Sukkot, known as “Time of our Happiness,” marks the crescendo of the Jewish year. Throughout the seven day festival, Jews have a Divine mandate to be completely and exclusively joyous (Debarim. 16:15). That’s quite a tall order! Sure, we’d all love to be happy for seven straight days — but how?
“If you’re not happy with what you have, you’ll never be happy with what you get!”
We all want happiness, but often make the mistake of confusing happiness with success. Success is getting what you want; happiness is wanting what you get. As the Sages taught, Who is rich? The one who is happy with his lot (Abot 4:1). Happiness is not something that happens to us. It’s a decision we must make, and we can each be as happy as we decide to be.
Since our mandate on Sukkot is to be “completely joyous,” we are obliged to make that decision, which requires us to take a view on one of life’s great paradoxes: On the one hand, whoever you are, by virtue of being alive, your cup truly does “run over.” But on the other hand, you could always have a bigger cup. Choose to take pleasure in what you do have, and you can understand the secret of happiness. Choose instead to focus on the pursuit of a bigger cup, and you are forever left wanting.
Not only is this the secret to happiness, but it’s also the central message of the Sukkot holiday —named for the sukkah, the sparsely roofed temporary structure in which we dwell for the seven days of the holiday. This year, in a repeat of what we have done for more than 100 generations, Jews the world over will abandon their homes with Sukkot all its comforts to seek happiness in flimsy huts furnished with little more than plastic chairs and tables. What better place could there be to remind ourselves that true happiness comes not from all the stuff we have, but from what we still have when stripped of all our stuff?
This year as we rejoice in our sukkot beneath the stars, may G-d continue to bless us all — and may we continue to appreciate all of His blessings.