Parshat Sukkot Chol HaMoed: Exodus 33:12-34:26; Numbers 29:23-28; Ezekiel 38:18-39:11.
In the times of the Temple, one of the highlights of the holiday of Sukkot was the dancing and rejoicing. Each night there would be celebrations that would last throughout the night and into the early hours of the morning. The joy was so great that the Talmud goes so far as to say that one that never saw a Simchat Beit HaSho’evah at the Temple, never saw true joy.
What is it that they were celebrating to such a great degree of unmatched intensity? What was the impetus, the motivation for such an unleashing of positive emotion and energy?
It was water. Usually, wine was used in the service of the Temple, but on Sukkot water was used. The drawing of the water to be used in the service was the source of their great happiness.
For me, this is a very integral and vital lesson. The simplicity of water.
The difference between wine and water is that wine is taking something separate from the inherent experience and adding to it to make that experience better. Water does not add anything separate to the actual experience at hand; in other words, it doesn’t add any “taste” of its own. Water is the highlighting of simplicity within the experience itself. And that brings about a different type of fulfillment and inner joy.
In the complexity, busyness and noise of the world, I sometimes find myself losing sight of life’s simple beauties. From pausing to appreciate a sunset to enjoying the fall breeze, to pausing to ask a neighbor how their mother is doing, to complimenting the cashier for their professionalism and customer service, there is beauty in it all.
Thinking about the concept of simplicity and the joy it can unlock, I am reminded to show gratitude for the simple things in my life that are right. I’m simplifying my relationships by focusing on what’s important. From my relationships with coworkers and friends, to family and to my Higher Power, focusing on what’s important will create beautiful simplicity.
Just like on the days that I drink a good amount of water I feel healthier, the days that I keep it simple and focus on the positive in my life I feel fuller.
This, to me, is the message of the dancing at the Temple. The simple acts of singing and dancing remind us that everyone is truly equal and we all belong. This leads to a happiness that, to quote the Talmud, if you never saw it then you never saw true joy.
Hopefully, this Sukkot, we can celebrate the abundance of water that is all around us as we unlock the hidden depths of simplistic joy.
Rabbi Yarden Blumstein is the teen director at Friendship Circle in West Bloomfield.