Joy and Repentance
The holiday of Sukkot (Tabernacles) follows immediately after Yom Kippur, a day dedicated for repentance and forgiveness. Sukkot is called “the time of Joy” and it is understood that the connection between these two holidays is that the forgiveness from God that we merit on Yom Kippur gives us the joy that we celebrate on Sukkot.
This is certainly a true sentiment but there is much more to the joy of Sukkot and there is much more to the connection between joy and repentance.
Although repentance is generally associated with grief and regret but repentance is also intimately tied up with joy. Repentance means reentering the service of God after having left it. It means regretting specific actions of violation of God’s will and it means regretting a path of life that was not in conformance with God’s will.
There are different aspects of regret. One could regret on the basis of becoming aware of the consequences of violating God’s will. One could regret upon realizing how horrible it is for a created being to violate the will of its Creator. One could regret upon contemplating the ugliness of sin.
All of these are aspects of regret, but what is regret without appreciating what should have been? How can one regret having left the service of the Creator without realizing the privilege, the love, the depth, the beauty, the purpose and the meaning of serving the Creator? What is regret without realizing what was lost? A time that could have been spent in God’s embrace was spent otherwise.
But we have the ability to serve God now! Every breath of life and every beat of your heart is another opportunity to serve, to thank, and to enjoy His embrace. If you don’t appreciate what you have now then how do you know what you missed when you violated His will? How deep is your regret?
Appreciating what it means to serve God is the introduction to repentance and it is the product of repentance. Returning to stand before God is the deepest joy of the created.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal