One of the many names of the holiday of Succos is “chag ha’asif,” the festival of the harvest. It was at this time each year that farmers throughout the land of Israel would collect their final crops of the planting season, bringing tremendous joy to them and their families. This is a primary reason as to why the holiday of Succos is also known as “zman simchaseinu,” the time of our joy.
But the connection between Succos and the annual harvest run deeper than their confluence on the calendar. When we build and sit in a sukkah, we come to the renewed realization that Hashem is our Source of protection and goodness. The flimsiness of the scach covering above us reminds us of the futility of thinking that we are truly in control of our wellbeing, our health and other life essentials.
The same thinking applies to our material bounty. Sure, farmers work hard throughout the spring and summer to produce a robust crop. They till the fields, seed and fertilize the ground, and do whatever else they can to ensure success. But there remain so many factors that are completely out of their control, such as weather (rainfall, temperature, sunlight,) infestation and the like. When farmers are finally able to celebrate their successes they are instructed to keep in mind the One who made it all possible and share some of that bounty with the less fortunate and those who perform the Temple service.
This lesson can be easily applied to many areas of our lives. One example is in the workplace. We work hard to become properly educated and to succeed in our respective fields. We invest countless dollars and hours to position ourselves to secure the job that we desire or to launch a prosperous venture. We figure that if we work hard, develop and maintain strong connections, and keep the right people happy we can be assured of long-term financial stability and success. Yet, there are many dynamics that remain well beyond our control, such as market competition, economic slowdowns, changes in company leadership and downsizing.
Another example is educating our children. Parents invest much time and energy in planting good “crops.” They seek to provide their children with all of the knowledge, skills and character necessary to blossom into wholesome, engaged Jews and to succeed in all aspects of life. But so much remains out of their control, including each child’s personal inclinations and actions, problems in school, external influences and more.
Certainly, we must do our best to provide for our families and to raise them properly. But we cannot do it alone. We must combine our hishtadlus (efforts) with much tefilla (prayer) and hope for divine assistance to help us achieve our aspirations.
It is told that someone once presented the Chofetz Chaim with an old, tattered Tehillim that had belonged to the sage’s saintly mother. Immediately upon receiving it, the great tzaddik began to cry. “You don’t know,” he said, “how many tears my mother cried in order that her Yisroel Meir should turn out to become a G-d fearing Jew. All that I have achieved can be attributed to the tears that my mother shed over her Tehillim.”
The psalmist famously predicted that, “Those who sow in tears will harvest in song.” (Tehillim 126:5) If we sow the right things and then add tears, meaningful expressions of our deepest desires and yearnings, then we have a chance to “harvest in song.”
One other thought. While there may not a particular “harvest season” for most of us, in terms of our incomes or rearing children, we should find time each day to bask in the joy of our successes. Identify “wins” in each respective realm and celebrate them. Look for the good in every facet of life and take the time to verbalize your appreciation. By expressing heartfelt beracha (appreciative blessing) we can un-tap the spiritual beraicha (stream of goodness) in heaven that will cause the flow (mazal) of more blessing to shower upon us.
May all of our efforts and tefillos be answered and may we experience a zman that is filled with true simcha.