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Tishrei 21

Seven days shall you celebrate before Hashem, your God ... and you shall only be joyous (Deuteronomy 16:15).

Many people think of Judaism as being extremely solemn, perhaps not realizing that the essence of Judaism is simchah, joy, and that whatever solemnity there is, is in reality a preparation for joy.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch points to a simple fact. The Torah designates one day each for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (the second day of Rosh Hashanah is of Rabbinical origin), whereas Succos, the festival of rejoicing, is of seven days' duration.

The Gaon of Vilna was asked which of the six hundred thirteen mitzvos he considered the most difficult to observe. He answered that it was Succos, because for seven consecutive days a person must be in constant joy. Regardless of what might occur during these days that might make it difficult for a person to feel happy, the mitzvah to rejoice requires him to overcome all obstacles to joy.

The Torah's position is that joy is not simply a spontaneous feeling that accompanies pleasant experiences. Joy requires work: meditation on why a person who is privileged to serve God should rejoice. Joy can be achieved even under adverse circumstances. This is something which is expected not only of great tzaddikim, but also of every Jew.

On Succos we must make the necessary effort to be in constant joy throughout the entire festival, and we should learn therefrom how to generate joy all year round.

Today I shall...

try to find ways to bring more joy into my life, and strive to achieve joy even when circumstances are not conducive thereto.

With stories and insights, Rabbi Twerski's new book Twerski on Machzor makes Rosh Hashanah prayers more meaningful. Click here to order...

May 21, 2009

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