Tonight, we begin Shemini Atzeres, the final day of the complete holiday season. We have truly experienced a beautiful and joyous Sukkos holiday. The weather has been amazing and it has been an absolute pleasure being able to sit in the Sukkah to eat, read, learn and relax. We have had the pleasure of having some of our children and grandchildren join us for Sukkos and we wish they could stay longer.
Sukkos is known as the time of our “Simcha”. It is a special Mitzvah for us to rejoice and be happy on Sukkos. In fact, the Torah tells us three different times to have Simcha on the holiday of Sukkos. For Shavuos, the Torah only says it once and for Pesach, it does not mention Simcha at all. What is it about Sukkos that is special with regard to experiencing Simcha?
In the Torah reading for the first two days of Sukkos from Parshas Emor, the Sforno points out that the Torah mentions three unique aspects to Sukkos. We take the Four Species and shake them, we move out of our homes and into a temporary dwelling, and there is an 8th day that is a Yom Tov and is holy. In all other cases it is the 7th that is holy, for Sukkos it is the 8th. I would suggest that each of these unique aspects of Sukkos are related to Simcha. The Four Species represent four different types of Jews. Jews who have Torah and Mitzvos, Jews who have Torah but not Mitzvos, Jews who have Mitzvos but not Torah and Jews who have neither. We take the four different species and bundle them all together as one unit and “rejoice before Hashem”. There cannot be Simcha before Hashem if we are not unified. The Jewish people are one unit and when we are unified before Hashem there is Simcha.
When we move out of our homes and into the Sukkah, we are acknowledging that our protection comes from Hashem and not from the brick walls of our homes. It is not the roof over our heads that is protecting us, it is Hashem. When we truly believe that Hashem is taking care of us, we are able to experience Simcha. We don’t have to worry, because we know that Hashem has our backs. He is providing us with whatever we need and will protect us from harm. A person who has true faith in Hashem is happy and feels Simcha. The Sukkah fosters that feeling of Emunah – of faith, and increases our feeling of Simcha.
The third unique component of Sukkos is Shemini Atzeres, the Eighth day. We have just spent 7 days with Hashem rejoicing on the holiday of Sukkos. It is the culmination of the Holiday season. Rashi comments that Hashem wants us to spend one more day with Him because it is difficult to part ways. Shemini Atzeres is a day that is totally dedicated to feeling Hashem’s love for us and His closeness. What greater Simcha can there be.
In Israel, Shemini Atzeres is one day, and it is the day of Simchas Torah. We who live outside of Israel celebrate Simchas Torah on the 2nd day of Shemini Atzeres, but it is the same concept. On the last day of the holiday season, we rejoice in our relationship with Hashem. It is through our study of and observance of the Torah that we strengthen our relationship with Hashem. It is only fitting that we express our Simcha with the Torah and proclaim our joy in our special relationship with Hashem and the gift that He has given us.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach