“Bayom haShemini (on the Eighth Day) shall be an Atzeret
(assembly) for you” (Pinchas 29:35)
The Holy One, blessed is He, said to Israel: “[On the day of Shemini
Atzeret] I and you shall rejoice together.” When Israel heard this, they
exalted the Holy One, blessed is He, and they said: “This is the day G-d has
made, let us be glad and rejoice bo (on it; or in Him)” (Psalms 118:24)
Rabbi Abin said: We do not know if this rejoicing relates to the day or to
G-d. Thus Solomon came and explained, “We will be glad and rejoice in You”
(Song 1:4): “ ‘in You’-i.e., in Your Torah; ‘in You’-i.e., in Your
-Pessikta deR. Kahana, section 30
The festival of Shemini Atzeret does not have special rituals as do
the other festivals, except for one: extraordinary simchah (rejoicing).
The mitzvah of simchah on this day is ordained by the Torah in the
verse “you shall be only joyful” (Re’ey 16:15).
Commentators note that this verse is not only a precept but also a promise:
“if you will fulfill the mitzvah of simchah, you are assured
that you will be joyful forever.”
The concept of simchah is central in Judaism, and especially in the
teachings of Chassidism. Chassidism explains its significance in terms of the
maxim that “simchah breaks through barriers.” By means of simchah
one is able to transcend all kinds of barriers and obstacles to attain sublime
goals, especially in spiritual matters.
We can draw an analogy between this maxim and the fact that Moshiach, too, is
referred to as “The one who breaks through” (Michah 2:13). This comes
to teach us that simchah, joyfulness, has the power to break through the
walls-the barriers and obstacles-of the galut and hasten the coming of
The story is told of a renowned saint who, as a little boy, asked his father
for an apple but was refused. The precocious youngster then quickly recited the
appropriate blessing for an apple. His pious father did not want his son to be
guilty of having recited in vain a blessing with G-d’s Name, and promptly
handed him an apple.
The same may be applied to our present condition:
If we shall now already rejoice in the Messianic redemption, with absolute
faith that G-d will speedily send us Moshiach, this joy in itself will (as it
were) “compel” our Father in Heaven to fulfill His children’s fervent wish
and speedily redeem us!
Needless to say, this is not a case of an illegitimate “forcing” the
advent of the “end of days,” for here we are not dealing with “practical
Kabbalah,” an adjuration of angels, and the like. We speak simply of serving
G-d with extraordinary joy.
Our present rejoicing in the Messianic redemption will effect a reciprocal
fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy that “The redeemed of G-d shall return,
they shall come unto Zion with singing, and ever-lasting joy shall be upon their
heads. They shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee
away” (Isaiah 35:10).