Moadim l'simcha (& gut moed to all my Ashkenazi readers) :)
Did you know there is an actual mitzvah from the Torah to be happy during these 7 (or for you chutznikim, 8!) days of chag??
Sure, I mean, we all know that already, right? Because don't we sing that song "v'samachta b'chagecha v'hayita ach sameach!!! whoa whoa v'samachta b'chagecha vhayita aaaaacccchhh sameach!! oy oy oy oy!"
Did you know that Sukkot is actually the happiest of the shalosh regalim, and it is the time that HaShem is the "happiest" as well?!
The Alshich teaches us:
On Pesach, HaShem's joy was impaired because Am Yisrael were still mired in the impurity of Egypt, to the point that they had to purify themselves for 7 weeks before receiving the Torah.
On Shavuot, His happiness was dampened because He foresaw that soon after receiving the Torah, Bnei Yisrael would commit the grave sin of the golden calf.
But on Sukkot, right after Yom Kippur, HaShem forgave Bnei Yisrael for that sin (and forgives us every year) and commanded Moshe to begin building the Mishkan, which symbolizes closeness to HaShem.
The Vilna Gaon said that the most difficult mitzvah of the 613 mitzvoth is "you shall rejoice on your festival" because it entails being joyful for eight days of Yom Tov, avoiding worrisome and sorrowful thoguhts, allowing nothing to interefere with the simcha of the Yom Tov."
And boy, does the yetzer hara know how to give us thoughts to interfere with our happiness during these holy days!
To add meaning and happiness to our chag, let's dwell on a few thoughts, shall we?
-The mitzvah of sukkah is not exclusive to eating in the sukkah. Chazal teach us that we should hang out, learn, and sleep in the sukkah, just as we would in our own homes!
But wait. Isn't that soo hard? Depending on your climate, it's either hot or cold outside. There're flies. There's no heat or AC (in most sukkahs, anyway). There're no comfy couches. So why are we making this effort?
The Zohar describes the sukkah as "tzila dimehemenuta", the shadow of faith. Why? Because the sukkah symbolizes the protective shade of the Shechina!
So, by merely sitting in the sukkah, one can gain tremendous closeness to the Shechina. Isn't that a chessed? Isn't that a huge zchut?
-Hayashar v'hatov teaches us that we should NOT think that by ordering us to move from our oh-so-comfortable homes into the drafty sukkah, G-d wants to impose hardship on us and make us suffer! On the contrary! HaShem commanding us to be in the sukkah is a sign that He loves us, delights in our wellbeing, and tenderly protects us from hardship.
-So how many mitzvoth do we get on sukkot? 9,893,184 mitzvoth, actually! WOW!
The Divrei Yoel shares a fascinating insight:
Chazal tell us that every moment one sits in the sukkah, he is fulfilling a mitzvah. Let's figure out how many mitzvoth one can fulfill during the entire week of sukkot.
The Gemara (Brachot 7a) says that an hour is divided into 58,888 moments. One who stays in the sukkah for 24 hours fulfills 1,413,312 mitzvot (24 x 58,888). By staying in the sukkah for seven days, one can fulfill 9,893,183 mitzvot! (7 x 1,413,312)
Is that amazing or what?
So, if you're feeling down this sukkot, just think about how much HaShem loves us. How much He wants to be close to us, and for us to be close to Him, and how His Shechina is enveloping us in the holy sukkah.
Remember, the only true happiness in this world comes from being close to HaShem, fulfilling mitzvot, and being happy with our lot in this world. So, smile! :)
Wishing everyone a happy, holy, kosher, and meaningful chag sukkot!