We have mentioned in the past that the sefarim point out the difference between Rosh HaShanah and Pesach. On Rosh Hashanah we go to the water and cast away our sins, whereas on Pesach we go to the water and draw up water, known as מים שלנו. On Rosh HaShanah, we are performing תשובה מיראה, repentance out of fear, so זדונות נעשו לו כשגגות, our wanton sins are transformed to unintentional sins (See Yoma 86b). On Pesach, however, we perform תשובה מאהבה, so זדונות נעשו לו כזכיות, one’s wanton sins are transformed to merits.
It follows that subsequent to the Yomim Noraim we begin the progression to repentance out of love. This process commences with the שמחת בית השואיבה, the joy of the Drawing of Water that took place all seven days of sukkos in the Bais HaMikdash. They drew the water from the Waters of Shiloach to use for ניסוך המים, the water libations on the Mizbeiach. This ceremony was performed with much joy and dancing. Furthermore, the dancing, juggling of fire and other festive acts were only performed by the pious Jews of that period. It is noteworthy that the word שאבים, drawing, equals in gematria the word שמחה, joy as the Gemara (Sukkah ) states one who did not witness the joy of the שמחת בית השואיבה did not witness true joy in his life. Following these seven days of joy is Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah, when our joy is elevated to rejoice with the completion of the Torah. The following story illustrates clearly how the joy that Jews experience with each other can transcend even the harsh judgements of the Yomim Noraim.
A chasid once traveled to Lublin to spend the yamim noraim with the Chozeh of Lublin. When it was his turn to introduce himself, he was shocked when the Chozeh told him to go home right away. Thinking that he misunderstood, the chasid presented himself the next day.
“What? You’re still here,” the Rebbi exclaimed, “I told you to go home.” Deeply dejected, the chasid set out on his journey home. On the way, he stopped at an inn to spend the night. There he met a group of Chasidim traveling to the Chozeh. After a few rounds of l’chaim, the Chasidim started to dance, drawing the chasid into their circle. Round and round they went, joyfully singing Hashem’s praises. Gradually, the chasid’s gloom turned into simcha. At the height of their ecstasy, the Chasidim turned to him, “Come on back with us to the Rebbi.” The chasid decided to give it another try. Perhaps the Chozeh would welcome him this time. To his great surprise, the Chozeh was delighted to see him, embracing him warmly, the Chozeh declared, “A Rebbi cannot accomplish the miracles Chasidim achieve through simcha.” He went on to explain, “When you came to me the first time, I saw Heaven had decreed that you will die shortly. I sent you home because I did not want you to die here on yom tov, but because of your simcha, you caused the Heavenly decree to be annulled,” and indeed the chasid lived until a ripe, old age.
The Skulener Rebbe said, “This story represents the underlying story of Simchas Torah. After our intense prayers of the yamim noraim and after the decree was sealed, we dance on Simchas Torah, for even if the decree was not favorable, it is possible to reverse it and change it into goodness and blessing through the power of simcha.”
We should merit serving HaShem with much joy and happiness, and we should merit the true joy of ושמחתים בבית תפילתי, I will gladden them in My House of Prayer, with the building of the Bais HaMikdash and the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.
Have a JOYOUS Shabbos, Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah!
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