Joy Liberates the Soul

“Joy does not involve, as does happiness, a judgment about life as a whole. Joy lives in the moment. It asks no questions about tomorrow. It celebrates the power of now… Joy blesses God day by day. It celebrates the mere fact of being here, now, existing when we might not have existed, inhaling to the fully this day, this hour, this eternity-in-a-moment that was not before and will not be again. Joy embraces the contingency of life. It knows that yesterday has gone and tomorrow is unknown. It does not ask what was or will be. It makes no calculations. It is a state of radical thankfulness for the gift of being. Even in an age too fraught for happiness, there can still be joy… Happiness is something I can feel on my own. But joy in the Torah is essentially shared… Unlike happiness, simcha only exists in virtue of being shared. It is a form of social emotion…Joy is a Jewish wedding. It is dancing in the presence of the Divine. There is nothing in it of pride or self-satisfaction… For a moment the “I” is silent and we become part of the celebrating “We,” our voice merging with others in the song creation sings to its Creator, the nation to its sovereign God, and we to God for “keeping us alive and sustaining us and bringing us to this day.”…Unlike happiness, joy is not conditional on things going well… Like music, it gives expression to the inexpressible. It says, yes, life is sometimes unfair and the world unjust, but the very brevity of life makes each moment precious. It says: stop thinking of tomorrow. Celebrate, sing, join the dance however undignified it makes you look. Joy bathes life with light. It liberates the soul from the prison of the self.”

Ceremony & Celebration, pp. 127-129