Sukkot is called zman simchateinu – the season of our joy.
Many people in Chicago are happy today because the Cubs won the first game of the Division Series last night.
What is the difference between the joy a Jew feels on Sukkot and the joy a Cubs fan feels after his team wins a big game?
One answer is connected to the word in hebrew for joy – simcha. It is closely related to the word ‘tzemach’ which means ‘growth.’ The Rabbis tell us that true joy comes from a feeling of growth. We are here in this world to grow – and when we grow, we feel joy.
So why is the holiday of Sukkot a time of joy more than any other time of the year?
The answer is that we have just come out of a 10 day period of intense introspection and self-correction. We have looked at how great we can truly be, how we have fallen short, and what corrections we need to make to get back on track to becoming great.
Then along comes Sukkot, a holiday filled with the mitzvahs of building a sukkah and finding the right 4 species (lulav, etrog, haddasim, aravot) to celebrate the holiday with. When we step into the sukkah, we feel enveloped by G-d’s embrace of peace. G-d has accepted our efforts to correct ourselves and welcomed us into His presence.
(The Vilna Gaon says that on Sukkot the clouds of glory, which had been removed after the sin of the golden calf, were returned after the Jewish people were forgiven on Yom Kippur)
For me, there is another reason why I am happy to be celebrating Sukkot this year. Over the last year and more of the presidential campaign, we have been bombarded with so much negative talk. In Jewish language, that is called loshon hora – harmful language. Sukkot gives me and those around me the opportunity to shut all those negative words out and to engage in only positive speech, through song, praise and gratitude.
This is one of the posters we’ll be putting up in our sukkah.
I wish you all a joyous Sukkot – and a joyous year.
P.S. For another insight into Sukkot go to
Here are some photos of sukkahs in our neighborhood. The first one is ours.