Office of the Chief Rabbi

D’var Torah: Shabbat Chol Hamoed

In his D’var Torah this week, the Chief Rabbi teaches us about the real joys of Pesach.

With regards to the festival of Pesach, as is the case with our other Chagim, the Torah tells us Vesomachta Bechagecha Vehayitah Ach Sameach, ‘You must rejoice on your festival and you must be exceedingly happy’.

This is such a beautiful description of Simchat HaChag, ‘the rejoicing within the festival’, but does it actually make sense? Because, perhaps it’s not a very fair commandment – Davar Shehazibur Yacholim Lamod Bo, that is how the Talmud puts it, ‘God only expects of us things which we can do within reasonable limits’. Now, I don’t have a happiness button, I can’t force myself to feel happy, therefore, how can God command me during this festival, not just to be happy but to be exceedingly happy?

‘How can God command me during this festival, not just to be happy but to be exceedingly happy?’

You see, there is another term that the Torah uses which is ‘Sasson’, that means ‘elation’. That is when suddenly I am catapulted on to cloud nine. Elation comes and elation goes. With ‘Simcha’ however, that is deep rooted fulfilment and gratification and it is in this context that in Pirkei Avot we are told, Eizeh Hu Ashir Hasameach Bechelko, ‘Who is truly wealthy, it is the person who is truly happy with his or her lot’. Shenemar, ‘as it says’, Yagiah Tocheha Hi Tocheh Ashrecha Vetov Lach, ‘when you eat the fruits of your labours, happy are you and it is good for you’. That is real Simcha.

We can now understand why under the Chuppah, there are two sensations of joy that are experienced – Kol Sasson Vekol Simcha, ‘the sound of elation and the sound of joy’. The Bride and Groom, they’ve got ‘Sasson’, they’re on cloud nine. The parents and grandparents, they’ve got ‘Simcha’, they’re clibing nachas, they’ve invested in their children and now they’re eating the fruits of their labours.

‘Elation comes and elation goes. With ‘Simcha’ however, that is deep rooted fulfilment and gratification’

And this is particularly relevant at Yom Tov time. Prior to the festival of Pesach we were all so very busy, clearing Chametz out of our homes, getting our houses ready, preparing for the Sedar. And now, during the festival, we can sit back, we’ve got incredible Simcha surrounded by our families, clibing nachas, having that joy from what we have achieved.

And let us pray that the almighty in this spirit will bless us all with great moments of ‘Sasson’, but more importantly, that we will have on going ‘Simcha’ in our lives.

I wish you a true and genuine Chag Sameach.