WHEN A PERSON DANCES ON SUCCOT, ALL HIS SINS ARE FORGIVEN
Pearls of Torah with Rav Eliezer Berland, shlita.
(Translated from Tzamaa Nafshi)
Despite the fact that it’s a mitzvah to be happy on each and every chol hamoed, on the festival of Succot, being happy is a mitzvah unto itself. In the time of the Temple, there was an overabundance of simcha on the festival of Succot.
Chazal determined that the festival of Succot should be celebrated with a multiplicity of simcha – we need to be dancing and making ourselves happy the whole chag (holiday), without any breaks. Of course, we should also be learning in between, because if we don’t also learn, then we won’t be able to dance, as the Rebbe himself brought down (in Likutey Moharan Lesson 31):
“You can see if a person took upon himself the yoke of Torah by way of a melody. And the sign of this is ‘they carry on the shoulder’ (Bemidbar 7:9). Chazal explain this in Masechet Arachin 11: ‘The word ‘they carry’ in this context denotes the language of shira, singing. It says about the sons of Kohath that they would lift the aron hakodesh up on their shoulders, which is an aspect of taking upon oneself (carrying) the yoke of Torah.
“Whoever takes upon himself the yoke of Torah is able to play (music) and to sing and to dance.”
BEING HAPPY ON SUCCOT IS A MITZVA D’ORAITA
In the Temple there was an enormous amount of simcha, as it says: ‘and you shall rejoice’, because the Torah itself says: ‘You shall rejoice before Hashem your God for seven days’. This is a mitzvah d’oraita (from the Torah itself), which is not the case with Pesach and Shavuot, but only about the festival of Succot.
This is a Torah-ordained mitzvah, to rejoice for seven days without any breaks. The Torah commanded us to be happy and to dance, without a break, day and night for seven days. How would they make themselves happy? They would bring all types of instruments, and play on the violin, the harp, the cymbals, each one would bring an instrument that he knew how to play. But the dancing and the spinning around and the dancing with fire – that was only done by the biggest Tzaddikim. Only the holy ones of Heaven would dance, leap around, crouch down etc – like King David, who also danced like that.
Only the people who were occupied with studying a lot of Torah, and doing a lot of mitzvahs, and who were engaged with the needs of the community, and building emuna, people who didn’t sleep day or night, and who were engaged in mesirut Nefesh (self-sacrifice) – only they would dance in the Beit HaMikdash (Temple).
DANCING AND SIMCHA RECTIFIES OUR SINS
Therefore everyone needs to dance and be happy on these holy days, and to know that dancing and happiness is a very big tikkun (spiritual rectification). A person doesn’t know what difficult judgments are awaiting him in the coming year.
The Rebbe (Rabbi Nachman) said in Lesson 206 of Likutey Moharan that a person does a lot of sins, and creates a lot of blemishes, and at first Heaven continues to act towards him in a good way. Hashem starts to call out to him by way of hints, and then progresses to actually calling out, until he starts to get kicked and beaten, and he starts to really suffer.
If you sinned, make teshuva! And if you don’t make teshuva, then maybe through suffering you’ll start to understand what’s the problem, and then you’ll start to make teshuva. Start to cry about your spiritual blemishes, start shaking a little, and if you don’t, then perhaps your wife will get ill, chas v’shalom (God forbid) and if not your wife, then it could be your kids, chas v’shalom.
The Rebbe promised that he would fix everything, but the question is how will he fix it? Will it take suffering to fix it? We are Jews, nothing is forgiven for free. By the christians, they don’t need to do anything, they just go to their priest and confess once a year, and he tells them that they are forgiven, and after that they continue to act the same way.
But with Jews, there’s no such thing! We have to pay for our sins, on every sin we have to pay. And if a person doesn’t make teshuva, and doesn’t wake up, then they begin to strike him, and to cause him to suffer, as it says in the verse: ‘There is no suffering without sin.’
THESE ARE THE DAYS WHEN WE BUILD OUR NEW YEAR
We have 22 days from Rosh Hashana until Simchat Torah. From Rosh Hashana until Yom Kippur, the judgments are ameliorated, they ameliorate our yetzer hara (evil inclination) so it doesn’t control us, and now from Yom Kippur until Simchat Torah, we’re given 12 days to sweeten the judgments and to have our sins forgiven.
Now, we are building the new year. Up until now, it was only sealed. The complete Tzaddikim were sealed on Rosh Hashana, the beinonim (intermediate people) were sealed on Yom Kippur, and now we’re starting to build [the new year].
The building is in Succot with happiness, dancing and singing, and praying with kavana (intention), and guarding our eyes. According to how a person dances and sings in these days, that’s how he builds the new year. Through singing, dancing and dancing in circles (macholot), sins are forgiven (mechilah). Through dancing in circles all sins are forgiven and no judgment remains. The Ari said that when a person is happy and dances on the evening following Simchat Torah too, until the morning, he will merit that all his sins will be cancelled.
The dancing and happiness build the new year. Through dancing one draws down health, wisdom and heart into the new year. B’ezrat Hashem (with G-d’s help) we will merit through our happiness, singing and dancing that our sins should be forgiven, that the judgments should be sweetened, and that we should see the full redemption speedily and in our days.
 The word שאו means ‘to lift up’ (carry…), as it says in Tehillim ‘lift up the melody and bring drums’.