Genuine Joy

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Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik

by R. Aharon Ziegler

Every one of our biblical Chagim has an element of Joy; Pesach, Shavu’ot, Sukkot, and even Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur. This joy must include the entire household, as the Torah states “you, your son, your daughter”, and “your servant and your handmaid” (Devarim 12:18, 16:14). According to Rav Soloveitchik, everyone who is in your house should rejoice with you, and if you cannot make them happy, it is apparent that your joy is not genuine. True happiness spreads like an epidemic and catches like a wildfire. It is part of human nature that when we experience something that is cause to celebrate, we want to run home and tell our parents, siblings, and all our friends. It is very hard to suppress joy, for it explodes and draws in even those not involved.

In particular, when it comes to the celebration of a marriage that even the halacha values the joyous excitement of wedding guests. The Gemara Ketuvot (17a) tells of King Agrippa that he made way for a Kallah (bride) and the Sages praised him for that. They praised him for forgoing his own honor, because joy cannot be contained for very long. Joy must explode.

The final Bracha of the Sheva Brachot describes such spontaneous outbursts of delight.: “The sounds of joy and gladness, the sounds of the Chatan and Kalah, the joyous sounds of bridegrooms from their wedding canopy, and of young people at their feasts of song”. Though it is only one wedding, everybody is enthusiastic, everyone rejoices, makes noise, and sings.

However, in order to share his joy with a multitude, a person needs to have many friends. The rejoicing at a wedding depends a great deal upon the friendships that the Kallah and Chatan build in the years preceding the wedding. Thus, joy at a wedding also reflects the morality and the charisma of the bride and groom, how they attracted friends, were helpful to them, and aroused love in their hearts.

(Source: at Sheva Brachot, 1982)

About Aharon Ziegler

Rabbi Aharon Ziegler is the Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Agudath Achim of Boro Park and the Dean and Rosh Kollel of Kollel Agudath Achim. He is the author of six volumes of Halakhic Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

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