One of the many names for the holiday of Sukkot (aka Booths) is zeman simchateinu (the time of our happiness). Why, of all of the holidays, does Sukkot have the distinction of being called by this title?
Some explain this as being due to the fact that after Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we have a renewed and close relationship with the Holy One above. Now that we have repented from our sins and are confident that we have been forgiven, we celebrate. We celebrate by building and dwelling in a sukkah, and recalling that G-d led us out of Egypt.
It might seem incongruous that we celebrate by leaving the comfort of our homes and going to sit, eat and sleep in a small hut, exposed to the elements. It seems like we are voluntarily putting ourselves in a situation that is devoid of luxuries.
But perhaps that is precisely the point. On Sukkot, we recognize that much of what we think we need is not really necessary. It is a time in which we recognize that our priorities may be misplaced. It is not possessions that are important in life. It is joy and closeness to G-d.
Who is the person that is truly happy? It is the person who is content with his (or her) lot. (Pirke Avot). On Sukkot, we express our contentment and our joy with what G-d has given us.
Thanksgiving has been called “the American Sukkot” because we pause to enjoy the abundance with which G-d has blessed us. We appreciate what we have and express our gratitude.
May the true joy we experience at the time of Sukkot last us throughout the year. May we rejoice in the knowledge that we are forgiven, protected and blessed by Hakadosh Boruch Hu (the Holy One, blessed be he).
Chag sameach — a happy Sukkot to our entire community.
(This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.)