שמחה Simcha - Joy Find Pleasure in Life

Some Implications of Simcha:

  • Loving Your Life

  • Relationship Workshop: Jewish Insights to Strengthen Your Relationships

  • Purim Edition: Jews and Booze

מצוה גדולה להיות בשמחה תמיד.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov:

It is a great mitzvah to always be in a state of happines.

  • Does this sound like a Jewish idea to you? Does it sound like a mitzvah?

  • How can you be happy, positive and optimistic if that is just not who you are?

Alan Morinis, Gratitude: Hakarat HaTov

When you open up to the trait of gratitude, you see clearly how much good there is in your life. Gratitude affirms. Of course there will be things you are still lacking, and in reaching for gratitude no one is saying you ought to put on rose-colored glasses to obscure those shortcomings. But most of us tend to focus so heavily on the deficiencies in our lives that we barely perceive the good that counterbalances them.

This condition is especially common among we who live in a world permeated by advertising that constantly reveals to us all the things we don't have -- and tells us how satisfied we would be with ourselves and our lives, if only we would buy their product.

There is no limit to what we don't have, and if that is where we focus, then our lives are inevitably filled with endless dissatisfaction. This is the ethos that lies behind the great Talmudic proverb which asks, "Who is rich?" and then answers, "Those who rejoice in their own lot." (Avot 4:1)

Alan Morinis, Gratitude: Hakarat HaTov, Jewish Pathways, http://www.jewishpathways.com/mussar-program/gratitude

(יח) וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ ה' אֱלֹקִ֔ים לֹא־ט֛וֹב הֱי֥וֹת הָֽאָדָ֖ם לְבַדּ֑וֹ אֶֽעֱשֶׂהּ־לּ֥וֹ עֵ֖זֶר כְּנֶגְדּֽוֹ׃ (יט) וַיִּצֶר֩ ה' אֱלֹקִ֜ים מִן־הָֽאֲדָמָ֗ה כָּל־חַיַּ֤ת הַשָּׂדֶה֙ וְאֵת֙ כָּל־ע֣וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וַיָּבֵא֙ אֶל־הָ֣אָדָ֔ם לִרְא֖וֹת מַה־יִּקְרָא־ל֑וֹ וְכֹל֩ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יִקְרָא־ל֧וֹ הָֽאָדָ֛ם נֶ֥פֶשׁ חַיָּ֖ה ה֥וּא שְׁמֽוֹ׃ (כ) וַיִּקְרָ֨א הָֽאָדָ֜ם שֵׁמ֗וֹת לְכָל־הַבְּהֵמָה֙ וּלְע֣וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וּלְכֹ֖ל חַיַּ֣ת הַשָּׂדֶ֑ה וּלְאָדָ֕ם לֹֽא־מָצָ֥א עֵ֖זֶר כְּנֶגְדּֽוֹ׃ (כא) וַיַּפֵּל֩ ה' אֱלֹקִ֧ים ׀ תַּרְדֵּמָ֛ה עַל־הָאָדָ֖ם וַיִּישָׁ֑ן וַיִּקַּ֗ח אַחַת֙ מִצַּלְעֹתָ֔יו וַיִּסְגֹּ֥ר בָּשָׂ֖ר תַּחְתֶּֽנָּה׃ (כב) וַיִּבֶן֩ ה' אֱלֹקִ֧ים ׀ אֶֽת־הַצֵּלָ֛ע אֲשֶׁר־לָקַ֥ח מִן־הָֽאָדָ֖ם לְאִשָּׁ֑ה וַיְבִאֶ֖הָ אֶל־הָֽאָדָֽם׃ (כג) וַיֹּאמֶר֮ הָֽאָדָם֒ זֹ֣את הַפַּ֗עַם עֶ֚צֶם מֵֽעֲצָמַ֔י וּבָשָׂ֖ר מִבְּשָׂרִ֑י לְזֹאת֙ יִקָּרֵ֣א אִשָּׁ֔ה כִּ֥י מֵאִ֖ישׁ לֻֽקֳחָה־זֹּֽאת׃ (כד) עַל־כֵּן֙ יַֽעֲזָב־אִ֔ישׁ אֶת־אָבִ֖יו וְאֶת־אִמּ֑וֹ וְדָבַ֣ק בְּאִשְׁתּ֔וֹ וְהָי֖וּ לְבָשָׂ֥ר אֶחָֽד׃
(18) The LORD God said, “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make a fitting helper for him.” (19) And the LORD God formed out of the earth all the wild beasts and all the birds of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that would be its name. (20) And the man gave names to all the cattle and to the birds of the sky and to all the wild beasts; but for Adam no fitting helper was found. (21) So the LORD God cast a deep sleep upon the man; and, while he slept, He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that spot. (22) And the LORD God fashioned the rib that He had taken from the man into a woman; and He brought her to the man. (23) Then the man said, “This one at last Is bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh. This one shall be called Woman, For from man was she taken.” (24) Hence a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, so that they become one flesh.

According to the Torah, how did the world’s first couple meet? And what does the Torah mean to tell us through this story?

אמר רבא מיחייב איניש לבסומי בפוריא עד דלא ידע בין ארור המן לברוך מרדכי רבה ורבי זירא עבדו סעודת פורים בהדי הדדי איבסום קם רבה שחטיה לרבי זירא למחר בעי רחמי ואחייה לשנה אמר ליה ניתי מר ונעביד סעודת פורים בהדי הדדי אמר ליה לא בכל שעתא ושעתא מתרחיש ניסא
Rava said: One is obligated to become inebriated [with wine] on Purim until he cannot tell the difference between cursed be Haman and blessed be Mordecai. Rabbah and R. Zera joined together in a Purim feast. They became inebriated, and Rabbah arose and cut R. Zera’s throat. The next day he prayed on his behalf and revived him. Next year he said: Will the master come and we will have the Purim feast together. He replied: A miracle does not take place on every occasion.

Talk It Out

  • Have you ever gotten drunk to the point where you did not know the difference between a good and wicked person? Was that a holy state to be in?
  • Why do you think Rava believes that a person should become drunk on Purim?
(כט) לְמִ֨י א֥וֹי לְמִ֪י אֲב֡וֹי לְמִ֤י מדונים [מִדְיָנִ֨ים ׀] לְמִ֥י שִׂ֗יחַ לְ֭מִי פְּצָעִ֣ים חִנָּ֑ם לְ֝מִ֗י חַכְלִל֥וּת עֵינָֽיִם׃ (ל) לַֽמְאַחֲרִ֥ים עַל־הַיָּ֑יִן לַ֝בָּאִ֗ים לַחְקֹ֥ר מִמְסָֽךְ׃
(29) Who cries, “Woe!” who, “Alas!”; Who has quarrels, who complaints; Who has wounds without cause; Who has bleary eyes? (30) Those whom wine keeps till the small hours, Those who gather to drain the cups.

(כ) כְּשֶׁאָדָם אוֹכֵל וְשׁוֹתֶה וְשָׂמֵחַ בָּרֶגֶל לֹא יִמָּשֵׁךְ בְּיַיִן וּבִשְׂחוֹק וְקַלּוּת רֹאשׁ וְיֹאמַר שֶׁכָּל מִי שֶׁיּוֹסִיף בָּזֶה יַרְבֶּה בְּמִצְוַת שִׂמְחָה. שֶׁהַשִּׁכְרוּת וְהַשְּׂחוֹק הָרַבָּה וְקַלּוּת הָרֹאשׁ אֵינָהּ שִׂמְחָה אֶלָּא הוֹלְלוּת וְסִכְלוּת וְלֹא נִצְטַוֵּינוּ עַל הַהוֹלְלוּת וְהַסִּכְלוּת אֶלָּא עַל הַשִּׂמְחָה שֶׁיֵּשׁ בָּהּ עֲבוֹדַת יוֹצֵר הַכּל שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כח-מז) "תַּחַת אֲשֶׁר לֹא עָבַדְתָּ אֶת ה' אֱלֹקֶיךָ בְּשִׂמְחָה וּבְטוּב לֵבָב מֵרֹב כּל". הָא לָמַדְתָּ שֶׁהָעֲבוֹדָה בְּשִׂמְחָה. וְאִי אֶפְשָׁר לַעֲבֹד אֶת הַשֵּׁם לֹא מִתּוֹךְ שְׂחוֹק וְלֹא מִתּוֹךְ קַלּוּת רֹאשׁ וְלֹא מִתּוֹךְ שִׁכְרוּת:

(20) When a person eats, drinks, and rejoices on the pilgrimage festival, he should not overdo it with wine, merriment, and light-headedness, saying that anyone who increases this increases in fulfilling the commandment to rejoice. For drunkenness, abounding merry-making, and light-headedness aren't rejoicing, but rather debauchery and foolishness, and we are not commanded regarding debauchery and foolishness, but regarding rejoicing that contains the service of the Creator of all, as it says (Deuteronomy 28:47), "because thou didst not serve the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, by reason of the abundance of all things." Thus, you learn that service is with joy. And it is impossible to serve God through merry-making, light-headedness, or drunkenness.

(יז) מוּטָב לָאָדָם לְהַרְבּוֹת בְּמַתְּנוֹת אֶבְיוֹנִים מִלְּהַרְבּוֹת בִּסְעֻדָּתוֹ וּבְשִׁלּוּחַ מָנוֹת לְרֵעָיו. שֶׁאֵין שָׁם שִׂמְחָה גְּדוֹלָה וּמְפֹאָרָה אֶלָּא לְשַׂמֵּחַ לֵב עֲנִיִּים וִיתוֹמִים וְאַלְמָנוֹת וְגֵרִים. שֶׁהַמְשַׂמֵּחַ לֵב הָאֻמְלָלִים הָאֵלּוּ דּוֹמֶה לַשְּׁכִינָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה נז-טו) "לְהַחֲיוֹת רוּחַ שְׁפָלִים וּלְהַחֲיוֹת לֵב נִדְכָּאִים":

(17) It is good for people to increase in their gifts to the poor more than they increase in their meal and the gifts that they send to their companions, for there is no greater or more glorious joy than to bring happiness to the hearts of the poor and orphans and widows and strangers, for he who brings happiness to the hearts of these unfortunate people is compared to the Divine Presence, as it says, "To revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones" (Isaiah 57:15).

...שאין שכינה שורה לא מתוך עצבות ולא מתוך עצלות ולא מתוך שחוק ולא מתוך קלות ראש ולא מתוך שיחה ולא מתוך דברים בטלים אלא מתוך דבר שמחה של מצוה...

...The Divine Presence does not come to rest upon a person through gloom, or through laziness, or through levity, or through idle conversations, but rather through the joy that belongs to the commandments (simcha shel mitzvah)...

These lines from the Talmud argue that a feeling of connection with the Divine emerges from moments of true happiness. The Talmud frames this as the joy that emerges from a mitzvah, perhaps from the uplifting feeling of accomplishment or gratitude that comes from having done something to improve the world or yourself. Have you ever had a moment of joy that led to a feeling of being spiritually or religiously connected? Do you have a sense of how you might be able to cultivate moments like that in your life?

לַכֹּ֖ל זְמָ֑ן וְעֵ֥ת לְכָל־חֵ֖פֶץ תַּ֥חַת הַשָּׁמָֽיִם׃ ...עֵ֤ת לִבְכּוֹת֙ וְעֵ֣ת לִשְׂח֔וֹק עֵ֥ת סְפ֖וֹד וְעֵ֥ת רְקֽוֹד׃

A season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven... A time for weeping and a time for laughing, A time for wailing and a time for dancing;

The realization that "there is a time for all things" as Ecclesiastes states may help us live our lives more attuned to the emotional possibilities inherent in different moments. Just as moments of sadness or stress cause us to mourn or complain, we must make space for laughing and dancing when there is cause to celebrate. How do you ensure that you make space for celebration in your life? What do you do to recognize these moments of joy?

This blessing, one of seven that constitutes the traditional Jewish wedding liturgy, takes us through a full list of adjectives to describe the joy one feels at such an occasion. Marriage is one of those happy occasions when the "cheer and delight" overflow beyond the couple and the family and the sounds of rejoicing spread through the entire community. What celebratory moments do you think bring the entire community together in happiness?

(ב) בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' , אֱלֹקֵֽינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר בָּרָא שָׂשׂוֹן וְשִׂמְחָה, חָתָן וְכַלָּה, גִּילָה רִנָּה דִּיצָה וְחֶדְוָה, אַהֲבָה וְאַחְוָה, שָׁלוֹם וְרֵעוּת, מְהֵרָה ה' אֱלֹקֵֽינוּ יִשָּׁמַע בְּעָרֵי יְהוּדָה וּבְחוּצוֹת יְרוּשָׁלַיִם, קוֹל שָׂשׂוֹן וְקוֹל שִׂמְחָה, קוֹל חָתָן וְקוֹל כַּלָּה, קוֹל מִצְהֲלוֹת חֲתָנִים מֵחֻפָּתָם, וּנְעָרִים מִמִּשְׁתֵּה נְגִינָתָם, בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' , מְשַׂמֵּחַ הֶחָתָן עִם הַכַּלָּה: (וּמַצְלִיחַ)

Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who created joy and happiness, groom and bride, gladness, rejoicing, cheer, and delight, love and harmony, peace and friendship. Speedily, God, may there be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, the voices of joy and the voices of happiness, the voice of the groom and the voice of the bride, the voices of grooms exulting under their bridal canopies, and young people in in their joyous parties. Blessed are you God who brings joy to the groom with the bride.

אדהכי והכי אתו הנך תרי אתי א"ל הנך נמי בני עלמא דאתי נינהו אזל לגבייהו אמר להו מאי עובדייכו אמרו ליה אינשי בדוחי אנן מבדחינן עציבי...

Bye and bye, these two brothers came. Elijah the Prophet said to Rabbi Beroka: These are also [destined for] the world to come. He went towards them. He said to them, "What is your occupation?" They said to him, "We are jesters; we [cheer up] those who are sad....

In this Talmudic story, Rabbi Beroka is given access to the secret knowledge of who among a crowd of people is destined for life in the world to come. Among the few who make the cut are the jesters - those whose job it is to "cheer up those who are sad." Jester isn't usually counted among the "helping professions," but it is clear in this story that they help make the world a better place. To what degree is bringing happiness to the world a part of your career or career plans? How else might we incorporate this goal into our lives?

In this video experiment, the organizers test out the theory that gratitude has the capacity to make people really happy. Watch what happens when people write about the person to whom they are the most grateful in life, and then call that person to share what they have written. To whom are you most grateful? Does recognizing that gratitude make you feel noticeably happier?

Discovered: The Happiest Man in the world

by Catherine Rampell

NYTimes, March 5, 2011

Meet Alvin Wong. He is a 5-foot-10, 69-year-old, Chinese-American, Kosher-observing Jew, who’s married with children and lives in Honolulu. He runs his own health care management business and earns more than $120,000 a year.

Reached by phone at his home on Friday (and referred to The Times by a local synagogue), Mr. Wong said that he was indeed a very happy person. He said that perhaps he manages to be the happiest man in America because “my life philosophy is, if you can’t laugh at yourself, life is going to be pretty terrible for you.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Gallup, the polling company, regularly conducts surveys to find out what people consider to be the key components of a happy life. The NYTimes asked Gallup to put together a statistical composite of the happiest person, and this is what they discovered. What do you think makes Wong so happy? Which components of his life seem to you to be important to overall happiness, and which do not?