Essential to Judaism – and to Shir Hadash – is the concept of joy. For that reason, I thought it might be of some value to share a few ‘sources’ about this value, and thereby elevate it from a vague concept to which one might be prepared to gives lip service to a more concrete, and more urgent characteristic to pursue and embody.
In that spirit, it is important to understand that joy is not tertiary to the Jewish experience, a mere add-on to how one expresses his or her Judaism, but is at the very core of that experience. Below, I have collected a few of the many traditional sources highlighting the central role joy is meant to play in Jewish life. I am grateful to Darchei Noam Institutions for gathering this information.
Serving God With Simcha
Serve G-d with joy, come before Him with song (Tehillim 100:2)
Serve G-d with fear and rejoice in trembling (Tehillim 2:11)
Be joyous in Hashem, and rejoice righteous ones, and sing out all those who are upright of heart. (Tehillim 32:11)
Because you did not serve Hashem your G-d with joy and goodness of heart . . . (Devarim 28:47). Context: the reason given by the Torah for the long list of troubles and sufferings that are part of the tokheicha (rebuke) of Parshat Ki Tavo.
The Rambam on Simcha
A person’s joy in doing the mitzvot and the love of Hashem who commanded them is a great avoda (service). Anyone who avoids this is deserving of reproof, as it says, “Because you did not serve Hashem your G-d with joy and goodness of heart.” Anyone who is arrogant and ascribes to himself honor in these situations [and thereby refrains from expressing joy in service of Hashem] is a sinner and and an idiot. (Rambam Mishneh Torah – end of the Laws of Sukkah and Lulav)
“The Torah is acquired in 48 ways: . . . with humility, with joy, with purity, . . . “ (Baraita Kinyan Torah — Avot 6:6)
“With joy: Because one who learns with joy can learn more in one hour than what he can learn in many hours when he is sad. Also, the Torah is the plaything of the Holy One, Blessed be He, and one must be joyous about such a great thing. (Ruach Chaim on Avot 6:6 — Rabbi Chaim Volozhin)
To teach you that the Divine Presence does not rest on a person through sadness, nor through laughing or lightheadness, or conversation or idle talk — only through joy of a mitzva, for it says [with regards to the prophet Elisha], “Take for me a musician. And it was when the musician played, the Hand of G-d was on him.” Rav Yehuda says, This is also the case for a Halakhic teaching. (Talmud Bavli Shabbat 30b)
A person should not pray when in a state of sadness or laziness or laughing or conversation or lightheadness or idle talk, but out of joy of a mitzva. (Talmud Bavli Berakhot 31a)
It is forbidden to pray out of sadness. Rather, his prayer should be in exceedingly great joy, as much as possible. This is comparable to a servant serving his master out of great joy. . . (Shaar Hakavanot — Writings of the Ari, quoted in Netivot Shalom vol. 1, p. 285)