CHOL HAMO’ED

The Jewish Chronicle - - JUDAISM - RABBI JONNY HUGHES

“Celebrate the Fes­ti­val of In­gath­er­ing at the end of the year” Ex­o­dus 34:22

THE Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence of the United States pro­motes “life, lib­erty and the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness”. Suc­cot, re­ferred to in the To­rah read­ing for Chol Hamo’ed as a harvest fes­ti­val, the Fes­ti­val of In­gath­er­ing, is called zman­sim­chateinu in our liturgy, the time of our hap­pi­ness. More hap­pi­ness than at any other time, says Mai­monides.

So what is sim­chah? An ab­sence of pain? If so, heroin should do the trick, yet it does not. Per­haps sit­ting by a white beach on a trop­i­cal is­land with a sin­gle malt scotch, the waves tick­ling your feet, fol­lowed by an In­dian head mas­sage, Bea­tles mu­sic play­ing in the back­ground, then off to a sauna/steam room and a tub of cho­co­late-chip cookie-dough Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream be­fore tak­ing a tour of the is­land in a new Fer­rari 458 Spi­der? Phys­i­cal plea­sure yes. Sim­chah? No.

Sim­chah is made of two el­e­ments: ap­pre­ci­a­tion and growth. Dr James Clark, is an Amer­i­can en­tre­pre­neur­ial ge­nius and a self-made bil­lion­aire. In 1999, his com­pany Netscape raised his net worth to $2 bil­lion. De­spite his wealth, he once ad­mit­ted it still was not enough. As he put it, “Once I have more than Larry El­li­son, I’ll be sat­is­fied.” If you’re not happy with what you have, you’ll never be happy with what you get.

Sim­chah is re­lated to another He­brew word, tzmichah, to sprout, spring up, or grow. This is a sim­i­lar pat­tern to the English word “elated”, which means both “happy” and “raised up”. The root, tzemach, spelt back­wards is chametz, the leaven we avoid dur­ing Passover be­cause it rep­re­sents spir­i­tual de­cay. Suc­cot is cel­e­brated us­ing nat­u­ral plant life in the form of the four species and teaches us that true sim­chah is all about growth.

The Jewish no­tion of hap­pi­ness, of sim­chah, is ap­pre­ci­at­ing what we have and liv­ing a life of per­sonal de­vel­op­ment, to be on a jour­ney where we are el­e­vated to be­come bet­ter peo­ple – kin­der, wiser, more pa­tient.

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