Joy: A Religious Imperative
Joy and religion are not always thought of as complementary terms in modern Western culture.
In Judaism, however, joy, simchah, is understood as a spiritual imperative, something that the devotee aspires to experience in and through the sacred practices--ritual and ethical--of the tradition.
“Serve God with joy, come before God with singing (Psalm 100:2)!
The daily recitation of blessings and prayers of thanksgiving, and the celebration of Shabbat and festivals throughout the year, offer the Jewish practitioner many opportunities to cultivate gratitude and joy.
Further, as Rabbi Arthur Green explains:
“A joyous occasion like a wedding, a birth, or another happy event in… life… is referred to among Jews simply as a simchah, a joy.” He continues, “When we see one another at sad moments, especially at a funeral or when visiting a house of mourning, we express the wish to be with one another in better times. I hope to see you again, but ‘only at joys’” (Judaism’s 10 Best Ideas).
In this unit we will explore the role of blessing and prayer as expressions of gratitude and joy, the happiness that can emerge from the fulfillment of sacred acts, and the challenge of accessing joy in the face of pain and suffering.
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