Cedars of Lebanon:
Joy in the Holy Days
It has great meaning that those Jewish holidays which are not directly dedicated to the idea of atonement are dedicated to joy. “Thou shalt rejoice in thy festival, together with thy children and servants, and with the strangers and the orphans and the widows” (Deut. 16:14). Joy is the very purpose and goal of a holiday: not the joy around Dionysus or Bacchus, but one defined by its being shared with strangers and the poor. Such joy is to bring the poor closer to yourself; you are to be happy with them and they are to be happy with you. Such joy is to raise man above social affliction; though this affliction cannot be ignored, it is, on the day of festival, at least to be overcome. The holidays would indeed lose all meaning and value if they were unable to implant for a short time joy in the heart of celebrating man.
And therefore joy in the festival—which joy is its very meaning and foundation—is also a symbol of peace. If it is true that holidays make joy a reality among men, the road to peace becomes a road to life. It is no illusion that the holidays are festivals of joy. The joy that is realized in the holiday of freedom, of deliverance from slavery, and of the divine call to become a kingdom of priests, is no deceptive joy. It is a truly historical joy that celebrates the revelation on Mount Sinai, the legislation of a moral world. And it is also a true joy which links the Festival of Harvest with the Wanderings through the Wilderness, concluding with the Rejoicing in the Law as a whole.
About the Author