Let It Rain Joy

Restrain the festival by bonds to the corners of the altar.

Psalms 118:27

The Talmud states that if a person celebrates the day after the holiday with a festive meal, it is considered as though he had built an altar and had brought sacrificial offerings upon it.

Succah 45b

Rashi states that the reason for the eighth day, Shemini Atzeres, can be explained with the parable of a king who invited his children for several days of feasting. When the time came for them to leave, the king said, “Your departure is so difficult for me. Please stay with me for yet one more day” (Rashi, Leviticus 23:36). Similarly, after seven days of Succos, in His great love for Israel, God asks us to stay with Him for yet one more day before returning to our mundane activities, which so often distract us from Him.

To indicate that we cherish our closeness to God just as He does, we add a day of festivity after the last day of the holiday, to extend even further the intimate companionship with God. This testimony, that we value our intimacy with Him and that we leave the Sanctuary only because we must tend to our obligations, is held equivalent to building an altar and bringing votive offerings.

Indeed, God wants us to engage in work – Six days shall you work (Exodus 20:9) – but our attitude toward the workweek should be that of a person who is away from home on an assigned duty, and who longs to return home to his loved ones. The importance of our closeness to God should be manifest not only on the day following the festival but all year round as well.

Today I shall…

try to maintain the closeness with God, that I achieved during the festival, even when I am involved with the activities of everyday life.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day – Tishrei 24”

While for Christians, today is just another day of the week, for observant Jews all over the world, the party’s over. The festivals that have received so much build up over the past month or two have all ended. If they haven’t done so already, it’s time for Jewish families to dismantle their sukkot and put them away (assuming they use a kit like I do) for another year. The dancing is over and the Torah scrolls have been returned to their arks. This coming Shabbat’s reading is Genesis 1:1. The cycle of life begins once again.

It can either be a build up or a let down.

Or, as I mentioned yesterday, it can simply be another reminder for me that time is passing and there is no definite direction set for the next step of my journey. I suppose I could just keep walking and wait to see what turns up, but what if nothing turns up? Everybody hits a “dry spell” in their faith, but I feel positively arid.

Joy is supposed to be a mitzvah, but over the past year and a half or so, I’m still failing Joy 101.

If we have no joy in our hearts, we deny the love of God. We should not say, “Our heart is the dwelling place of lust, jealousy, anger; there is no hope for us.” Let us realize that we have another guest in us who desires to give us life and joy, notwithstanding our sin.

-Paul Philip Levertoff
Love and the Messianic Age

alone-desertLevertoff isn’t the only one to make such an observation:

The natural state of a human being is joy. Joy is a healthy state – healthy for us spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Lack of joy comes from thinking in ways that block your joy. Different people have different obstacles to their joy. It is easy to blame other people, circumstances, or situations for one’s lack of joy, but the only reason that other people, circumstances, and situations might cause a lack of joy is because of the way that one views those factors. The one who views everything in his life as an integral part of his service to the Almighty, will experience joy in dealing with whatever arises. “This, too, is part of my mission in this world.”

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Joy: The Natural State, Daily Lift #601”

Oh, and there’s this rather well-known scripture:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4 (ESV)

And then, according to Tsvi Freeman in his book The Concealed Light, Joy is one of the names of the Messiah (pp 240-1):

HaGra, the Gaon of Vilna, explained, “‘They shall obtain joy and gladness’ (Isaiah 35:10). Joy (sason) and Gladness represent the two Messiahs, the core of Joy being Messiah son of Joseph, about whom the verse speaks” (Kol HaTor 74). This understanding is based upon the Talmud, where Joy and Gladness are personified in a discussion about the highly significant practice of pouring water on the altar during the Feast of Booths (Sukkot).

And speaking of Sukkot:

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”

Isaiah 12:3

I can only conclude that joy, like love, is a verb; it’s something you do, not something you feel. We can love by performing acts of love, such as feeding the hungry, hugging a crying child who just skinned his knee, helping an elderly, infirm person across the street, or visiting a sick person in who is in the hospital. But how to you do joy?

Or has that question already been answered?

Simchat Torah means “the rejoicing of the Torah,” for the Torah rejoices on this day. The Torah is the stuff of the Jew’s life: his link to his Creator, his national mandate, the very purpose of his existence. But the Jew is no less crucial to the Torah than the Torah is to the Jew: it is he and she who devote their life to its study, teaching and practice; he and she who carry its wisdom and ethos to all peoples of the earth; he and she who translate its precepts and ideals into concrete reality.

So if we rejoice in the Torah on Simchat Torah, lifting its holy scrolls into our arms and filling the synagogue with song and dance, the Torah, too, rejoices in us on this day. The Torah, too, wishes to dance, but, lacking the physical apparatus to do so, it employs the body of the Jew. On Simchat Torah, the Jew becomes the dancing feet of the Torah.

“Torah in the Winter”
Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Adapted by Rabbi Yanki Tauber

But James, the brother of the Master, didn’t say to “count it all joy” when you’re dancing around with the Torah scroll, but when “you meet trials of various kinds.” And Rabbi Pliskin said, “The one who views everything in his life as an integral part of his service to the Almighty, will experience joy in dealing with whatever arises,” so anything that happens, regardless of its nature, if it is part of us serving God, should be a source of joy.

What’s the connection, or is there a connection between Jewish tradition, Jewish philosophy, and Christian scripture?

I suppose this is where having a mentor might come in handy, but I can’t see that happening.

Of course, James didn’t say “feel joy when you meet trials of various kinds,” he just said “count it all joy,” as if it were joy, but it isn’t really. Rabbi Pliskin’s advice is harder, because he tells us to “count it all joy” no matter what, and to actually experience joy. I like James’s advice better. Maybe in the arid times, we’re supposed to just “count it all joy” not expecting to really experience joy, but knowing that someday, once the water starts to pour again, joy will be forthcoming with the rain.

Let it rain joy.


5 thoughts on “Let It Rain Joy”

  1. I’ve always felt that when my faith feels stale or the light inside of me grows dull, the best way to get out of such a funk is, simply, to do.

    Doing, rather than thinking about, writing about, whatever, is always the best antidote for me.

    Going for a hike, taking a run, enjoying G-d’s creation for all of its beauty. Seeing a friend, and doing my best to be a source of happiness and joy, for them. Helping someone who needs a hand.

    You know the drill, as you mentioned.

    Easier said than done of course, but that’s where I tend to get rejuvenated most. Remembering that the Kingdom isn’t stagnate, and that it needs to be brought about, everyday, gives me the boost and the encouragement to keep on trucking.

    So get out there! 🙂


  2. Thanks, Nate.

    Actually “part 2” will be much more hopeful. I’ll post it tomorrow, but it’s called “Doing Joy,” which should give you an idea that it has a “happy ending.”


  3. Editing takes longer than writing. If I’m inspired, I can write the equivalent of a 2,000 word essay (complete with accompanying images) in two to three hours.

    Really, it’s just me thinking out loud with my fingers.

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