October 7, 2014
The Sukkot holiday is called the “Season of Our Joy.” Let us see what Rashi has to say about this.
Deuteronomy 16:15 “Seven days you shall celebrate for Hashem, your God, in the place which Hashem will choose; for Hashem, your God, will bless you, with all your produce and all your work and you will be only happy.”
On the last phrase RASHI comments:
And you will be only happy – RASHI: According to its simple meaning (p’shuto) this is not a command, but rather a promise. And according to its Talmudic interpretation they learn from here that the last night of the Holiday is also included [in the command] to be happy.
Rashi tells us the p’shat and then the midrash halacha in this comment.
Rashi tells us that the correct p’shat meaning of the words “vihayeeta ach somayach” is “and you will be happy” and not “and you shall be happy.” The former is a promise; the latter, a command.
But, as we have pointed out before, whenever Rashi chooses one interpretation over another, we should always wonder why.
How does Rashi know this a promise and not a command? How does Rashi know that “vihayeeta” means “you will be happy” and not “you shall be happy”? How does Rashi know that the Halacha is not the pshat in this case?
If you look through the entire Torah you will find that whenever Hashem uses the word “vihayeeta” , it is always a promise and not a command. See the following examples:
When Hashem promises Abraham (Genesis 17:4):
“And you will be the father of a multitude of nations.”
When Hashem speaks to Jacob (Genesis 28:3):
“And you will be a community of peoples.”
And on the negative side, as well, we see the predictive use of the word “vihayeeta.”
When Hashem speaks of the punishments that will follow those who do not uphold the Torah, He says (Deut. 28:37):
“And you will be an astonishment, a proverb and a byword…”
And for a final example that clinches the proof that “vihayeeta” is a prediction and not a command (Deut. 28:34):
“And you will be insane…”
Certainly it is not a mitzvah to be “meshuga”! It is a sad prediction of what will occur if we do not keep God’s Torah.
Finally we note that the verse says ” you shall be happy in front of HASHEM. The happiness on the festival of sukkot and Simchat Torah is an internal feeling of the presence and protective care of HaShem and that He has given us the Torah. Not merely drinking and dancing to excess!
Chag Sameach umoadim lesimcha!