When I tell people that Yom Kippur is my favorite holiday, they give me a strange look. Then a look of understanding washes over them: “Oh, you mean the part when you break the fast!” But no, I don’t mean that part. I mean the part where we realize that we have the power to change our lives, and that we can forgive and be forgiven. Though this joy has been greatly subsumed in our times by a more somber tone, the Rabbis of the Mishnah recognized the potential for joy on Yom Kippur: “There never were in Israel greater days of joy than the fifteenth of [the Jewish month of] Av and Yom Kippur” (Mishnah Ta’anit 4:8). (As a side note, the 15th of the month of Av is kind of like a Jewish Valentine’s Day.)
For most people, however, Yom Kippur remains a somber reminder of our own mortality, which is met by immediate release in the indisputably joyous holiday of Sukkot, which begins tonight. It is actually customary to begin erecting the temporary hut, called a Sukkah, right after breaking the Yom Kippur fast. Traditionally, meals during the week-long holiday are eaten in this hut. But even more important than eating meals in the Sukkah is the commandment—yes, commandment—to be HAPPY. That means that if the weather would make it miserable to eat outside, we go into a cozier environment.
So even if you don’t plan on having a meal in a Sukkah (though it’s great fun, and a good entry point for unaffiliated and interfaith families), don’t worry—be happy.
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