Thought of the Week: Succot - 5773


    Every year during the intermediate days of Sukkot, many synagogues have adopted the custom to celebrate what is known as the Simchat Beit HaShoeva.  The source for this celebration may be found in the Talmud, Maseches Sukkah where the Mishnah elaborates on this topic. During the year when animals were placed upon the altar to be burnt, the Torah teaches that we must also pour wine as a libation. However on the holiday of Sukkot, the Oral Tradition teaches that in addition to the usual wine libation, we must also pour water upon the altar. We are told that the night preceding this morning service was one of celebration and joy in anticipation of fulfilling this significant mitzvah. 

    The Mishnah states that before the festivities occurred on this night which came to be known as Simchat Beit HaShoeva, a balcony was constructed as a separation between the men and the women. The source of the partition-Mechitzah- found in every Orthodox Synagogue, is derived from this balcony that was constructed for the Simchat Beit HaShoeva.  Commentators wonder: Why is the mechitzah derived specifically from the Simchat Beit HaShoeva? 

    The Talmud in Sukkah lists the songs and praises that were sung at the celebrations: The pious men would sing, “Happy is our youth that did not shame our old age.” Those who were penitents, who became pious later in life, would say, “Happy is our old age which has atoned for our misspent youth.” The Talmud continues by saying that the sage Hillel would say “If I am here all are here.” When reading this section one must wonder why are these praises so specific about oneself, rather than general? And why does Hillel say that he is the only one who counts? 

    The Jerusalem Talmud tells us that during the Simchat Beit HaShoeva was a time when people would achieve “Ruach HaKodesh” - a holy spirit. 

    Every person has a personal mission in life, one that only he or she can truly accomplish, however it is not so easy to figure out what that personal mission is. During the celebrations a person attains a level of inspiration, wherein he could understand his personal role. The penitents praise Hashem for what they’ve experienced, because they understand their role in life based on who they are. So too the pious men, who’ve spent a complete life dedicated to Hashem, are thankful for their individual role that the celebration clarifies to them how to accomplish. Hillel statement “If I am here all are here”, expressed his understanding that his personal task would never be accomplished if he were not there to do it. 

    With this understanding of the Simchat Beit HaShoeva, the source of the Mechitzah becomes clear to us. Hashem creates both males and females. Neither is more significant than the other, rather they are different one from the other; they have different roles, different ways of accomplishing things, different capabilities. Similarly, they have different missions in life. The same way physically and emotionally there is a difference, so too spiritually. The goal of the Mechitzah is for each gender to search in to their own soul, and find their role, and understand that the functions of the other gender are not tailored for their spiritual growth. 

    This idea of one finding it personal mission, is derived like the Mechitzah from the Simchat Beit HaShoeva The Mechitzah, therefore, can inspire one to delve into the difference, rather than the inequality between the genders. Its presence facilitated introspection into one’s own soul for the purpose of appreciating the reality that each gender has its own mission and unique function. Furthermore, G-d has provided both male and female with the physical makeup and inborn capabilities germane to accomplishing their mission. Although established in ancient times, this particular lesson of the Mechitzah is undeniably contemporary, for in a culture that craves conformity, its message resonates louder than ever.

                Chag Sameach