We are familiar with the fact that one of the names of Succot is "Zman Simchateinu," literally 'the time of our happiness.' Why is this so? Why is Succot singled out among all of the holidays as the one that represents our happiness? One part of this Chabura will seek to answer that question. At the same time, we will try to answer the question of exactly what is meant by "happiness" in both the Torah and by the Sages.

There are four times in the Torah when the term "simcha" is used in connection with the holidays. Once is in Vayikra 23:40, in connection with the four species taken on Succot. The other three times occur in Devarim 16:11,14, & 15. The first of those times is in connection to Shavuot, while the latter two are in connection to Succot. With regard to those two, one speaks about simcha in terms of sharing with the unfortunate and poor members of society, while the other verse connects simcha to the celebrations held at the Temple. While Rashi sees the phrase "v'samachta b'chagecha" - 'you shall be happy in your festivals' - as a promise from Hashem, Ibn Ezra claims that this is a commandment. It is the understanding of the Ibn Ezra which pervades the gemara and which will be our focus here.

What is included in the commandment of simcha? The gemara in Pesachim 109a states that a person is commanded to make his children happy on the festivals. How does he accomplish this? The first opinion is that wine must be used. Rabi Yehuda claims that everything goes according to the individual - wine for males and new clothes for females. Rabi Yehuda ben Beteira claims that so long as the Temple is standing, there is no happiness without meat; after the destruction of the Temple there is no happiness without wine. Rambam (Hil. Yom Tov 6:17) claims that the essence of the commandment is to have the meat of sacrifices, but there is also an aspect of providing for everyone as per their individual nature, as well as to give to the poor and unfortunate.

Taking the position that the commandment is fulfilled primarily through the eating of sacrificial meat, we have to ask what sacrifice we are dealing with here. Is there merely a commandment to eat meat on the holiday, and thus any sacrifice will suffice, or is there a special sacrifice that must be brought in fulfillment of this command? A key ramification of this question is whether or not women have any requirement of simcha. If there is a special sacrifice that must be brought on the holiday, then that sacrifice is a time-bound positive commandment, and thus women should be exempt. If there is no special sacrifice, then perhaps there is room to say that women share in this obligation.

Rambam (Hil. Chagigah 1:1) states that the mitzva of simcha is that one must bring an extra shelamim (peace) sacrifice on the holiday, and women are obligated to fulfill this commandment. How can this be so? Seemingly, it is a time-bound positive commandment!? The Ra'avad jumps on this point and claims that, in fact, women have no obligation to bring the sacrifice, but rather rejoice with their husbands. The Lechem Mishne comments that, according to the Ra'avad, it seems that women have no connection at all to the sacrifice, and thus their husbands are not required to feed them meat of this sacrifice in order to make them happy on the holiday, but rather may rejoice with them in other ways as well.

From this point, there are two directions to be taken. The first is to point out that the sacrifice to be brought is not necessarily a special one. The gemara (Chagigah 8a; Beitzah 19b) points out that a person may bring any voluntary sacrifice that he owes, and through that fulfill his requirement of simcha on the holiday. Rambam himself (Hil. Chagigah 2:10) codifies this as law. This can perhaps shed light on Rambam's law referred to above. Women are obligated to have sacrificial meat on the holiday because it is not a time-bound law! As far as the sacrifice itself is concerned, it may be a sacrifice that can be brought throughout the year!

(As a side point, the gemara in Rosh HaShana 6b discusses the law of "bal te'acheir," the prohibition of delaying the bringing of a voluntary sacrifice. We are taught that one is considered to have delayed a sacrifice once three consecutive festivals have passed in order [Pesach, Shavuot, Succot]. The question raised is whether or not this prohibition applies to women as well. One opinion says that they are exempt, since they have no requirement of "re'iyah" - appearing in the Temple with a sacrifice on the holiday, and thus they do not have a full connection to the cycle of holidays. A second opinion claims that they do have a requirement of "bal te'acheir," since they have a requirement of simcha and thus do have a real connection to the holidays.)

We still have a problem - even if simcha is not an issue of the sacrifice, it is still a time-bound positive commandment! Tosafot (Rosh HaShana 6b) cite Rabbeinu Tam as claiming that, indeed, the commandment of simcha applies to men but not to women, and part of that commandment is for the man to ensure that all members of his household are able to rejoice properly (opinion shared by Rashi on Chagigah 6a). How are we to answer this challenge, given the fact that several gemarot and Rambam believe that women are obligated? It is here that the second direction is to be followed. It seems to be the case that the commandment of simcha is not merely a commandment to bring a sacrifice. Several facts point to the notion that the mitzva of simcha is a more general notion, and the sacrificial meat is merely the best way to fulfill it. As we have already seen, there are other opinions as to how to fulfill this mitzva. We have already cited Rambam's view that this mitzvah's main focus is that everyone be provided for as per their particular needs. The Sefer HaChinuch (#488) states that in addition to bringing a sacrifice, there is an obligation in all forms of simcha, be it food, clothes, or the Simchat Beit HaShoeiva that took place in the Temple. The Minchat Chinuch claims that even those people who would ordinarily not be obligated to bring any form of sacrifice still had an obligation of simcha during the time of the Temple, demonstrating the distinction between the essence of simcha and the sacrifice. To touch on a different area of law, the gemara in Moed Katan 14b states that a mourner does not adhere to any of the practices of mourners during the festival, as they impede on his happiness (Tosafot there claim that this refers specifically to eating and drinking), and we know that the festivals actually cancel the shiva period.

Yet our problem remains. Even if the mitzva of simcha is not connected to the sacrifice itself, it still seems to be a function of the holiday, and thus is still to be viewed as a time-bound commandment! Once again, how are we to assert that women have an obligation?

The solution to this problem will lead directly into our second issue - why Succot is singled out as "Zman Simchateinu." The Machzor HaMikdash (a new series of machzorim and a haggadah currently being produced) cites the Pesiqta D'Rav Kahana that points out why simcha is not mentioned at all by Pesach, why it is mentioned only once by Shavuot, and why it is mentioned three times by Succot. The answer relates to the three festivals as agricultural events. On Pesach, all produce is being judged, and thus there is no reason for genuine simcha. On Shavuot, the grain has been judged (Chag HaKatzir - the harvest festival), but the fruits are still being judged. By the time of Succot, all produce has been judged and can now be gathered in (Chag HaAsif - the gathering festival). As a result, Succot is naturally a festive occasion, as it marks the end of the agricultural year, just weeks before the new rainy season begins. The gemara (Pesachim 36b) and Rambam (Hil. Bikkurim 4:13) both state that when one brings bikkurim (first fruits), he only recites the required verses (Devarim 26:5-11) if he brings them during the time of "simcha." When is the time of "simcha?" Between Shavuot and Succot, when all produce is being gathered in. Rambam, in Moreh Nevuchim 3:43, states that the simcha on Succot is due to the harvest, and cites Aristotle who says that this was a regular practice of farmers to have a festival at this time.

Perhaps the verse itself implies this notion. Devarim 16:14 says "v'samachta b'chagecha" - and you shall be happy in 'your' festival. Why is it called 'your' festival? The reason may be exactly this point, that the festival exists already and Hashem is giving us a commandment of happiness over and above our earthly joy. Why is the commandment needed? The Sefer HaChinuch claims that the entire point of this commandment is that man by nature needs to have periods of happiness in his life. Thus, Hashem commands us to take the times when we are naturally happy, and to consecrate them towards him. This may explain why the main approaches towards this mitzva claim that it is fulfilled either through a sacrifice or by ensuring that everyone - including "God's family" (poor, orphans, widows, Levites) - must be provided for. There is no true happiness without Hashem being included. To go a step further, the other two verses concerning simcha on Succot refer to the four species and to the Temple. The connection with regard to the Temple is obvious, and the main fulfillment of the four species was done in the Temple, and only there were the species taken every day, even on Shabbat. Again, true happiness must connect to Hashem

Thus we see that the commandment to be happy on Succot is not a "time-bound" commandment. To translate more literally, it is not a commandment whose performance and existence depends on a specified time (she-hazman grama). The main thrust of the commandment is not to be happy, but rather to take a natural happiness and to direct it towards Hashem. This is not an instance of Hashem regulating the calendar, but rather of Hashem commanding man and woman alike to remember Him at all times, even during the most mundane periods of joy.

Back to Chabura-Net's Home Page