These are days of transition. From the awe-filled atmosphere of heartfelt prayer and teshuvah (commonly translated as repentance) that permeates Yom Kippur, we proceed to the manifest joy of the Sukkos holiday.

Although many see these two motifs as contradictory, chassidic thought sees them as complementary. The true meaning of teshuvah is “return,” coming back to one’s true self, identifying with the G‑dly spark that lies at the core of our being. Happinessbrings a person into contact with that essential G‑dly potential and enables it to surface.

On Yom Kippur, we reach deep inside of ourselves and come in contact with this potential. On Sukkos, it blossoms forth in joyous expression, breaking through all the barriers — personal, psychological and spiritual — that prevent us from letting loose and living joyfully.

To encourage the expression of these feelings of joy, a unique celebration, Simchas Beis HaShoeivah, was held in the Temple during the nights of Sukkos festival. To quote Maimonides:

‘What was the nature of this celebration? The flute would be sounded and songs played on the harp, lute, and cymbals. [In addition,] each person would play on the instrument which he knew. Those who could sing, would sing. They would dance and clap their hands, reveling and whistling, each individual in the manner which he knew…. It is a great mitzvah to maximize this celebration.”

Maimonides continues, explaining that the lesson to be derived fromthe joy of Simchas Beis HaShoeivah extends beyond the immediate Sukkos holiday:

“The happiness with which a person should rejoice in the fulfillment of the mitzvos and the love of G‑d Who commanded them is a great service….

“Anyone who lowers himself and thinks lightly of his person in these situations is [truly] a great person, worthy of honor, who serves G‑d out of love. Thus, David, King of Israel, declared: ‘I will hold myself even more lightly esteemed than this and be humble in my eyes,’ because there is no greatness or honor other than celebrating before G‑d, as states: ‘King David was cavorting and whistling before G‑d.’”

The reference to King David describes his conduct at the time the ark was being brought to Jerusalem. David was not dancing out of personal joy. He was in the presence of G‑d and therefore was celebrating unreservedly. For just as G‑d is unbounded and undefined, so too, man’s service of Him must know no restrictions. There was no place in his mind to calculate what is or may not be “respectful and proper behavior.” His “I” was eclipsed entirely — he was at one with Divinity — before Whom there is no possibility for a mortal to consider himself great.

This serves as a lesson for us at all times. When an individual is conscious of G‑d’s constant presence, he will naturally be infused with two opposite emotions. He will feel his own smallness and insignificance in G‑d’s presence, yet he will also feel real joy at the knowledge that G‑d is with him at every moment, and that through his service of Torah and mitzvos, he can develop a greater connection with Him.

Herein lies a further point of connection to the Sukkos holiday. What is the lesson of the sukkah? We eat, drink, and relax inside of it and, by doing so, we fulfill the mitzvah. In other words, the sukkah teaches us that even our mundane activities can serve as acts of connection to G‑d.

Looking to the Horizon

Simchah, serving G‑d with joy, is intrinsically related to the Era of Mashiach, because at that time, we will experience the consummate level of happiness. The depth of the connection between the concepts of simchah (שמחה) and Mashiach (משיח) is alluded to by the fact that their roots share the same three letters שמח.

To explain the connection between the two: It is taught, simchah breaks through (poretzes in Hebrew)all barriers. This is also the nature of Mashiach, who is a descendant of Peretz, and is referred to as haporetz, “the one who breaks through,” as it is written, “The one who breaks through will ascend before them.” For Mashiach will break through all barriers and limitations.

The interrelation between the two is not mere abstract theory. The awareness of the imminence of Mashiach’s arrival and the knowledge that at that time, perfect simchah will spread throughout the entire world, makes it possible to experience a microcosm of this simchah at present. Conversely, the experience of such simchah, happiness in its pure and consummate state, serves as a catalyst to bring Mashiach ever closer.