"One thing have I asked of HaShem, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of HaShem all the days of my life..." (Psalms 27:4)
Tonight the Jewish world enters the sukkah, a temporary dwelling whose roof is constructed only of organic materials, (branches and palm fronds trimmed from the trees), through which the stars of heaven can be seen at night. For seven nights Jews the world over will eat, sleep and pass each minute of the day in the sukkah. This flimsy sukkah, through which the wind blows and the stars shine, is, in the words of the Psalmist, "the house of HaShem," and these seven days of the Sukkot festival are "all the days of [our lives]."
How can it be that we can find such closeness to the Eternal One, Creator of the universe from within the narrow confines of so temporary a dwelling, the work of our own hands, and for such a limited duration of time? "House of HaShem?" How so? Just what about these seven days earns them the epithet "all the days of [our lives]?"
The answer to the riddle, and the element which binds our finite space and time together and embues them with the eternal, is the fulfillment of the commandment: "And you should rejoice before the Hashem your G-d for seven days." (Leviticus 23:40) Joy - simcha - is indeed the element we are called upon by G-d to muster in all our endeavors, in the performance of all the mitzvot - commandments that we have received. We are warned in the book of Deuteronomy that the joyless fulfillment of commandments will bring upon us great ill-fortune. We are further told that all our festivals should be observed with great joy. Yet only on Sukkot are we commanded to dwell in the sukkah, the embodiment of the eternal. It can be said that on Passover, the celebration of our liberation from Egypt, and Shavuoth, the commemoration of the receiving of Torah at Mount Sinai, joy is an integral part of the equation, but of Sukkot, the "season of our joy," this joy - simcha - is the very essence of the holiday.
This essence is nowhere more pronounced than in the daily celebration of the Water Libation that took place in the Holy Temple throughout Sukkot. This ceremony which celebrated the drawing of waters from the Shiloach water spring in the lower city of Jerusalem and the pouring of this water on the great altar in the courtyard of the Holy Temple is representative of the drawing upon of Divine inspiration - ruach hakodesh - by the prophets of Israel.
Even until this day every humble Jew and Gentile who attaches himself to the G-d of Israel, must strive to draw upon and fill his days with this same Divine inspiration - ruach hakodesh - and live his life accordingly. The vessel used to achieve this is joy. On Sukkot our joy is a vessel which "runneth over" (Psalms 23) just as surely as the golden flask containing water from the Shiloach is poured down the side of the altar. This surfeit of joy is what turns our seven day sojourn in our temporary dwellings into the Psalmist's vision of dwelling "in the house of HaShem all the days of my life..." (ibid 27:4)
In this week's TEMPLE TALK internet radio broadcast, Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven discuss the timeless and sublime joy of dwelling in the sukkah. Also included is an update on current events happening on and around the Temple Mount.
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