Dear reader,

Ever watch children? They have an inner happiness, a joie de vivre. They are comfortable to just be who they are, uninhibited by others’ judgments, without any self-consciousness.

As children mature, though, they begin comparing themselves to others, gnawing away at their self-confidence. They now need outside validation.

Validation means acknowledging our inherent goodness and being able to pinpoint what makes us special as an individual. The more that we are able to validate ourselves, the less we need others to do it for us. When we appreciate our essential beauty and uniqueness, we are happy with ourselves and don’t need the opinions of others.

In Ethics of our Fathers it says, “Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot.” Someone can be materially wealthy, but if he’s always looking over his shoulder at how much more his neighbor has, he will never find happiness.

This also refers to spiritual aspirations. Though we strive to improve and learn from good qualities, we do not grow from being envious of others’ spiritual aptitudes. Growth comes from working with and stretching our own.

This brings me to the holiday of Sukkot, which is the most joyous of all holidays and is even termed “the season of happiness.”

One of the strongest themes recurring throughout this holiday is how every single person, from the simplest to the most talented, has an important contribution.

We see this theme in the Four Species, which resemble four categories of people—from the willow, the simplest individual, to the highly celebrated etrog. Each of the four species is held together, needed and integral.

On Sukkot we “live” in a sukkah, a temporary dwelling. Everyone, rich and poor, leaves behind their material acquisitions and sits and eats in the sukkah equally—irrespective of our social status, our bank statements or our individual capabilities.

Our joy reaches a climax on Simchat Torah when we dance with the Torah. We dance with our feet, not our heads, without any distinction in intelligence, level of observance or talents. The circles have no end or beginning, no hierarchy or levels, signifying the equal importance of every member.

Perhaps that is why Sukkot is called “the season of our happiness.” The greatest happiness comes from knowing and internalizing that we each have our own worth, our unique essential role, and our own special qualities and capabilities. Throughout the holiday of Sukkot, we send this message to each and every member of our nation: You have a divine soul, and you are a valuable and necessary component, integral to our wholeness.

Because validation is something that we all need.

Wishing you a most joyous holiday!

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW

P.S.: What makes you feel validated as an individual?