|Positive Mitzvah Fifty-Four
Rejoicing on the Festivals
Devarim 16:14 You are to rejoice during
your festival - you and your son and your daughter, and your male slave and your
female slave, and the Levi and the proselyte, and the orphan and widow who are
in your city.
We are commanded to rejoice on the Festivals. The
most important obligation in this Mitzvah is that of the compulsory Shelamim-offerings.
These Shelamim-offerings are in addition to the Shelamim-offerings of the
Festival (referred to in P52), and they are called in the Talmud, "Shelamim-offerings
of Rejoicing." (Chag. 7b)
Women are required to take part in the rejoicing.
The words "You are to rejoice during your festivals",
included the further injunction of the Sages that we are to rejoice by all
possible modes of rejoicing, as by eating meat on the festivals, drinking wine,
putting on new garments, distributing fruits and sweetmeats to children and
women, and making merry with musical instruments and dancing in the Sanctuary,
thought not elsewhere1
this being the Rejoicing of Beit HaShoevah2.
All these modes of rejoicing are comprised in His words, "You are to rejoice
during your festival."
obliges us to include in this rejoicing the poor, the needy, and strangers.
The RaMBaM said:
"And when he
eats and drinks [in celebration of a festival] it is his duty [also] to offer
food to the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, as well as to all
other unfortunate poor. He, however, who while eating and drinking in the
company of his children and his wife bars the entries to his home, fails to
offer food and drink to the poor and the wretched, rejoices not in a manner
suitable on the occasion of fulfilling a Mitzvah, but merely to gratify his own
belly. Concerning such men [Scripture] says, 'There sacrifices shall be to
them as the bread of mourners, all that eat thereof shall be polluted; for their
bread shall be for their appetite' (Hoshea 9:4). Such rejoicing casts
disgrace upon them, as it is said, 'And I will spread dung upon your faces, even
the dung of your sacrifices.'" (Mal. 2:3; Mishneh Torah, Zmanim, Hilchot Yom Tov
manifestation of joy was a vital factor in the Divine Service in Yisrael's
Sanctuary and may be gathered from the following account of the ceremony of Beit
"He who has not
seen the Rejoicing of Beit HaShoevah has never in his life seen joy. Men
of piety and good works used to dance before them with lighted torches in their
hands, singing songs and praises. And countless Leviim with harps, lyres,
cymbals, and trumpets and other musical instruments were there on the fifteen
steps leading down from the Court of Yisrael to the Court of the Women,
corresponding to the Fifteen Songs of Ascents in the Tehillim; upon them the
Leviim stood with their instruments of music and made melody" (Suk. 51a).
Making merry with musical instruments and dancing, thought forbidden on a
festival throughout Eretz Yisrael, was permitted in the Sanctuary.
This was marked by a great public festivity held in the Sanctuary during the
evenings of the Festival of Sukkot, being associated with the libation of water
on the Mizbeach during that festival.