In a few hours we begin Sukkot, known also as Zeman Simkhateinu, the time of our happiness. I love sukkot, but I’m troubled by the commandment, at this holiday, to be happy. Can we really be commanded to be happy? What if we just aren’t feeling it? What if we’re heartsick, or unemployed, or grieving, or embittered, or PMSing, or clinically depressed or otherwise disinclined to jump on the happy bandwagon?
As far as I can tell the sources have two responses to this:
1) Snap out of it!
2) Happiness is about making other people happy, not making yourself happy.
Rambam, in his commentary on the laws of Yom Tov, wrote, “He who locks the doors of his house, and eats and drinks with his children and wife but does not give food and drink to the poor and misfortunate, does not rejoice in fulfillment of the commandment but only to fill his belly.” (6:18)
I hate being told what to do. Hate it. And right at this exact moment I am not exactly exuding joyous energy. But my plan is this:
1) Fake it till I make it.
2) Try to make some other people happy, and mooch off of them.
Because that’s the law.