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Find Pleasure in Life

lit. Joy

The Jewish approach encourages us to balance striving to repair the world with a sense of humor and contentment with what life provides.

Happy child playing in a sprinkler.

We can’t possibly be happy all the time. After all, things happen that elicit sadness. What we can do – even from a position of sadness – is strive to respond to life’s circumstances with an attitude of openness and gratitude that can lead us closer to a deep joy.

Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. …get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Most Jews still think that fasting is more righteous than feasting. Yet the Talmud suggests that in the world to come a person will have to stand judgment for every legitimate pleasure in this life that was renounced.

Rabbi Irving (Yitz) Greenberg

Questions for Conversation and Reflection

  1. What life experiences have left you in a state similar to that of ‘radical amazement’ that Rabbi Heschel describes?
  2. Is there anything in your life that you have observed makes you happy unconditionally?


  • Download a print-ready version of this discussion page here.
  • Visit Hillel for their interactive guide to Sensibilities and their downloadable curriculum on Simcha.  This detailed, nuanced, beautiful curriculum is a phenomenal tool for Jewish educators at all levels, to use with students and as part of your own Jewish journey.
  • Find a source sheet, filled with Simcha texts and materials for discussion on Sefaria here  – collaborate to add and edit, adapt it for your own audiences, or use Sefaria to create your own.
  • Sh’ma Now focused an issue on Simcha, here, bringing together different perspectives on Joy with essays, simulated Talmud, conversation guides – with an easy to print version if needed.
  • T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights has a variety of resources contributed by their affiliated rabbis and others – including this excellent exploration of Simcha in challenging times by Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari.
  • In 2016, the Jewish Education Project hosted a Jewish Futures Conference focused on Simcha – Happiness Hacks (our Foundation co-sponsored).  Find videos of all the presenters and keynotes here. The video below offers an examination by Rabbi Shira Stutman of the ways Judaism understands happiness gives a particularly robust look at Simcha and our responses to it.
Rabbi Shira Stutman