Sukkot is the most joyous holiday of the year because it gives us so many opportunities to bring joy to others–and when we make others happy, we we become even more happy!
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinical Director, United with Israel
Guests and hospitality are an extremely important part of Judaism. The sages teach that guests should be a natural component of one’s household, and this is especially true on Shabbat and holidays. Many people make heroic efforts to ensure that there are guests at their Shabbat and holiday meals — especially during Sukkot for reasons we are about to see.
One of the more mystical aspects of the holidays of Sukkot are the “Ushpizin” – the spiritual guests that are said to grace our Sukkot with their presence. Just like Elijah makes an appearance at every Passover Seder and every Bris (circumcision ceremony), Sukkot has its own guest list, as well.
The word “Ushpizin” means “guests” in ancient Aramaic, the language in which the Zohar, the primary book of Kabbala is written. According to the Zohar, seven guests come to visit us in our Sukkot over the holiday (and no, Elijah isn’t one of them). On the first day of Sukkot, Abraham comes to visit, of the second day, Isaac, on the third day, Jacob, on the fourth day Moses, on the fifth day, Aaron, on the sixth day, Joseph, and on the seventh day, David.
Actually, we are told that all seven guests are present every day of Sukkot, but that the “guest of the day” is that day’s “leader” of the other seven. So too, on each day of Sukkot we are given the ability to “tap into” the guest of the day’s traits and spiritual qualities. For example, it is most appropriate that Abraham is the first of the Ushpizin because his most noteworthy trait was his acts of kindness for others, especially in the realm of hospitality.
This inspires us to emulate Abraham and ensure that we are performing the mitzvah of hospitality throughout the holiday. As mentioned, having guests is considered to be a vital part of Sukkot. On the second day, although Abraham is also present in the Sukkah, Isaac is the leader, and so on. It is interesting to note that Isaac never left the land of Israel. He was born there and died there.
The mitzvah of dwelling in a Sukkah and the mitzvah of dwelling in the land of Israel is the only mitzvah that both men and women cal fulfill with their entire bodies. Hence, Isaac is also a superstar of the holiday. The same is true with the other guests and their unique traits and attributes.
So when we sit in our Sukkah with our spiritual guests, let us make an effort to ensure that there are physical, earthly guests, as well. It is especially meritorious to invite those who may not have a Sukkot of their own. Giving the guests a meal, or even a snack in the sukkah allows for special blessings to be recited and for them to better fulfill the mitzvah of “dwelling in a sukkah.” One should also offer one’s guest the opportunity to recite the blessing and shake the lulav bundle.
We are told that Sukkot is “the time of our rejoicing” and it is meant to be the most joyous holiday of the year. One of the reasons that Sukkot is the most joyous holiday of the year is because it gives us so many opportunities to bring joy to others. And when we make others happy, we are certain to make ourselves even more happy!