Enjoying the Joy of Yom Tov

August 5, 2018 at 1:01 AM , , ,

וְשָׂמַחְתָּ בְּחַגֶּךָ – דברים טז, יד

“….And you shall rejoice in your Festival…” (Devarim 16:14) Regarding the commandment of simcha, rejoicing on Yom Tov, the Rambam (Shvisas Yom Tov 6:17-18) writes:

Even though the simcha mentioned here refers to the korban shlamim… included in this simcha is to make himself, his children and members of his household joyous, each one according to his means. How? For children one gives roasted kernels and nuts and sweets. For women one buys clothing and pleasant jewelry based on what one can afford. And men eat meat and drink wine, for simcha is only with meat and wine.

We see from the Rambam’s wording that he considers the simcha commanded by the Torah to be a primarily spiritual joy, brought about by partaking in the Shlamim sacrifice. The physical means of celebration through gifts, treats and wine are merely tangential: “included in this simcha…”.

In the Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 529:6-7), however, we see that the Alter Rebbe considers the physical delights to be the authentic fulfillment of the Mitzvah; eating the sacrificial meat was simply the ideal way for men to observe this, when it was possible. He writes:

This rejoicing is a positive commandment in the Torah, as is written [Devarim 16:14]: “And you shall rejoice in your festival.” How does he make them joyous? For children – he gives roasted kernels and nuts; for women – he buys clothes and jewelry…; for men – when the Temple stood, they would eat the meat of the Korban Shlamim. Nowadays, as there is no Temple, they fulfill their obligation to rejoice only by drinking wine.

This contrast reflects their respective opinions regarding the ultimate delight and reward, which we are destined to experience in Olam Haba, the World to Come. The Rambam writes (Hilchos Teshuvah 8:2) that in Olam Haba, “there is no body or physical form, only the souls of the righteous alone, without a body.”

The Alter Rebbe, however, follows the opinion that the ultimate reward for the observance of mitzvos will be when all souls will be restored to their bodies (Likutei Torah, Tzav 15c). For the purpose of creation is for G-dliness to be manifest in the physical reality; mitzvos are not only means by which the G-dly soul thrives, they refine and imbue our material bodies with G-dliness as well. He thus rules that the mitzvah of joy on Yom Tov must be primarily experienced by the physical body.

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 33, pp. 62-70

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