Oct 05 2017 Dvar Torah

Rabbi Robert Eisen

Have you ever seen The Ren & Stimpy Show?

The Ren & Stimpy Show was an American animated series created by John Kricfalusi for Nickelodeon. The show ended on December 16, 1995, with a total of five seasons and 52 episodes. I do not watch a lot of TV, but I sat through more than one episode of this series with my kids. In its day it was quite popular. And, unlike many other animated series, sometimes it even had something to say.

In particular, there was a song introduced in the third episode: “Happy Happy Joy Joy.” There are a few descriptive refrains regarding how and why one should be happy and joyful. However, for the most part, that is the song: “Happy Happy Joy Joy” repeated over and over and over and over again … in step with a lighthearted dance.

Silly? Or, something of substance? Actually, a little of both. It has been suggested that the song is something that one should embrace when they really feel like screaming at the top of their lungs … a happy face for a broken soul. Some would call that a lie. However, that is where the lesson can be found … where the series/song have so much more to say than what might first meet the eye or ear. And the lesson is the same as that which is found in our observance of this Festival of SUKKOT.

In “Rabbi Speak,” the Festival of SUKKOT is referred to as “HaHAG” … “The Festival”! Why is it so special? … “The” rather than ”A” Festival? Because, it is a time of joy. Whatever our moment might be … whatever the concerns … for the week of SUKKOT we are to focus only on joy, the good things that are in our lives and in our world.

That can be hard to do. Especially coming off the intensity of the High Holydays with their focus on reflection and repentance, it can be a challenge to just switch gears and feel so “Happy Happy Joy Joy”. However, that is just the point! We do have much to be happy about … there is much that can provide us with unmitigated joy … we just have to allow ourselves to see it and embrace it.

We worked hard over the High Holydays, engaged in a penetrating look within and sought to resolve to make the changes that we know we should to make our lives that much more meaningful and significant. SUKKOT is here to remind us that to make what we saw visible to others we just have to do it … and be happy that we can. In the same way as neuroscientists involved in the field of neuroplasticity teach that consciously concentrating on the good, the true, and the beautiful can restructure the brain in positive ways … so is it true that the more we engage in the pursuit of happiness and joy (realize how much we have for which to be happy and feel joyous) the greater the likelihood that we will.

So, do a little dance … sing a little song … HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY !!!!!!! SUKKOT is here, and there is much for which we do have reason to rejoice … we just have to let ourselves! The Ren & Stimpy Show is gone, but the opportunity to, through our tradition, find reason to smile and realize that there is much goodness in the world is eternal.