What is the purpose of Chol Hamoed?
Chol Hamoed is meant to be an opportunity for people to think over what the Yom Tov is all about. On Yom Tov we’re very busy; we’re busy bringing korbanos and making seudos and sometimes we forget to think about the lessons we’re supposed to learn from the Yomtiv. And therefore Chol Hamoed is a time to think. There is another opportunity at the end of Yomtiv called Atzeres that is also intended to be an opportunity to recap the lessons of the Yom Tov. Shavuos is the Atzeres for Pesach; a few weeks after Pesach we we come back to the Beis Hamikdash to recap the lessons of Pesach. And Shmini Atzeres is the Atzeres for Sukkos. Shmini Atzeres really should be a while after Sukkos; it should be a few weeks later – an opportunity to come back to the Beis Hamikdash and review all of the Sukkos lessons. But the Gemara says that right after Sukkos the winter season begins; it’s the rainy season and if you go home now you won’t be able to come back a month or two later because the roads might be impassable. And therefore the Torah says make the Atzeres of Sukkos right after Sukkos. Pesach is in the springtime so you can come back a few weeks later for Shavuos and think over the Pesach lessons then. But on Sukkos we have Shmini Atzeres right away in order to think things over.
So you have two opportunities to review the lessons: Chol Hamoed and Atzeres. Sukkos maybe you were busy; first you were busy building your sukkah, and then you were worrying about your esrog and therefore maybe you didn’t think about the Sukkos lessons sufficiently. So Chol Hamoed is an opportunity to think things over. It’s a few days that gives you the opportunity to think; you have the time to appreciate the lessons of Sukkos more and that way you finish off the Yom Tov with more inspiration; you can come back into Yomtiv with a new inspiration, with the inspiration that you’re supposed to get from Sukkos.
After that, you have one more day to think it over and that’s Shmini Atzeres; that’s the day for cementing the lessons into our minds. Atzeres is like a סך הכל; a final review — “What did I accomplish?” It’s like חסידים ראשונים היו שוהים שעה אחת אחר תפילתם. The tzadikim used to stand a long shmoneh esrei, but when they finished, they took a long time to think back: ”What did we accomplish in our shmoneh esrei? What places did we not think enough? What places were we mechadesh chiddushim in our davening?” They try to recall, and they make a cheshbon, a סך הכל, a sum total of their shmoneh esrei.
And therefore Chol Hamoed is an opportunity to think over what it’s all about. It’s very important to think over; “What is it all about? What’s Yom Tov all about?!” We’re so busy bringing in Yom Tov; there’s so much work to do and therefore many times people don’t think at all about the lessons of Sukkos. And therefore you need some time to think it over. And that’s what Chol Hamoed is for.
TAPE # E-103