From Atonement to Joy
The Torah charges us to afflict our souls on Yom and to rejoice on our festivals. In order to translate that into meaningful action we need to consider the major shift that occurs 5 days (!)—between Yom Kippur and Sukkot. Yom Kippur hones in on self denial, while Sukkot focuses on the lulav and etrog as well as ‘dwelling’ in the Sukkah for seven days.
Truth be told: Yom Kippur has an intensity that is not supposed to exceed a day; it would be unhealthy to become fixated on cataloging our sins. The transgressions need to be addressed…and then we need to move on.
What about joy on Sukkot? There’s actually a good bit of melancholy—Ecclesiastes takes a long philosophical view of life’s ups and downs, all the Fall (think about the constant rain of the falling leaves) highlights mortality.
So what’s the joy about? I’d like to suggest that Sukkot is about the joy of community. And I must admit that even amidst the sober and austere liturgy of Yom Kippur, there’s a palpable joy at shul—it’s about enjoying each other’s presence in our communal lives.
With that idea in mind, please consider joining in on the Sukkot and Simchat Torah celebrations. Remember the torah of Lawn Chair Larry: you just can’t sit there!