It is customary to "Begin with blessing." Thus, when one Jew meets another Jew, he blesses him, "Shalom Aleichem," and his colleague responds, "Aleichem Shalom." Shalom has two meanings: one, "peace" and the second, "perfection." The two are interrelated. Through peace, uniting with another Jew and opening oneself up to learning from him, one achieves greater self-fulfillment and perfection. Every person can contribute something to someone else as implied by our Sages' statement, "Who is a wise man? One who learns from every person."
The above is particularly appropriate in the month of Tishrei, the beginning of the year, which starts with the holiday of Rosh HaShanah. At that time, the Jews fulfill G-d's wish and crown Him as King.
Any king -- how much more so, G-d, King of kings -- is concerned with the welfare of his subjects and seeks to provide them with their needs. Furthermore, G-d grants us beneficence, not according to our own perception of our needs, but according to His conception of them and according to His boundless potential to give.
G-d's generosity is further enhanced by the positive nature of the present time. Chassidic thought explains that the spiritual influences which are hidden -- i.e., too sublime to be revealed within the context of this material world -- on Rosh HaShanah are revealed on the festival of Sukkos. Thus, these days, "a time of joy," when the Jews fulfill G-d's request to accept Him as King and, in particular, the holiday of Sukkos when the happiness that is connected with that service is revealed, are times of blessing.
This is alluded to in the name for the holiday of Sukkos, "the season of our rejoicing." On a simple level, the plural is used because this is a time of happiness for the entire Jewish people. This is reflected in Torah law, which obligates us to share our festive joy not only with our families, but also with guests. In particular, the importance of having guests is emphasized on the holiday of Sukkos by the association with the ushpizen, a term which means "guests."
In addition, the expression, "our rejoicing," alludes to the fact that, in addition to the rejoicing of the Jewish people, "Israel will rejoice in its Maker," Sukkos is a time of rejoicing for G-d, "the L-rd will rejoice in His works." In this time of coupled celebration, G-d's generosity will be even greater.
G-d's beneficence is also manifest in His endowment of the potential to celebrate Simchas Beis HaShoevah with even greater joy than on the previous night -- which itself represented an increase over the celebrations of the night which preceded it -- to the extent that "Whoever did not see [this] Simchas Beis HaShoevah never saw happiness in his life," i.e., the celebrations of this Simchas Beis HaShoevah should overshadow all the happiness one has previously experienced.
This is enhanced by three day continuum of holiness created because the celebration of Sukkos flows directly into Shabbos. This establishes a chazakah in regard to happiness for Shabbos is also associated with happiness as our Sages commented, " 'The days of your rejoicing' -- These are the Shabbasos."
There are two meanings associated with the concept of a chazakah:
- strength, in this context, a strengthening of our happiness, and,
- an assurance that the matter will continue. Even in worldly matters, when something is repeated three times, there is a likelihood that it will continue.
There is another unique source of happiness on Sukkos, the presence of the ushpizen, both those mentioned in the Zohar and the Chassidic ushpizen mentioned by the Previous Rebbe. [Indeed, it would be proper to mention the Chassidic ushpizen before those mentioned in the Zohar since it is through Chassidus that we are able to understand the Zohar's teachings.]
Ya'akov, our Patriarch, the primary ushpiz of the present night shares a particular connection with the holiday of Sukkos for the Torah specifically mentions him in association with Sukkos.
Ya'akov is associated with the service of Torah study. His influence is complemented by the Alter Rebbe whose name Shneur Zalman implies that the two lights of Torah (Nigleh, the teachings of Torah law, and P'nimiyus HaTorah) are drawn down l'zman ("into time"), i.e., internalized within the context of our material world.
May the celebration of Simchas Beis HaShoevah tonight surpass that of the previous nights and may this soon lead to the ultimate celebration of Simchas Beis HaShoevah in the Beis HaMikdash with the coming of Mashiach. May it be in the immediate future.
- (Back to text) Wisdom is the highest of our powers of the soul and influences all the others. Thus, an increase in wisdom causes an increase in the other powers as well.
- (Back to text) The connection to the beginning of the year is implied by the name Tishrei itself whose letters can be rearranged to form the word reishis ("head"). Similarly, the letters of Tishrei contain the letters of the word yasher ("straight"). This is significant for "G-d created man to be straight."
- (Back to text) A king needs his people since, "Without a people, there cannot be a king."
- (Back to text) This is paralleled -- within the limits of material existence -- in the relationship between an earthly king and his people. Since a king is the source of livelihood and sustenance for his people, Chassidic thought describes a king as being "the fundamental existence of the people." Surely, this applies to G-d who "keeps us alive, maintains us, and allows us to reach" all occasions.
- (Back to text) In a larger sense, this includes the entire period from Rosh HaShanah to Yom Kippur. This reflects the highest level in the love relationship alluded to by the verse, "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine." (The last letter of each of the Hebrew words of this verse is a yud which is numerically equivalent to ten. Four times ten is forty. This refers to the thirty days of Elul when "the King is in the field," and the ten days from Rosh HaShanah until Yom Kippur.
- (Back to text) This request is directed to every member of the Jewish people -- man, woman, and child. Each individual's fulfillment of this request and acceptance of G-d's Kingship adds to His joy.
This concept can be grasped by a child. On the contrary, there are times when it is easier for a child to appreciate and become absorbed in the service of accepting G-d as King than an adult. A child can sense G-d's Kingship in every aspect of his daily activities. In contrast, an adult is often involved in his personal affairs -- which are all aspects of the mission that G-d has sent him to fulfill in this world -- and, due to the complexity of those affairs, cannot necessarily have such an all-pervasive appreciation of G-d's Kingship.
- (Back to text) Our joy is intensified because, on Sukkos, our victory in the judgment of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur is revealed by the mitzvah of the lulav.
- (Back to text) It is appropriate that this be a time of Divine beneficence because it is a time when a Jewish household is faced with great expenses. This is particularly true this year when the holidays flow directly into Shabbos and thus, there are more expenses than usual.
- (Back to text) We see that even in worldly things, the fact that two entities are close to each other causes them to influence each other. Since everything in this world was created for the sake of the Torah and the Jews and has its source in Torah, it follows that the proximity of Shabbos and the festivals is significant.
- (Back to text) Furthermore, this year, the chazakah created by Shabbos following a festival itself is repeated three times.
- (Back to text) The Alter Rebbe also shares an intrinsic connection with the present night, the third night of Sukkos, because his teachings center on Chabad, the use of our three powers of intellect.
- (Back to text) This is derived from the fact that the name Zalman shares the same Hebrew letters as the word l'zman.