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Monday Devotional: A Time for Joy

Torah study (photo: iStockphoto.com/Mike Cherim)

“Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field. Celebrate the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.” — Exodus 23:16

A note to our readers: This week marks the celebration of Sukkot, one of the most joyous celebrations on the Jewish calendar. Throughout this week, our reflections will be tied to this biblically mandated holiday.

Recently, I watched a short film made by some students in Australia. In it, a young boy wearing tattered clothing and torn shoes sits on a park bench bemoaning his lot in life. As he walks around the park he sees another boy around his age sitting on another park bench, only this boy is dressed impeccably down to his pristine sneakers.

The poor boy sits down sadly near a tree and wishes that he could change places with the rich kid . . . and behold, he gets his wish! He is astounded to find himself sitting on the bench in the other kid’s clothing. But something is not right. The rich kid, now dressed in the poor boy’s clothing, is shouting and jumping for joy. Why is he so happy to have switched places? The answer is soon revealed as a woman shows up with a wheelchair – ready to take the poor-boy-turned-rich-kid back to his cozy home. Only now, he no longer has the use of his legs.

The message of the movie: Happiness is appreciating what we have.

The Jewish sages put it this way thousands of years ago: “Who is wealthy? He who is happy with what he has.” Real abundance and joy are not about having more; they are found in enjoying what we have more.

Every holiday on the Jewish calendar is given a name that describes it. Passover is called “The Time of our Freedom” and Shavuot is known as “The Time of the Giving of the Torah.” Sukkot is called “The Time of Our Joy.” What is it about this holiday in particular that makes it deserving of such a title?

The truth is that on the surface Sukkot would be the last holiday to be called joyful. On all other holidays we dine in the comfort of our homes and rest in our comfy beds. However, on Sukkot we are commanded to eat outside, where it is often too hot or too cold. During this observance, many have the custom to sleep outdoors on makeshift mattresses or in sleeping bags. What’s so wonderful about that?

Sukkot, which is also called “The Harvest Festival,” is a time when people can mistakenly believe that more stuff equals more happiness. So it is especially during this time that we re-learn what real happiness is all about. Intentionally, we live with less and enjoy it more. We realize that as long as we have a roof over our heads, some good food and company, and a place to sleep, we are extremely blessed.

This year as the Jewish people worldwide celebrate Sukkot, use this opportunity to appreciate the many blessings in your life. Happiness is a choice, and Sukkot is an opportunity to choose it all over again. 

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