Joy and Jewish Spirituality

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
2 min readJun 29, 2023
“The Laugh,” Julia Pappas

Joy is a fundamental aspect of Jewish spirituality. And while there are many Hebrew words that roughly signify “joy”, the one most often heard is “simcha,” which can be understood not as an ephemeral feeling of happiness, but rather a state of being that permeates one’s relationship with oneself, others, and the Divine.

In the story from the Talmud (Taanit 22a) featuring Rabbi Beroka Ḥoza’a and Elijah the Prophet, we encounter a profound lesson about the nature of joy and its significance in the pursuit of righteousness. Rabbi Beroka, seeking to identify individuals worthy of the World-to-Come, turns to Elijah for guidance. He assumes that those engaged in religious or scholarly pursuits would be the most likely candidates. However, Elijah reveals a different perspective by pointing out two seemingly ordinary men, jesters, who possess a share in the World-to-Come.

This story challenges our preconceived notions of what it means to attain spiritual merit. The jesters, though engaged in an occupation not traditionally associated with religious piety, demonstrate qualities that garner them a revered status in the eyes of Elijah the Prophet. They bring joy to others and work to mend conflicts, actively contributing to the well-being of those around them. That is joy, deep, real joy. That is a taste of the World to Come.

Additionally, this tale suggests the transformative power of joy to transcend one’s personal experience into an outward expression that impacts the lives of others. The jesters, through their ability to uplift and console, fulfill an essential role in society. By choosing to engage in acts of kindness, they create a positive atmosphere and contribute to the healing of broken relationships. In other words, a profound and healing experience of joy.

Let us reflect on the sources of joy in our own lives, and seek out moments of connection, compassion, and reconciliation. By nurturing simcha in our own lives, may we find bring joy to those around us, and in doing so, contribute to a more harmonious and fulfilling existence both in this world and in the World to Come.