Friday, October 17, 2008

Shabbat Sukkot

This D'var Torah is brought to you by my dorm-mate, Eitan. I was sitting eating lunch with him earlier, and he related this short drasha to me. Hopefully I can convey it to you as well as he did to me.

There is a song commonly sung, "ושמחת בחגך - V'samachta b'chagecha - and you shall rejoice in your festivals" whose words come from Kriat Hatorah of Simchat Torah. (Sourced from פרשת ראה: טז:יד) Two Psukim later in פסוק טז, we read, "שלוש פעמים בשנה... בחג המצות ובחג השבועות ובחג הסוכות - Three times a year... On Chag Hamatzot, Vhag Hashavuot, and Chag HaSukkot..." We are clearly supposed to be happy on our Chagim, we must rejoice on Sukkot. So far, so good.

But if we examine the text of the Mussaf Shmonah Esrei we say every day of Chag, we say "ומפני חטאנו גלינו מארצנו, ונתרחקנו מעל אדמתנו - But because of our sins we have been exiled from our land and sent far from our soil." This is certainly no happy statement, and if we pray the we are meant to, these words must surely evoke a certain emotion within us, an emotion rather dissonant with the theme of rejoicing. How do we resolve such a discrepancy?

Rav Kook answers the question as follows. There are two types of negative feelings in life, one is sadness and one is pain. Pain is a neccessary part of life, it allows us to realise that something is wrong and to build on it. Sadness on the other hand, is restricting and inhibits us. When we are sad, we can become depressed and caught up in the act of "being sad." Humans tend to wallow in sadness. Have you ever felt really bad about something, and then compounded your feelings by playing a depressing song? It's destructive and a waste of your time and energy.

Rav Kook argues that we are instructed to be full of שמחה on our Chagim, and must contain all sadness, any type of negative feeling upon which we cannot build. Pain on the other hand, pain that we wrecked our Bet Hamikdash and consequently been cast into a 2,000 year long exile, that is useful. That kind of pain allows us to temper our שמחה to a degree, and lets us realise that we are still homeless. Wallowing in melancholy is not a Jewish quality, it will get us nowhere. Being in touch with that twinge of pain however, is essential.

Shabbat Shalom and a Chag Sameach!

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