crucial to our well-being and happiness are exposed to be completely false when we find ourselves in much simpler surroundings such as the outdoors or in a Sukkah.
And this is what Sukkot is all about. Sukkot is the opportunity to take leave from our homes and realize that true joy and happiness comes when we are able to break free from those things that we feel are necessary and crucial to being happy. Only when we know that our happiness is not dependent on any thing are we able to really enjoy those things.
In a Sukkah we come to realize that trusting in God for our material pleasures, enjoying our families, living a life of values of truth and good – that these are the things that bring true happiness. It’s only when we take leave from our things, go to the Sukkah which is bare of all of it, that we can then utilize our possessions to add to our happiness and come to the full understanding that they don’t define or create joy and happiness.
This is the main lesson of Sukkot and to miss out on Sukkot is to miss the fruits of Yom Kippur. If you have experienced the pain of Yom Kippur, you owe it to yourself to experience the pleasure of Sukkot. So get thee to a Sukkah – better yet, build your own – and take your Yom Kippur to a whole new level. Take it to the Joy and Happiness found only in the simplicity of the Sukkah.
Old days, good times I remember
Fun days filled with simple pleasures…
Take me back to a world gone away
Memories seem like yesterday