Timing. Isn’t there an expression that timing is everything? The fact that the woman sitting in front of me told me exactly what I needed to hear, when I needed to hear it, was for sure what I would call perfect timing.

I sat there lamenting in my heart that we were being put inParting from it all had been difficult yet liberating a position where we must move yet again. (This will be the 10th time in 17 years of marriage.) And she, a woman my mother’s age, started to tell me about her move to Israel. The sale of her house where she had lived for nearly 50 years. The accumulation of things. So many things. Furniture that had at the time been expensive and custom-made. Now, it was worth close to nothing. Souvenirs, memoirs, things. Decades of stuff. Things that she couldn’t sell or even give away. Stuff that she said nobody wanted, not even her children.

She told me that parting from it all had been so difficult—yes, even heartbreaking, and yet so liberating. And surprisingly, it made her happy. A person lives their life and accumulates things. Things, stuff ... which is what they are and what they will always remain. You think that things will make you happy, and then you see that happiness has got nothing to do with things that in a single second can lose their value or worth. Things you forget you even own. Things that no one else wants or needs.

The holiday of Sukkot is distinctly called the holiday of our happiness. Personally, I love Sukkot. I think that it’s a beautiful holiday and wait for it with anticipation every year. Still, I couldn’t figure out exactly what it is about this holiday that causes so much joy. Listening to this woman and her move, I understood. During Sukkot, you leave your possessions, go out of your home and “dwell” in a simple hut. Sukkot is the holiday of joy because it teaches that you don’t need anything to make you happy. Happiness is a state of being. Being alive and connected. It’s not a state of having, as King Solomon teaches in the very book we read during the holiday.

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. What profit has man in all his toil that he toils under the sun (Kohelet 1:2-3)?

I am Koheleth; I was king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied my heart to inquire and to search with wisdom all that was done under the heaven. It is a sore task that G‑d has given to the sons of men with which to occupy themselves. I saw all the deeds that were done under the sun, and behold, everything is vanity and frustration (ibid 1:12-14).

I’m exhausted by the thought of moving again. The lookingAll this moving has also been a blessing for another apartment, and the packing and unpacking. Settling in and meeting new neighbors. Yes, it’s draining. But after hearing this woman’s experience, I realize that all this moving, it’s also a blessing. It’s a blessing to have to go through items, and see how much you have and how much you don’t need. You put your life into boxes and realize that it’s not your life that you’re putting into a box, it’s only stuff. What we physically own or possess, this is not what brings true happiness. To have one week where we are reminded of all this—that joy comes, as King Solomon teaches, from our good deeds and from our connection to G‑d (Kohelet 3:22).

To realize that happiness comes not from a place that is contingent on an item, but just on being, on living. This is a blessing. This is true joy.