Joy is a powerful state of being because it knows no bounds. When we are in a state of joy, everything becomes possible. Yet joy remains a by-product. The by-product of living life selflessly.
So when you want to have the most fantastic vacation in the world, what do you do? You look for some posh hotel, you know, where you have really comfortable beds, fine dining and all that stuff. You know, rent a luxury car, everything is fantastic. So it’s really odd when the Torah tell us us celebrate the holiday of Sukkot. Get out of your house, go into a Sukkah, that hut, exposed to the elements, exposed to the cold and all of that and, by the way, this holiday, it’s also known as zman simchateinu, the time of our joy.
Time of our joy? I mean, this is not quite the way I would create an environment of joy. How is this holiday speaking to us? But, you see, there’s an interesting thing. There are three major holidays which is Passover, Pesach; Shavuot and Sukkot. Those are the three major holidays. And on these three holidays, we actually have a commandment during the days of the Temple to actually visit the Temple. They’re called the shalosh regalim, the three festivals. But if you’re familiar with a bit of Hebrew, you know that the word for foot is regal. And so in being called shalosh regalim, the three feet, it’s also telling us it’s the three holidays when the Jewish people would use their feet and come up to the Temple.
Now, you know, Jews like to use their heads. But the Torah insists three major holidays, holidays are joyous times, we use our feet. We use our feet. Because the Torah is telling us something very important in understanding and experiencing what joy really is. And that is, you know, when you use your head, you’re doing something very important. But sometimes you get stuck in your head. You know, it’s like a place and that’s what it is. It’s that place. But sometimes when we liberate ourselves from that place and we just use our feet, we’re sort of freeing ourselves from ourselves. And when you free yourself from yourself, you’re experiencing a form of liberation. That’s a true sense of joy, when you can break out of all boundaries.
You know, that’s the reason why when the Jews left Egypt, which is part of the reason why we celebrate the holiday of Sukkot, commemorating the huts that the Jews dwelled in on their way out of Egypt, what did they do? Their heads were telling them, what are you crazy? You’re going into the desert? You can’t survive two days in the Sinai desert. The heat is oppressive. You don’t even have water. Some matzoh. Right?
But the Jews didn’t listen, didn’t follow their heads. They didn’t. What did they follow? They followed their feet. And when they followed their feet, they had an experience that human beings can otherwise not experience. That’s how we experience joy.
You know, sometimes I catch myself, I’m, like, watching one of my kids and I’m watching what they’re doing for a few minutes without even realizing it. Time, like, stops. And suddenly, I realize that I have this huge grin on my face and I’m experiencing this immense time of joy just watching them. And what’s really happening is, I actually totally have forgotten about myself. And I’m lost in their reality and it’s such a pleasure. You know why it’s such a pleasure? Because I lost myself. As long as I’m stuck with my own confinement, I’m not really experiencing true joy.
True joy is when we break out of our boundaries, our own boundaries. That is the true experience of joy. And so the truest experience is when we can get out of ourselves. When we can be comfortable in a sukkah because we have forgotten about ourselves, and we’re experiencing something deeper, we’re in a state of joy. It’s a very powerful experience. And that’s the reason why, on the holiday of Sukkot, there was this enormous celebration in the Temple called the simchat beta shivaya, which was the joy of drawing of the water. And all night long they would sing and dance and be festive the entire night to the extent that the Talmud says one who didn’t see the joy of the simchat beta shivaya never saw joy in their life, because that was the truest experience of joy.
And what was that joy? It all culminated in the drawing of water from the wellspring. Water. Why? Because water is bland. You can’t get caught up in the taste of the water. You know, what ‑‑ there’s no water connoisseurs. You know, water is bland. Because it teaches us how to have an experience which is beyond ourselves. It is sort of not about what I am tasting, it’s experiencing something which is greater than ourselves and beyond ourselves. That is the truest experience of joy. And so the more in our lives that we can get out of ourselves and lose ourselves in someone else’s reality, in the reality of G‑d, in the reality of giving, the more joyous we are. So if you want to be happy, stop thinking about yourself. You’ll be a much happier person.