During the festival of Sukkos there is much emphasis on the theme of joy:

While all festivals are times of joy, as expressed by the phrase “festivals for joy,”1 only Sukkos is specifically termed in Shemoneh Esreh and Kiddush the “Season of Our Rejoicing.” Pesach, on the other hand, is called the “Season of Our Freedom” and Shavuos is called the “Season of the Giving of Our Torah.”

This is underscored by the Midrash,2 when it states: “With regard to the Festival [of Sukkos] the Torah mentions ‘joy’ three times:3 ‘You shall rejoice in your festival’; ‘You shall be altogether joyful’; ‘You shall rejoice before the L‑rd, your G‑d, for seven days.’ However, regarding Pesach the verse does not use the word ‘joy’ even once, and on Shavuos [‘joy’ is stated] but once.”

In addition to the above, there is an aspect of joy that is unique to Sukkos, the joy of Simchas Beis HaShoeivah:

During the time of the Beis HaMikdash, beginning with the second night of Sukkos, water was drawn during the night for the following day’s water-libations upon the altar. The ceremony of drawing the water was accomplished with great joy — “You shall draw water with joy from the wellsprings of salvation.”4 So great was this joy that our Sages inform us: “He who has not seen the rejoicing of the water-drawing ceremonies has never in his life seen joy.”5

Nowadays as well, although we do not draw water for the water-libations, we still celebrate Simchas Beis HaShoeivah. Moreover, the celebration is not associated at present with playing the flute as it was in the time of the Beis HaMikdash. Then, the celebration began only after the first day of Sukkos, since “[playing] the flute sets aside neither Shabbos nor Yom Tov.”6 Consequently, with regard to many aspects, Simchas Beis HaShoeivah begins immediately on the first night of Sukkos.

The great degree of joy of Simchas Beis HaShoeivah will be better understood by examining the above-mentioned expression, “He who has not seen the rejoicing of the water-drawing ceremonies has never in his life seen joy”:

During the course of the year there are many occasions when the Torah mandates that we be joyful. How, then, can we possibly say that “He who has not seen the rejoicing of the water-drawing ceremonies has never in his life seen joy”?

This will be understood by prefacing the following: Why do our Sages use the expression “He who did not see...,”which emphasizes the visual aspect of joy. Wouldn’t it have been better to state, “He who did not experience (or ‘participate in,’ etc.) Simchas Beis HaShoeivah...,” an expression that relates directly to the joy itself?

Evidently, more than anything else, it is the visual experience that singles out the unique joy of Simchas Beis HaShoeivah. But what is so special about “seeing” Simchas Beis HaShoeivah?

There is something special about seeing something for oneself, as opposed to merely hearing or becoming aware of it — the visual impact upon a viewer is much greater than the impact of sound upon a listener or the awareness gained by reading about something, etc. When one sees something with his own eyes he is utterly certain of the reality of the event, to a much greater extent than if he merely hears about the event or understands that it took place.

So, too, with regard to joy: True joy is experienced when one actually sees and personally witnesses the joy with his own eyes. In fact, the necessity of personally seeing joy is even more important than seeing other matters — experiencing a joyous event with one’s own eyes is exceedingly more joyful than merely hearing or learning of it.

The reason this is particularly so with regard to joy is the following: The attribute and characteristic of joy is such that it breaks down all boundaries and limitations.7 We thus observe that even the most reserved individual will forsake his natural restraint during times of great joy.

This is why the most elite individual will harmoniously rejoice together with the simplest person during extreme states of joy, although ordinarily there is very little that connects and binds these two disparate individuals together.

Joy thus breaks the boundaries between one individual and another, as well as breaking the boundaries between disparate entities. Similarly, joy obliterates the boundaries between the viewer and the object that is viewed, boundaries that would still remain if the person only hears or is aware of an event.

Therefore, the expression “He who did not see Simchas Beis HaShoeivah has never seen joy in his life” will be understood accordingly:

It is possible for one to have experienced joy in a manner of knowledge or hearing without having seen Simchas Beis HaShoeivah. However, to actually see joy, one must have first “seen Simchas Beis HaShoeivah.”

Seeing and experiencing the joy of Simchas Beis HaShoeivah — which as previously mentioned is celebrated nowadays as well — enables us to experience true and complete joy during all our hallowed joyful experiences.

This, in turn, leads to the superlative and flawless vision and joy of the speedy arrival of our righteous Mashiach.

Based on Sefer HaSichos 5750, Vol. I, pp. 42-47.