1. Man is by nature more interested in something new, as Torah commands: “Every day it (Torah) should be as new in your eyes,” (and even further, not just “as new,” but actually “new”). For, as Rashi notes (Devorim 6:6), “nobody notices an antiquated ordinance,” whereas a new one, “everyone hastens towards it.” Thus, in our case, preference should be given to speaking of those matters of Sukkos which are peculiar to this year, for they contain new elements compared to Sukkos of every year. However, it is still necessary to first review (at least briefly) the basic themes of Sukkos, which are present every year.

The first basic concept is that it is Yomtov, which, as it name indicates, is a day which is totally good. All things in this world have elements of bad; Yomtov, however, is only good, as seen from the fact that even the eating and drinking done on Yomtov is a mitzvah — i.e., even its physical aspects are all good. Moreover, although it is also a mitzvah to eat on Shabbos, we see that it is a Jewish custom (which is Torah) to eat more on Yomtov than on Shabbos.

This difference between Shabbos and Yomtov is also expressed in the respective sacrifices offered on these days. On Yomtov, part of the sacrifices were eaten by its owners; on Shabbos, no part was eaten by the owners. And because everything of Yomtov is completely good, it produces great joy.

Among Yomim Tovim themselves, all of which are festivals of rejoicing, Sukkos has a special place, as indicated by its name, “the Season of our Rejoicing.” Moreover, there is an additional distinction accruing from Simchas Bais Hashoeva, which is celebrated at night. Although the joy of Yomtov in general is associated with the sacrifices which were offered during the day, the water used for the water-libation was drawn at night, and this was done with great joy — “You shall draw water with joy.” Moreover, of the Simchas Bais Hashoeva, our Sages said (Sukkos 51b): “Whoever did not see the Simchas Bais Hashoeva, has not seen joy in his life.”

Although in the times of the Bais Hamikdosh they celebrated the Simchas Bais Hashoeva on Motzoei Yomtov of Sukkos (and not on Yomtov itself), nevertheless, outside Eretz Yisroel, and particularly in exile, Simchas Bais Hashoevah is present also on the night of Yomtov.

“The Season of our Rejoicing,” including Simchas Bais Hashoevah, is for seven days, as stated: “You shall rejoice before the L‑rd your G‑d for seven days.” In these seven days themselves, the first day (and night) of Sukkos has a special place. It is a rule that “all beginnings are difficult,” whereas afterwards, once the initial breakthrough has been made, it is easier to continue. In our case, the idea of joy begins on the first day of Sukkos — to breakthrough and tread the path so that all Jews can celebrate the Simchas Bais Hashoeva.

Because the first day signals the start, it is the most difficult day on which to achieve great joy. As we see, it is particularly difficult to celebrate on the first night, because everyone is tired and weary from preparing for the festival. More weariness is induced on erev Sukkos then on erev Rosh Hashanah, erev Yom Kippur, erev Shabbos or erev Pesach, for although more toil is needed to prepare for Pesach, there is more time to prepare (30 days), and therefore most things are done before the actual eve of the festival. On Sukkos, however, it is the custom to make all the preparations — the sukkah and the four kinds — in the four days between Yom Kippur and Sukkos. Because there are only four days, some things get left for the last moment — and therefore Jews are busy to the last moment in preparing for Sukkos.

Yet, despite one’s weariness, a Jew must then begin to rejoice in Simchas Bais Hashoeva! How is this possible? A Jew has a G‑dly soul, and when G‑d commands him to do something, he immediately does it without thinking. Moreover, not only does the body follow the soul, but, because G‑d chose a Jew’s physical body, the body of itself also fulfills G‑d’s commands.

Thus, on the first night of Sukkos, the joy that is produced despite the difficulties involved, is lofty indeed.

2. All of the above applies to Sukkos of every year. In addition, there are special lessons to be derived from the calendar of this year, the new element compared to all other years. This lesson must be comprehensible to all Jews, even the simplest, for they too participate in Simchas Bais Hashoeva. On the other hand, there is a directive even for the loftiest category of Jews, a directive in which they are equal to the simple folk.

Sukkos this year begins on Thursday, whereas as last year, for example, Sukkos began on Shabbos. There are therefore two lessons to be learned from this: 1) the distinction that accrues from Sukkos beginning on a weekday and not on Shabbos; 2) the distinction accruing from Sukkos beginning specifically on Thursday, and not on other weekdays (Monday or Tuesday — for Sukkos can never begin on Sunday, Wednesday or Friday).

When Sukkos falls on Shabbos, one is prohibited to cook food, and the festival’s needs must be prepared beforehand. When Sukkos is in the middle of the week, one is allowed to cook food for Yomtov. Food prepared on the same day is tastier than that cooked beforehand — which adds to the joy of Yomtov. The importance of freshly cooked food is underscored by the fact that the Torah permitted cooking on Yomtov to allow greater enjoyment from the food. Moreover, as further proof that freshness is important, a special miracle happened with the “lechem haponim” (show-bread) in the Mishkan and Bais Hamikdosh, that it remained as fresh as the time it was baked.

The joy produced through tasty food is experienced also by simple Jews. The higher category of Jews also feel this — but in a different way. A Jew is hungry or thirsty for food and water because his soul is hungry for the G‑dly spark which is within the food. Fresh food means its G‑dly spark is a new one, and therefore a person doesn’t need the command that Torah “should be in your eyes as new” to elevate that spark — since it really is a new spark.

As noted above, within weekdays themselves, Sukkos can be on Monday, Tuesday or Thursday. The Baal Shem Tov taught that everything happens by Divine Providence, and thus the fact that Sukkos this year is on Thursday must have special importance.

When Sukkos is on Thursday, we make an “eiruv tavshilin,” which means that a person, already on erev Yomtov, prepares food for the Shabbos which follows the first two days of Yomtov. This emphasizes that G‑d provides a person’s needs — already on erev Yomtov — for the first day of Yomtov, the second day of Yomtov, and for the following Shabbos.

Although G‑d provides for everyone, it is not always in such a fashion that it is prepared ready on the table. An “eiruv tavshilin” shows that on erev Yomtov G‑d has provided — on the table — not just for the two days of Yomtov, but also for Shabbos. On Shabbos itself, the provision is until its conclusion, for the “eiruv tavshilin” is eaten at the third meal of Shabbos. Moreover, the “eiruv tavshilin” should be an “esteemed cooked food,” such as meat or fish, showing that G‑d provides not just an ordinary dish, but an esteemed one.

Thus, when a Jew realizes that G‑d, Who fills the whole earth, has devoted His attention to give him the Torah and its mitzvos and customs, including the “eiruv tavshilin” — a great joy results.

From all the above, we see the great joy of Sukkos this year deriving from many aspects. First of all, the joy of a regular day, in which one’s service must be performed with joy. Then, the joy of the Yomtov, particularly the extra happiness of the “Season of our Rejoicing” — Sukkos. In addition, Simchas Bais Hashoeva adds to the joy. Further, because Yomtov is on a weekday, when one eats freshly cooked food, extra joy accrues. And finally, there is the joy deriving from Yomtov being on Thursday, when an “eiruv tavshilin” is made.

3. In addition, there are lessons to be derived from the daily portion of Chumash, and from today’s “guests.” The guest of today, the first day of Sukkos, is Avraham, and the Chassidic guest is the Baal Shem Tov.

Of Avraham it is said that “Avraham was one” — the first Jew, the progenitor of the Jewish people. Because both the “guests” of a particular day share a common theme, we find the same idea in regard to the Baal Shem Tov. Before he became revealed, he used to travel around arousing the Jewish identity that is within each Jew, by inspiring them to say “Blessed be G‑d,” “with G‑d’s help,” etc. The difference between them is that Avraham’s service, although directed primarily to Jews, also encompassed the whole world, for it took place before Mattan Torah. The entire service of the Baal Shem Tov, however, was directed towards Jews.

There is a further common theme between Avraham’s service and that of the Baal Shem Tov. Avraham revealed G‑dliness in the world, as Rashi writes (Chayeh Sarah 24:7): “Now He is the G‑d of heaven and the G‑d of the creations. But when I was taken from my father’s house. He was only G‑d of the heavens and not G‑d of the earth, for the world’s inhabitants did not recognize Him, and His name was not usual on the earth.” In other words, Avraham revealed to the world that the whole world is nothing but G‑dliness.

So too with the Baal Shem Tov: He urged that people say “Blessed be G‑d,” etc. even in regard to physical, mundane things. This is the same idea as Avraham’s work of making G‑d, “G‑d of the earth” — that G‑dliness should permeate even “earth” things — physical, mundane things. For when a Jew would answer “Blessed be G‑d” to the Baal Shem Tov’s question of how his livelihood was, it meant that he blessed G‑d while engaged in “earth” things.

This is associated with today’s portion of Chumash, the fifth section of parshas V’Zos HaBerachah. It speaks of Moshe’s blessing to the tribe of Don, who was the “gatherer of all the camps.” Rashi interprets this to mean that “whoever would lose something, it (the camp of Don) would restore it to him.” Thus, although Don travelled last, it was specifically Don who was the “gatherer” of all the camps,” able to restore a article lost even of those who travelled first.

Our generation, too, is the “gatherer of all the camps.” It concludes and seals the service of all Jews of all the generations, and through it the true and complete redemption comes. We are as a dwarf atop a giant. Although a dwarf in comparison to previous generations, we, through standing on the giant’s shoulders, can reach the highest places.

What does the “gatherer of all the camps” mean in man’s spiritual service? A loss of a physical object is the result of the loss of a spiritual object. Because a Jewish soul is a “part of G‑d Above,” G‑d does not allow a spiritual loss to remain forever. This is achieved through the level of Don in every Jewish soul, whose task is to restore a lost article to its owner.

Don’s service, then, is to ensure that nothing of a Jew remains lost. In general, it means that everything of a Jew should be whole and perfect — that all his physical matters are connected to G‑dliness. And this is the idea of today’s guests, which, we explained previously, was that both Avraham and the Baal Shem Tov endeavored to introduce G‑dliness even into physical, mundane things.

The above can be viewed in a different aspect, one which is associated with Moshe’s blessings to the Jews. If a Jew, of any tribe, should “lose” one of Moshe’s blessings, Don’s task is to retrieve it and restore it to its owner. And this is done in the manner of “This is the blessing which Moshe blessed,” the word “this” being used for something substantial and revealed, something to which the finger can be pointed and say “This is the blessing.”

Because Don returned the lost articles to all the tribes, it follows that Moshe’s blessings to Don, written in today’s portion of Chumash, encompass all Moshe’s blessings to all the Jews.

This is also alluded to in the continuation of today’s portion (33:25): “Iron and brass are your locks, and as your (younger) days, (so shall be) your old age.” Rashi explains on this verse that “now he speaks in reference to all of Israel” — the continuation of Don’s blessings which also encompass all the blessings of all the tribes.

The verse continues “There is none like G‑d, Yeshurun, Who rides upon the heavens in your help and has His excellency in the skies.” These verses, too, are related to Simchas Bais Hashoeva: If a Jew should think that he cannot have the proper joy in exile, he is told “Iron and brass are your locks.” G‑d encloses a Jew with bars and locks of iron and brass, not allowing anyone or anything to disrupt a Jew’s bond with G‑d — and therefore Simchas Bais Hashoeva can be celebrated properly, with full joy.

The verse then continues “There is none like G‑d ... and has His excellency in the skies,” upon which Rashi comments: “Know for yourself, Yeshurun, that there is none like G‑d among all the gods of the nations, and that not as your Rock is their rock. Who rides upon the heavens — He is that G‑d Who is “your help,” and in His excellency, He rides upon the skies.” In other words, G‑d, in the same fashion as He “rides upon the heavens,” and “has His excellency in the skies,” is likewise below — to be the help of every Jew in every place and in every time.

It therefore follows that, when a Jew occupies himself in Torah, all creation listens to him; not only is no opposition exhibited, but help is extended. As emphasized in today’s portion of Chu-mash — “as your (younger) days, (so shall be) your old age (“do’vecho”)” — on which Rashi says: “All the lands will cause to flow (“do’ovos”) silver and gold to the land of Israel,” similar to the idea of “kings shall be your foster-fathers and their princes your foster-mothers.”

This applies even in exile, as the Talmud relates (Zevachim 19a), that an important non-Jewish monarch arose from his place, and, unasked, assisted a Jew to fix his belt!

From thinking of the matters learned from the daily portion of Chumash — that even in exile, we are protected by “iron and brass, to the extent that non-Jews help us in all matters — we see that great distinction accrues to Simchas Bais Hashoeva.

The previous Rebbe said that everything is given to a Jew; he need only need do something to receive it — “Stand prepared all of you.” That “something” is to be joyous and dance! Then, very soon, we will be joyous and dance with our righteous Moshiach in the true and complete redemption.