"Imagine a religion that begins with 'God wants you to be happy!' Beware of anything that threatens to take away your joy. In the end it will probably take you away from God as well. Simhah, or joy, is the attitude toward life that Judaism seeks to instill. Despite the fact that Jewish history has more than its share of bleak and depressing chapters, the tradition sees itself as a joyous one. 'Serve Y-H-W-H with joy; come before God with singing.' . . .

"Joy is a gift that comes to people in different measures. Some folks seem to be blessed with a radiant personality that fills up with joy at the slightest stimulation. Even living with what appear to be the heaviest burdens does not dampen their spirit. For others, achieving joy represents a lifelong struggle against a natural tendency toward depression. Moments of true joy in such lives are rare and long treasured; we have to cultivate them, nourish them, and make them grow. . . .

" 'The world is like a wedding feast,' the Talmud teaches. Like good guests at the wedding, we are there to rejoice over everything at once. We love the music, the dancing, the special food and drink. We are happy for the companionship of family and good friends. Still more, we are happy for the bride and the groom and anticipate the further happiness their life together will bring to them and those around them. We rejoice at once over all the goodness and blessing of life. Among those blessings is that of our own awareness of how blessed we are and our ability to express our gratitude for life's many gifts. That is the way we are supposed to feel about the opportunity of doing a mitzvah.

"A joyous occasion like a wedding, a birth, or another happy event in the life of a family is referred to among Jews simply as a simhah, a joy. When we see one another at sad moments, especially at a funeral or when visiting a house of mourning, we express the wish to be with one another in better times. Nor oif simhas in Yiddish is the way we say it: I hope to see you again, but 'only at joys!' "