The Joy of Sukkot

By Rabbi Bryan Kinzbrunner
Wilf Campus Chaplain

Sunday night, October 13, begins the festival of Sukkot.  On Sukkot, we are commanded to experience joy as it says “You shall rejoice in your festival, with your son and daughter, your male and female slave, the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow in your communities. You shall hold a festival for the LORD your God seven days, in the place that the LORD will choose; for the LORD your God will bless all your crops and all your undertakings, and you shall have nothing but joy (Deuteronomy 16:14-15).” The Torah’s description of joy on the festivals includes our inclusion of all people. The commentaries describe that a complete celebration on the holidays must include our guaranteeing everyone has the opportunity to participate. Why are we commanded to experience joy and share in the experience of joy during the festival of Sukkot?

The holiday of Sukkot, coming soon after we spend 10 days in reflection from Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, is a time for many in which there is a bit of an emotional letdown.  The serious and solemn nature of that time period can be so intense, reflecting on our place in the world, whether this will be a year of life or death, that we begin to feel holidayed out.  In comes Sukkot and says, now that you have achieved your goal of starting fresh, and after you have spent so much time in a more spiritual state, now is the time to feel joy.  This is a joy of tremendous spirituality.  It is a joy in recognizing that while life is temporary, we have been blessed with the gift of life and can use it to spread this spiritual joy from ourselves to others. May this be a holiday in which we experience and maintain the joy of emerging from our time of introspection with a sense of spiritual renewal.