What do you think of when you see or hear the word simcha?
But is this really simcha?
To Serve HaShem in Simcha…
In Hebrew there are actually several different words for joy that are similar in meaning:
שָׂשׂוֹן, גִּילָה, רִנָּה, דִּיצָה, חֶדְוָה, אוֹשר, צָהֲלָה
sasson, gila, rina, dtiza, chedva, osher, tzhala
Though these words are all related, each one refers to a different experience and expression of joy and happiness, for example:
Sasson– unexpected joy
Gila– the joy that comes from discovering something good
Rina– joy expressed through song
Tzahala– joy expressed through dance
Chedva– joy that comes from being connected to others
While those who are b’simcha may often smile, clap their hands, sing, jump, or dance, these external behaviors by themselves are not necessarily an indication that the person is really b’simcha.
In fact, a person can be in pain and crying… and still be b’simcha!
My proof? Chazal tell us that a prophecy can only come to a person who is b’simcha:
שאין הנבואה שורה לא מתוך עצבות ולא מתוך עצלות, אלא מתוך שמחה
The Divine Presence does not rest upon a person
when he is sad or lethargic, only when he is joyous.
Mishneh Torah, Halachos Yesodei HaTorah, Ch 7
Yet, Tanach is filled with difficult, painful prophecies that were difficult and painful for the prophets themselves.
These prophets managed to feel the pain, and yet maintain their connection to HaShem in prophecy. When someone is truly connected to HaShem… then it is impossible for that individual to not be b’simcha, since connection to HaShem is the Ultimate Simcha and the Ultimate Good (See Chapter 1 of Mesillas Yesharim).
So what does simcha really mean, and what does it look like from the outside?
Simcha is an inner joy, contentment, and peace of mind, that is the direct result of spiritual growth, movement, and connection to HaShem.1 In other words, someone who is really alive in this world is the one who is truly b’simcha.
Real living in this world, the one that brings a person to simcha, will only come when there are three things in place:
1. He has a personal connection to HaShem. The person maintains a strong connection to HaShem particularly when things are hard, unclear, uncertain, or painful. This can only happen if he understands and believes that HaShem loves him, that everything he experiences is from HaShem, and that there is some good (whether hidden or revealed) in each and every situation and place that the person finds himself in.
2. He knows what his purpose is in life. In other words, he knows where he is going. This means a few things: he is connected to the Torah and thus knows what HaShem expects of him in most situations (and even if he doesn’t know, he knows where to find out)… he is in touch with his strengths and weaknesses… he understands the nature of growth- that it includes ups and downs, periods of giving and receiving, moving and resting. He knows that he has a unique mission in the world that only he can fulfill. He may not know how or when (or if) he will get to that point, or even what it will look like when he is there… Yet, he is patient and courageous, pushing himself to keep moving forward even when the path ahead of him is full of roadblocks, regressions, and unexpected detours.
3. He surrounds himself with the right people. This includes a connection to a Rebbe or a Rav who he can turn to for guidance, as well as friends and neighbors who are also working on themselves and their relationship with HaShem at their level.
In short, someone who is serving HaShem in simcha is someone who is full of life, whether he is singing, dancing, smiling or whether he is on the floor crying out to HaShem. In every instance, his connection to HaShem and his desire to fulfill his role in this world never leaves him.
1See Rav Dessler’s Essay “Being and Having,” Strive for Truth, Vol 3