Open a Siddur, a prayer book, and you’ll see that our festivals are described as, Mo’adim LeSimchah, Chagim, U’Zmanim LeSason – “festivals for rejoicing, holidays and seasons for gladness.” So “rejoicing” on the holidays is really important.
But what is the definition of “rejoicing”?
Jumping up and down on a trampoline with a big smile on your face? Absolutely not.
Watching the Out of Egypt video? No, no, no!
Reading the Out of Egypt book? Hmmm. That may be a good idea.
Doubles in dessert?! You’re getting closer.
How about inviting guests over for the Yom-Tov holiday meal? We’re talking about those guests who are in need – whether they are poor or lonely.
Precisely… that’s the answer! How did you guess?!
Indeed, the famous Rambam of Egypt, Rabbi Moshe the son of Maimon (1138-1204), stressed the importance of sharing the joy of the festivals by inviting such guests to our holiday meals and uplifting their spirits.
Otherwise, cautions the Rambam, if you’re eating your Yom-Tov meal with your own family and nobody else, you are not really celebrating “HaShem’s Holiday” – better to call it your “Stomach-Holiday!”
Let’s finish the Parsha with the heartfelt words of the Rambam, in his Laws of Yom Tov:
On the 7 days of Pesach, the 8 days of Sukkos, and the other holidays, a person is obligated to be happy and in good spirits; he, his children, his wife, the members of his household, and all those who depend on him, as the Posuk states, “ViSamachta BeChagecha” – “And you shall rejoice in your festivals.”
When a person eats and drinks in celebration of a holiday, he is obligated to feed converts, orphans, widows, and others who are needy and poor. But a person who locks the gates of his courtyard and eats and drinks only with his children and his wife, without feeding the poor and the embittered – this is not called rejoicing of a Mitzvah, it’s called rejoicing of his stomach!
Mishneh Torah, Laws of Yom Tov, Chapter 6, Halacha 18