3. There are two aspects of joy that are connected to the holiday of Sukkos, the first being the joy associated with Yom Tov. This, itself can be subdivided. into two categories. The first is related to the celebration of Yom Tov in general [as the verse declares,] “you shall rejoice in your festivals” and as we declare [in our prayers,] “festivals for rejoicing.” The second is particularly related to Sukkos which we single out [in our prayers] as “the season of our rejoicing.”
The second aspect of the joy of Sukkos is the joy that is produced by the unique Mitzvos carried out during Sukkos. Here also there are two categories: the joy produced by the Mitzvah of lulav and “i3srog as the verse (Vayikra 23:40) declares “you shall take for yourselves the fruit of the beautiful [esrog] tree, a branch of palm trees, boughs of thick-leaved trees [myrtle], and willows of the brook and you shall rejoice before the L-rd your G-d for seven days;” and the joy that is connected with the water-offering. Drawing water for that offering generated great happiness as the verse (Isaiah 12:3) declares: “you shall draw water with joy from the wellsprings of deliverance.”
There are two varying opinions as to which of the latter two sources of joy — the Mitzvah of the lulav and esrog or the water-offering — preceded the other. One opinion (Sukkah 42b, Taanis 3a) maintains that the water-offering was brought each of the seven days of Sukkos. Hence, the joy associated with drawing the water began at the preceding night thereby preceding the fulfillment of the Mitzvah. of lulav and esrog. The Halachah supports this opinion (Rambam Hilchos Timidim uMusofim 10:6). However, the second opinion maintains that the water-offering was not brought until the second day of Sukkos and the Mitzvah of the lulav and esrog came first. Since “these and these are the words of the living G-d,” we can learn a lesson from both of these opinions. Even though the Halachah follows the first opinion, since the second opinion is a part of Torah it also provides a lesson.
These lessons can be derived from the explanation of Simchas Bais HaShoeivah that was given by the Rebbe Maharash (5737 Ch. 97). He compared the water-offering to the wine-offering and explained the differences between them. The joy that accompanied the wine-offering is related to the nature of wine as the verse (Shoftim 9:13) declares 11wine causes G-d and man to rejoice.” In contrast, water does not possess a tendency to generate joy. The happiness that accompanied the drawing of the water for the water-offering came about only because doing so fulfilled G-d’s command.
This concept finds its parallel in our service to G-d. In general, a Jew’s body is likened to the city of Yerushalayim and the Jewish heart, the altar. [Hence, all the offerings that were brought on the Altar are reflected in our spiritual service to G-d.] The Hebrew word for offering sacrifices — Korbon — is related to the word Korov, meaning close; the offerings were a process of drawing close to G-d. Furthermore, the bringing of the offerings was a Mitzvah and the fulfillment of each Mitzvah connects us to G-d; the very word Mitzvah is related to the word Tzavsa meaning connection.
The joy that is connected with performing a Mitzvah is two-fold: the joy that is related to the nature of the person who fulfills the Mitzvah, epitomized by the Mitzvah of the wine-offering, and a joy that transcends one’s personal nature, that is generated by the Mitzvah itself . The water offering exemplifies the second type of service.
When a Jew fulfills a Mitzvah that is connected with wine, e.g. Kiddush, or drinking wine because of Simchas Yom Tov, he does not drink because of a desire for wine, but rather because of a decree to fulfill the Mitzvah. Hence, even the joy these Mitzvos producer comes from the Mitzvah and not from the wine and differs from the joy felt by a non-Jew who drinks wine. Nevertheless, by nature, wine brings about joy and thus the joy the Mitzvah produces La connected with that nature. In contrast, the joy produced by the water-offering has no natural cause and results from the Mitzvah alone.
Wine is used as a metaphor for meditation. When a Jew meditates on the fact that G-d has given him the potential to fulfill a Mitzvah, on the heights one achieves through its fulfillment, and the connection with G-d he establishes, he will naturally become happy. However, since this is connected with his understanding, it will be limited and proportionate to the level of his perception.
In contrast, water refers to a service that is not limited by the intellect. Hence, the joy produced by the fulfillment of the Mitzvah of the water-offering is beyond the reach of the mind. When a Jew is charged by feelings of self-sacrifice he is ready to give himself over to G-d. He does not need a reason or a rational explanation as to why a mitzvah can bring him joy; the very fact that the Mitzvah is G-d’s command causes him to be happy.
Thus, we can understand our Sages statement “He who has not seen the rejoicing at the place of the Simchas Bais HaShoeivah has never seen rejoicing in his life.” The joy that comes from the fulfillment of Mitzvos which are related to intellect and meditation is limited and proportionate to one’s level of understanding. In contrast, the joy that comes from the fulfillment of Mitzvos when one is charged by feelings of self-sacrifice and commitment to G-d, a commitment beyond the reach of intellect, is unlimited.
The above serves as a basis from which we can derive the lessons connected with the Mitzvah of lulav and esrog and Simchas Bais HaShoeivah mentioned previously. The joy of Sukkos results from the efforts of (Rosh Hashanah, Aseres Yimei Teshuvah, and particularly) Yom Kippur. Chassidus explains the relationship between the ‘S’chach’ of the Sukkah and (the Teshuvah and) the cloud of the incense offering of Yom Kippur.
The S’chach (and the spiritual influences it represents) surrounds one from all sides, encompassing a person and all of his affairs. This concept is expressed by our Sages’ statement (Sukkah 28b): “Dwell (in the Sukkah) as you live (in your house).” Whatever one does at home should be done in the Sukkah; thus, the Sukkah includes the totality of one’s existence. In this context, we can see the advantage possessed by a Sukkah over the Tallis. A Tallis includes a person’s head and the majority of his body. However, the Sukkah encompasses a person in his totality. However, the effect of the Sukkah is lacking in one respect. The Sukkah surrounds a person but its effect is external, and does not have an internalized effect on a person. The lulav and esrog draw down knowledge, bringing these spiritual influences within man’s realm of conception.
Knowledge is by nature limited and therefore the ultimate level in the service to G-d is the service of Mesirus Nefesh (self-sacrifice above the bounds of intellect). Nevertheless, after one has reached the level of Mesirus Nefesh, an effort must be made to have that service permeate one’s powers of intellect and emotions; for even they must be permeated with G-dliness. Therefore, after completing the Mitzvah of living in the Sukkah, we must “take to ourselves,” bringing the encompassing light of the Sukkah into a level that can be grasped and internalized. For this reason, the lulav and esrog are brought to the heart, thus bringing the above-mentioned influences to the heart and from the heart to all the other limbs of the body.
Thus, we can explain the basis for the opinion that Simchas Bais HaShoeivah begins on the second night of Sukkos, after fulfillment of the Mitzvah of lulav and esrog. Simchas Bais HaShoeivah is an expression of joy transcending intellect. When the service of Mesirus Nefesh is only “encompassing” a Jew, as in the Mitzvah of Sukkah, and has not been internalized, one cannot be asked to show joy that goes beyond his intellectual capacities. Hence, according to that opinion, Simchas Bais HaShoeivah begins after fulfilling the Mitzvah on the first day of Sukkos, for then these influences have been internalized and it is possible for the services of Mesirus Nefesh to be expressed in a manner of joy.
However, the second opinion which is supported by the Halachah, explains that Simchas Bais HaShoeivah is connected to the first night of Sukkos. (In the times of the Temple, water for the water-offering was drawn beginning from the first night. Even though the Simchas Bais HaShoeivah was not held until the second night, the reason for not holding the celebrations on the first night was only because of the prohibitions of using musical instruments on Yom Tov. In the time of Golus, Simchas Bais HaShoeivah is not necessarily connected with musical instruments and hence can be held on the first night of Sukkos as well.) The basis for that opinion is that the “encompassing” influence of the Sukkah is powerful enough to produce joy that transcends the level of intellect. However, even according to this opinion, the joy of the second night is greater because of the influence of the fulfillment of the Mitzvah of lulav and esrog.
The above produces a lesson for us: The second opinion teaches that even on the first night, in addition to the joy of “festivals for rejoicing” and the special joy of Sukkos “the season for our rejoicing,” it is possible to hold a celebration about which our Sages declared “He who has not seen the rejoicing at the place of the Simchas Bais HaShoeivah has never seen rejoicing in his life.” The first opinion teaches that the joy of the second night must be much greater than even the joy of the first night.
On a practical level, even though Simchas Bais HaShoeivah was held on the first night and the joy it produced was great and true, one should not think that one has fulfilled his obligation through that effort. We must hold Simchas Bais HaShoeivah again and with more intensity, with more singing and more dancing than yesterday. Furthermore, that joy must he internalized and affect all our conceptual powers and even one’s body.
This lesson applies to every Jew, those in the Diaspora and those in Eretz Yisrael, the land where “the eyes of the L-rd, your G-d, are upon it from the beginning of the year until the end of the year.” Even in the Diaspora there is a spiritual land of Eretz Yisrael for “on every grouping of ten (Jews), the Shechinah rests.” This is particularly true in a synagogue and a house of study, a place “where prayer and Torah are magnified.” This is especially true in this synagogue and house of study, the place where the Previous Rebbe lived for ten years. Here, there must be even greater joy.
4. There is another reason for joy on the second day of Sukkos which is particularly relevant this year, for this year is a Hakhel year, when “the men, women, and children” were gathered together. Hence, Simchas Bais HaShoeivah must also include children – even very young children. The reference to the water-offering in the Torah is made in the portion connected with the second day of Sukkos; since this reference is made through the letters of the Torah, it applies even to children for they also learn the Torah’s letters.
To summarize: Tonight we must add to the celebration of Simchas Bais HaShoeivah to an even greater degree than yesterday. Similarly, in the days to come, we must “proceed higher in matters of holiness” adding more joy and then drawing down this joy throughout the entire year, thus bringing about the ultimate joy, the coming of Mashiach, in the near future.
- (Back to text) There is an opinion (Maharil, note Chok Yaakov Orach Chayim 490:9) which maintains that the last days of Pesach are also called “the season of our rejoicing,” but the Halachah is otherwise.
- (Back to text) The very name Torah is derived from the word Horoah — meaning lesson.
- (Back to text) The Rebbe Maharash based his explanation on the Maamarim of his predecessors, the Alter Rebbe, the Mitteler Rebbe, and the Tzemach Tzedek. Likewise, his successor (his son) the Rebbe Rashab, and the Previous Rebbe also dealt with this concept. The explanation given above is based on all of their discourses.
- (Back to text) The offerings generally consisted of blood and fat. Blood refers to our powers of excitement, and fat to our potential for pleasure. Their offering on the altar symbolized how these energies are drawn close to G-d. Thus, they become “My food-offering consumed by fire.”
- (Back to text) This accentuates the Jew’s status as “one nation in the world” and “a holy nation.” Even in regard to physical joy, on a level where their joy superficially appears to be identical to that of a non-Jew, Torah teaches that a Jew’s happiness is generated by the mitzvah and not by the wine itself.
- (Back to text) Similarly, the Kabbalah explains that the four types of trees used in the Mitzvah of lulav, allude to the four letters of G-d’s name. Through the fulfillment of that mitzvah, these influences are drawn down to the point where they become “yours.” Throughout the year we must “place G-d before ourselves at all times” — G-d is before US. However, on Sukkos, He becomes “ours.”