Joy in Talmud Class #1

(י) עשרה שמות נקרא שמחה. אלו הן ששון. שמחה. גילה. רינה. דיצה. צהלה. עליזה. חדוה תפארת. עליצה:

There are ten names for Simcha: Sasson, Simcha, Gila, Rina, Ditza, Tzahala, Aliza, Chedva and Tiferet.

Avot de-Rabbi Nathan (Hebrew: אבות דרבי נתן‎), usually printed together with the minor tractates of the Talmud, is a Jewish aggadic work probably compiled in the geonic era (c.700–900 CE). Although Avot de-Rabbi Nathan is the first and longest of the "minor tractates", it probably does not belong in that collection chronologically, having more the character of a late midrash. In the form now extant it contains a mixture of Mishnah and Midrash, and may be technically designated as a homiletical exposition of the Mishnaic tractate Pirkei Avot, having for its foundation an older recension (version) of that tractate. It may be considered as a kind of "tosefta" or "gemarah" to the Mishna Avot, which does not possess a traditional gemarah. Avot de-Rabbi Nathan contains many sentences, proverbs, and incidents that are not found anywhere else in the early rabbinical literature (Cashdan 1965). Other rabbinical sayings appear in a more informal style than what is found in the canonical Mishna Avot redacted by Judah I.


“Avot D’Rabbi Natan 34:9, a minor tractate of the Talmud, lists ten words that are used to describe joy. But, according to our count, Judaism has at least four more. Each illuminates another facet of joy:

Simcha -considered the broadest word for joy, it also notes complete happiness in its fullest sense. (I would add that Simcha is also a word we use for a party/occasion celebrating a joyous moment. Eg, “I will be so happy to attend your Simcha.” Fill in wedding, bar mitzvah, baby naming. The actual Jewish event is called a Simcha!)

Chedva –pure and unfiltered, expressing the happiness of being with others

Ditza–awe-inspiring, related to dancing

Gila–a stronger sensation that bursts forth but is more transient and worldly (related to gal, meaning “wave”)

Hana’a–enjoyment of something specific

Nachas –prideful joy brought on especially by our children (In modern Hebrew the word is Nachat, but we still use the Yiddish and wish people much naches from their children and grandchildren)

Osher–deeper, abiding, connected to a yearning for inner peace and a life of meaning

Ora–signifying both “light” and “joy,” suggesting an interplay between awareness and uplift. (We say, “Torah Ora” –signifying that Torah is both light and joy for our lives, and “Ora v’Simcha”- “Light and Joy” lift our spirits and our souls)

Pitzcha–bursting into song

Ranan –being so overcome as to cry or shout in joy

Rina–related to singing and shouting, often very revitalizing

Sasson–happiness coming on unexpectedly

T’rua–joy expressed in a shout or cheer (like a shofar)

Tzahala–combining both happiness and dancing”

Jewish Spiritual Parenting: Wisdom, Activities, Rituals and Prayers for Raising Children with Spiritual Balance and Emotional Wholeness (2015) by Rabbi Paul Kipnes and his wife Michelle November, MSSW., Jewish Lights Publishing, (p. 167-8):

הנהו תרי מיני חד שמיה ששון וחד שמיה שמחה א"ל ששון לשמחה אנא עדיפנא מינך דכתיב (ישעיהו לה, י) ששון ושמחה ישיגו וגו' א"ל שמחה לששון אנא עדיפנא מינך דכתיב (אסתר ח, יז) שמחה וששון ליהודים א"ל ששון לשמחה חד יומא שבקוך ושויוך פרוונקא דכתיב (ישעיהו נה, יב) כי בשמחה תצאו א"ל שמחה לששון חד יומא שבקוך ומלו בך מיא דכתיב ושאבתם מים בששון
Apropos this verse, the Gemara relates: There were these two heretics, one named Sason and one named Simḥa. Sason said to Simḥa: I am superior to you, as it is written: “They shall obtain joy [sason] and happiness [simḥa], and sorrow and sighing shall flee” (Isaiah 35:10). The verse mentions joy first. Simḥa said to Sason, On the contrary, I am superior to you, as it is written: “There was happiness [simḥa] and joy [sason] for the Jews” (Esther 8:17). Sason said to Simḥa: One day they will dismiss you and render you a messenger [parvanka], as it is written: “For you shall go out with happiness [simḥa]” (Isaiah 55:12). Simḥa said to Sason: One day they will dismiss you and draw water with you, as it is written: “With joy [sason] you shall draw water.”

Ohr Somayach
What's in a Word?
For the week ending 9 July 2016 / 3 Tammuz 5776
Subtleties of Simcha and Sasson
by Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein

In the blessing which we customarily say for a newly-married bride and groom, we wish upon the couple different forms of happiness: sasson, simcha, gilah, rinah, ditzah and chedva. What are all these different types of gladness and how do they differ from each other? To answer these questions we will first resolve the age-old dichotomy of sasson and simcha, and then we will explain the meanings of the other words for happiness.

The Talmud (Succah 48b) relates a disagreement between the personified concepts of simcha and sasson: Simcha said to Sasson, “I am better than you because it says, (regarding the resolution of the story of Purim) for the Jews... simcha and sasson (Esther 8:16)”. Sasson said back to Simcha, “I am better than you because it says, (regarding the happiness of the Messianic Era) They will attain sasson and simcha (I Samuel 14:45)”. In the first verse, simcha is mentioned before sasson, which implies that simcha is superior; but, the second verse implies sasson’s superiority by mentioning it before simcha. So which one is a higher form of joy, sasson or simcha?

Malbim explains that simcha refers to internal gladness which is continual, while sasson is the external expression of one's inner happiness. In other words, sasson denotes what a person does to show that he is happy, for example wearing special clothes for holidays or playing music at happy times, while simcha is the happy feeling inside of him.
We can highlight the differences between these two forms of happiness by pointing out what the Malbim says are their antonyms. The opposite of simcha is yagon (despondency), which is the internal form of sadness. On the other hand, sasson is the antonym for aveilut (mourning), the outward way of expressing sadness, as well as anachah (which literally means “a sigh”).

Regarding the disagreement between Simcha and Sasson as to which is greater, it seems that both are correct, but their disagreement is reflective of a “chicken/egg” complex. Meaning, sometimes simcha precedes sasson because sometimes the inner feeling of happiness arrives first and bursts forth outwards in joyous expressions; whereas at other times, outward expressions of happiness rouse one’s feelings of inner happiness, and positively influence his inner thoughts and mood.