Friday, October 05, 2012

Shabbat Sukkot

Although Shabbat Sukkot doesn't seem to have much that separates it from the rest of Sukkot, there is one thing at least upon which we may comment - Megillat Kohelet, one of the five special scrolls we read over the course of the year.Megillat Kohelet is always read during the festival of Sukkot, but it doesn't quite seem to fit - it's tone is decidedly downbeat and certainly appears to clash with the sentiment echoed in a a song commonly sung, "ושמחת בחגך - V'samachta b'chagecha - and you shall rejoice in your festivals" (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, V'Chag Hashavuot, and Chag HaSukkot..." We are clearly supposed to be happy on our Chagim, we must rejoice on Sukkot. So if we are meant to be happy, how can we read Kohelet, which talks about the "futility" of life?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. Again, it seems to clash. 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 necessary part of life, as 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. Sometimes people feel really bad about something, and then compound their feelings by playing a depressing song. That is an example of sadness; it's destructive and a waste of one's time and energy.Rav Kook argues that we are instructed to be full of happiness during our Chagim. We must not allow oursleves to experience sadness, or 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, is useful. That kind of pain allows us to temper our joy to a degree, and lets us realise that we are still homeless. So too, by reading Kohelet, we understand how all in life is transient. Even the greatest joy passes. Just like the Sukkah booths in which we live during the course of the festival, everything is temporary.Wallowing in melancholy is not a Jewish quality, it will get us nowhere. Being in touch with that twinge of pain however, is essential for us to build ourselves up.Shabbat Shalom and a Chag Sameach!Partially based on a D'var Torah I heard from a dorm-mate of mine (Etan) during my Yeshivat Hakotel days, and added to with thoughts of my own and others found from other sources.

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