Awesome Ideas in Judaism - Session 1 Simchah (Joy)

“Imagine a religion that begins with 'God wants you to be happy!' Beware of anything that threatens to take away your joy. In the end it will probably take you away from God as well.”

-- Rabbi Arthur Green, Judaism's 10 Best Ideas pg. 3

Hasidic Judaism is an Orthodox spiritual revivalist movement that emerged in Eastern Europe in the 18th century. Followers of Hasidic Judaism (known as Hasidim, or “pious ones”) drew heavily on the Jewish mystical tradition in seeking a direct experience of God through ecstatic prayer and other rituals conducted under the spiritual direction of a Rebbe, a charismatic leader sometimes also known as a tzaddik , or righteous man.


(ב) עִבְד֣וּ אֶת־יְהוָ֣ה בְּשִׂמְחָ֑ה בֹּ֥אוּ לְ֝פָנָ֗יו בִּרְנָנָֽה׃

(2) Serve the LORD in gladness; come into God's presence with shouts of joy.

(י) הִֽתְהַֽלְלוּ֙ בְּשֵׁ֣ם קָדְשׁ֔וֹ יִשְׂמַ֕ח לֵ֖ב מְבַקְשֵׁ֥י יְהוָֽה׃

(10) Exult in God's holy name; let all who seek the LORD rejoice.

Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698‑1760) = BeSHT

Founder and first great master of Hasidic Judaism

"Serving God" (through mitzvot) ---> SIMCHAH (JOY) <--- "Seeking God" (through experience)

״וְשִׁבַּחְתִּי אֲנִי אֶת הַשִּׂמְחָה״ — שִׂמְחָה שֶׁל מִצְוָה. ״וּלְשִׂמְחָה מַה זֹּה עוֹשָׂה״ — זוֹ שִׂמְחָה שֶׁאֵינָהּ שֶׁל מִצְוָה. לְלַמֶּדְךָ שֶׁאֵין שְׁכִינָה שׁוֹרָה לֹא מִתּוֹךְ עַצְבוּת וְלֹא מִתּוֹךְ עַצְלוּת וְלֹא מִתּוֹךְ שְׂחוֹק וְלֹא מִתּוֹךְ קַלּוּת רֹאשׁ וְלֹא מִתּוֹךְ שִׂיחָה וְלֹא מִתּוֹךְ דְּבָרִים בְּטֵלִים, אֶלָּא מִתּוֹךְ דְּבַר שִׂמְחָה שֶׁל מִצְוָה.

So I commended joy, (Ecclesiastes 8:15) that is the joy of a mitzvah. “And of joy: What does it accomplish?(Ecclesiastes 2:2) that is joy that is not the joy of a mitzvah.

The praise of joy mentioned here is to teach you that the Divine Presence rests upon an individual neither from an atmosphere of sadness, nor from an atmosphere of laziness, nor from an atmosphere of laughter, nor from an atmosphere of frivolity, nor from an atmosphere of idle conversation, nor from an atmosphere of idle chatter, but rather from an atmosphere imbued with the joy of a mitzvah.

"A mitzvah may be a ritual form or an act of kindness to others. The point is that doing it is meant to fill our hearts with joy. A mitzvah is a place where you can meet God; of course it makes you happy. We anticipate it and look forward to fulfilling it."

-- Rabbi Arthur Green, Judaism's 10 Best Ideas pg. 7

(א) בְּעִנְיַן הַשִּׂמְחָה.

(ב) עַל־פִּי מָשָׁל, שֶׁלִּפְעָמִים כְּשֶׁבְּנֵי־אָדָם שְׂמֵחִים וּמְרַקְּדִים, אֲזַי חוֹטְפִים אִישׁ אֶחָד מִבַּחוּץ, שֶׁהוּא בְּעַצְבוּת וּמָרָה שְׁחֹרָה, וּמַכְנִיסִים אוֹתוֹ בְּעַל־כָּרְחוֹ לְתוֹךְ מְחוֹל הַמְרַקְּדִים, וּמַכְרִיחִים אוֹתוֹ בְּעַל־כָּרְחוֹ שֶׁיִּהְיֶה שָׂמֵחַ עִמָּהֶם גַם־כֵּן;

(ג) כֵּן יֵשׁ בְּעִנְיַן הַשִּׂמְחָה. כִּי כְּשֶׁאָדָם שָׂמֵחַ, אֲזַי הַמָּרָה שְׁחֹרָה וְיִסּוּרִים נִסְתַּלְּקִים מִן הַצַּד.

(ד) אֲבָל מַעְלָה יְתֵרָה – לְהִתְאַמֵּץ לִרְדֹּף אַחַר הַמָּרָה שְׁחֹרָה דַּוְקָא, לְהַכְנִיס אוֹתָהּ גַם־כֵּן בְּתוֹךְ הַשִּׂמְחָה, בְּאֹפֶן שֶׁהַמָּרָה שְׁחוֹרָה בְּעַצְמָהּ תִּתְהַפֵּךְ לְשִׂמְחָה. שֶׁיְּהַפֵּךְ הַמָּרָה שְׁחֹרָה וְכָל הַיִּסּוּרִין לְשִׂמְחָה, כְּדֶרֶךְ הַבָּא לְתוֹךְ הַשִּׂמְחָה, שֶׁאָז מִגֹּדֶל הַשִּׂמְחָה וְהַחֶדְוָה מְהַפֵּךְ כָּל הַדְּאָגוֹת וְהָעַצְבוּת וְהַמָּרָה שְׁחוֹרוֹת שֶׁלּוֹ לְשִׂמְחָה. נִמְצָא שֶׁחוֹטֵף הַמָּרָה שְׁחֹרָה וּמַכְנִיס אוֹתָהּ בְּעַל־כָּרְחָהּ לְתוֹךְ הַשִּׂמְחָה, כַּמָּשָׁל הַנַּ"ל.

(ה) וְזֶה בְּחִינַת (ישעיהו ל״ה:י׳): שָׂשׂוֹן וְשִׂמְחָה יַשִּׂיגוּ וְנָסוּ יָגוֹן וַאֲנָחָה – שֶׁהַיָּגוֹן וַאֲנָחָה בּוֹרְחִים וְנָסִים מִן הַשִּׂמְחָה, כִּי בְּעֵת הַשִּׂמְחָה דֶּרֶךְ הַיָּגוֹן וָאֲנָחָה לַעֲמֹד מִן הַצַּד כַּנַּ"ל, אֲבָל צָרִיךְ לִרְדֹּף אַחֲרֵיהֶם דַּיְקָא, וּלְהַשִּׂיגָם וּלְהַגִּיעָם, לְהַכְנִיס אוֹתָם דַּוְקָא לְתוֹךְ הַשִּׂמְחָה כַּנַּ"ל.

(ו) וְזֶהוּ: שָׂשׂוֹן וְשִׂמְחָה יַשִּׂיגוּ וְכוּ' – שֶׁהַשָּׂשׂוֹן וְשִׂמְחָה יַשִּׂיגוּ וְיִתְפְּסוּ אֶת הַיָּגוֹן וַאֲנָחָה, שֶׁהֵם נָסִים וּבוֹרְחִים מִן הַשִּׂמְחָה, לְהַכְנִיס אוֹתָם בְּעַל־כָּרְחָם לְתוֹךְ הַשִּׂמְחָה כַּנַּ"ל.

(ז) כִּי יֵשׁ יָגוֹן וַאֲנָחָה שֶׁהֵם הַסִּטְרָא־אָחֳרָא, שֶׁאֵינָם רוֹצִים לִהְיוֹת מֶרְכָּבָה אֶל הַקְּדֻשָּׁה, וְעַל־כֵּן הֵם בּוֹרְחִים מִן הַשִּׂמְחָה. עַל־כֵּן צָרִיךְ לְהַכְרִיחַ אוֹתָם לְהַכְנִיס אוֹתָם לְתוֹךְ הַקְּדֻשָּׁה, דְּהַיְנוּ הַשִּׂמְחָה, בְּעַל־כָּרְחָם, כַּנַּ"ל:

(1) On the topic of simchah.

(2) An analogy: Sometimes, when people are happy and dance, they grab someone standing outside the circle who is depressed and gloomy. Against that person's will they bring them into the circle of dancers; against their will, they force them to be happy along with them.

(3) It is the same with happiness. When a person is happy, gloom and suffering stand aside.

(4) Yet greater still is to gather courage to actually pursue gloom, and to introduce it into the joy, such that the gloom itself turns into joy. A person should transform gloom and all suffering into joy. It is like a person who comes to a celebration. The abundant joy and happiness then, transforms all their worries, depression and gloom into joy. We find that they have grabbed the gloom and introduced it, against its will, into the joy, as in the aforementioned analogy.