It is proper to begin with blessing, with the salutation, Moadim l'Simchah. To a greater extent than on other holidays, this greeting is particularly appropriate for the festival of Sukkos, "the season of our rejoicing." There are levels within the concept of happiness. The other festivals focus on other aspects -- freedom and the giving of the Torah -- and happiness is not the primary concern. In contrast, as the name "the season of our rejoicing" implies, on Sukkos, the focus is on happiness.
The concept that "the season of our rejoicing" follows "the season of the giving of our Torah" provides us with a fundamental lesson. On the surface, the ultimate source of happiness is the knowledge that G-d "chose us from among the nations and gave us His Torah." If so, why should the celebration of Sukkos be more joyous than that of Shavuos to the extent that it is called, "the season of our rejoicing."
In resolution of this question, it is explained that Sukkos is also associated with the giving of the Torah for the second tablets were given on Yom Kippur. This dimension is not, however, stressed on Yom Kippur because that day is associated with forgiveness and atonement and it is on Sukkos, that the connection with the Torah comes into revelation and thus, becomes a source for happiness. Indeed, it is marked by even greater rejoicing than that associated with the giving of the first tablets. Therefore, the rejoicing of Sukkos surpasses that of Shavuos.
On Sukkos, the complete revelation of the influence of the giving of the Torah is at the conclusion of the holiday, on Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah which share a more direct connection with the giving of the second tablets on Yom Kippur. For that reason, the rejoicing of Simchas Torah surpasses that of all the other festivals, and even surpasses that of all the days of Sukkos.
Thus, tonight is also an appropriate night to mention the importance of increasing our study of Torah and in particular, the study of P'nimiyus HaTorah as revealed in the teachings of the Rebbeim. Through Torah study, a perfect and wondrous union with G-d is established. As the Zohar relates, there are three bonds, the Jews connect with the Torah and the Torah connects them with G-d. Similarly, the Jews connect G-d's essence to the Torah. [This clarifies the expression "three bonds." Generally, the Torah is seen as an intermediary to develop the connection between the Jews and G-d. Chassidus, however, explains how through the Jews' bond with G-d, they draw down His essence into the Torah they study.]
It is possible to elaborate further on these concepts, but that is undesirable for it would detract from the time to be spent celebrating Simchas Beis HaShoevah. Each person desires happiness. Accordingly, he should do his part in increasing that happiness.
What does this entail? A factor which always contributes to increased happiness is the presence of new faces, people who have not taken part in the celebrations previously. Therefore, each person should do his part to bring others to Simchas Beis HaShoevah. Each person has an inclination to refrain from these efforts, explaining to himself: This is the fifth night of Sukkos. If the other person has not come to Simchas Beis HaShoevah as of yet -- and I have not done anything to bring him -- why should tonight be any different. This is, however, a wrong approach. One must go out and try to influence another person, even if his level is far less than yours to join in these celebrations.
In this context, a lesson can be taken from the ushpiz of the present evening, Aharon, the priest, who is described as, "loving peace and pursuing peace." We are told to "Be of Aharon's students... love the creations and bring them close to Torah."
[Here, we see a connection to the Chassidic ushpiz of the present evening, the Tzemach Tzedek who risked his life in his activities connected with the Cantonists, in order to bring them close to Torah.]
There is another dimension to the above directive. Just as we should try to bring other people, "new faces," to Simchas Beis HaShoevah, we should also bring out a new person in our own being and bring him to Simchas Beis HaShoevah and celebrate with new and increased joy.
This will lead to the time when we proceed, "with our youth and our elders, our sons and our daughters," to Eretz Yisrael, to Jerusalem, and to the Beis HaMikdash and the Holy of Holies, together with Mashiach and the ultimate redemption. May it come about immediately.
- (Back to text) The connection between the Torah and Sukkos is also reflected in the fact that the Torah is referred to as "a shield" for the Jewish people. Similarly, our sukkos are intended to shield the people from the rain and the sun.
- (Back to text) This follows the principle that all the spiritual influences which are hidden -- i.e., too sublime to be revealed within the context of this material world -- during the Ten Days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, are revealed on the festival of Sukkos. This is alluded to in the verse, "bekessah (Rosh HaShanah) l'yom chageinu (Sukkos)."
Although all the aspects of Sukkos -- and of Tishrei as a whole -- are included in the beginning of the month which is Rosh Chodesh, and in Tishrei, also Rosh HaShanah, they do not come into revelation until after Yom Kippur, and in the most complete sense, until Sukkos.
- (Back to text) In particular, Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah reflect two different phases of service. The service of Shemini Atzeres centers on gathering in (one of the meanings of the word Atzeres) all the influences of the holiday of Sukkos and of the month of Tishrei as a whole and internalizing them, while Simchas Torah is dedicated to celebrating with the Torah. (For this reason, the Rebbeim would generally spend Shemini Atzeres in relative seclusion, in order to emphasize the uniqueness of the celebrations of Simchas Torah.)
In Eretz Yisrael, when the two holidays are celebrated on the same day, a unique potential is granted to carry out both services.
- (Back to text) Within Sukkos itself, our rejoicing increases each day. Nevertheless, the celebration of Simchas Torah rises above all connection with the celebrations of Sukkos.
[In this context, it is worthy to mention the distinction made between the sacrifices of Sukkos which include seventy bulls -- alluding to the refinement of the seventy nations of the world -- and those of Simchas Torah which include only one bull, emphasizing that it is a day when Jews are "alone with G-d."]
- (Back to text) Similarly, efforts must be made to study the many teachings of the Rebbeim in Nigleh, the revealed dimension of Torah law.
- (Back to text) The concept of three is emphasized this year when there are three sets of a three day continuum of holiness.
- (Back to text) Although the custom of celebrating Simchas Beis HaShoevah was not accepted in all Jewish communities, and not even in all Chassidic communities, in Lubavitch, it was customary to celebrate Simchas Beis HaShoevah.
- (Back to text) Just as there is a Chassidic ushpiz connected with each of the seven nights of Sukkos, (the Rebbeim from the Baal Shem Tov until the Rebbe Rashab), the Previous Rebbe is the ushpiz associated with Shemini Atzeres. Thus, his relationship to the Rebbeim who preceded him parallels that of Shemini Atzeres to Sukkos. Just as Shemini Atzeres "gathers in" the influence of Sukkos, the Previous Rebbe collected and published the teachings of his predecessors beginning with those of the Baal Shem Tov.
- (Back to text) Thus, the present evening is also connected with the priestly blessings, blessings of a uniquely high level (in particular, when recited by Aharon, himself).
- (Back to text) In Tanya, the Alter Rebbe explains that the word "creations" refers to people on a low level, individuals whose only redeeming factor is that they were created by G-d. Even these people must be loved and brought close to Torah.
Similarly, they must be brought to Simchas Beis HaShoevah. Even if one is a distinguished sage and has been trained in a Chassidus, he must concern himself with those on a much lower level. Indeed, his scholarship and Chassidic training should make him conscious of his obligation to do so.