Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Time to Rejoice: A Teaching from Reb Noson on Sukkos, Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah


Free translation of an excerpt from Likutey Halakhos, Chezkas Karka’os, Halakhah 3
As found in Otzar HaYirah, “Teshuvas HaShanah,” sec. 164 and 165

By Dovid Sears

The ritual of taking the Four Species on Sukkos, the “season of our rejoicing,” is meant to imbue the heart with simchah shel mitzvah, the joy of the mitzvah, as the verse states, “You gave joy to my heart” (Psalms 4:8).

This is an aspect of the World to Come. For a person contains within himself all of the worlds; each of us contains an aspect of the “World to Come” and “This World.” That is, the head and higher consciousness (da’as) of a person is an aspect of the World to Come, which represents the culmination of higher perception. The body is the aspect of This World.

The key factor is the heart, which possesses two chambers that house the two basic inclinations: the Yetzer Tov (good urge) and Yetzer HaRa (evil urge). This makes it possible for a person to possess free choice, which is the great challenge of this world. Accordingly, it is possible for one to mentally sense the aspect of the World to Come. However, the main thing is to draw down this perception to the heart, which alludes to This World, the world of free choice.

This is the drawing down of the joy and delight of the World to Come to very midst of This World, in keeping with the verse, “And you shall know (da’as) today and place it in your heart…” (Deut. 11:2). And we accomplish this through the ritual of the Four Species—thus transmitting the joy of the World to Come from the brain to the heart, so that we may feel the joy of the World to Come right here in this world and in the heart, which is the main locus of joy.

Thus it is written, “And you shall take for yourselves on the first day [of the Sukkos festival] a fruit of the Eytz Hadar [‘beautiful tree,’ which Chazal understand to denote the Esrog] and rejoice before Hashem, your G-d” (Leviticus 22:40).

For in this way, we draw down the complete joy of the mitzvah to this world—to such a degree that we will merit to perform all mitzvot, constantly, throughout the year, with inherent joy of the mitzvah, free of any desire for reward in the World to Come. Rather, our entire joy will be in the experience of performing the mitzvah itself.

This is why “hiddur” (beauty) is especially associated with the Esrog, which represents the heart, as our Sages state; and the taste of this tree and the fruit are the same. [Our Sages infer from the Torah’s language that the Creator’s initially commanded this to all trees, but only the Esrog tree properly fulfilled that command.]

For the tree itself alludes to This World, where ordinarily we don’t experience the “taste” of holiness so much. Rather, this is a world of action. Yet from this tree grow wondrous fruits which we may merit to eat and enjoy in in the World to Come, at the time of receiving divine reward. However, the ideal is to experience the taste and the pleasantness of the fruit in the tree, as well. This is the experience of the World to Come when we perform the mitzvah [in this world]—the aspect of the tree and the fruit tasting the same.

Throughout the seven days of Sukkos we merit to elicit this happiness and to rejoice in G-d. This corresponds to “Israel will rejoice in its Maker.” This is the aspect of our joy in performing the mitzvos themselves. For the mitzvos are one with G-d who commanded them. 

This too is the meaning of the Simchas Beis Hasho’evah [i.e., the rejoicing in drawing water from the Shiloach stream for a special Water Libation in the Holy Temple. This celebration took place on the first night of Sukkos, and lasted until dawn, when the water was drawn, amid great festivity and song. However, even today it is customary to celebrate on the nights of Sukkos. These festivities are also called “Simchas Beis HaSho’evah.”]

Afterward, on Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah, G-d rejoices (so to speak) in the Jewish people. As our Sages state, it is as if G-d asks, “Please remain with Me one more day…” This corresponds to “G-d will rejoice in His works.”  Then joy is complete; for both joys become one.


At this time we hold the Torah scroll and rejoice with her. This shows that all of our joy is derived from the Torah alone—which is one with G-d. And reciprocally, G-d rejoices with us. Thus the two aspects of joy become one. 

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