Taanis 29a: Simcha and Sasson


The Gemara states that when the month of Av arrives, one should diminish his joy. In contrast, when the month of Adar arrives, one should increase his joy. It is said that although one must diminish his level of joy in the month of Av, one must still remain in some state of joy. Regarding Adar it is said that one is already in a state of joy and one should increase his level of joy. What does the Gemara mean when it refers to joy? There is a distinction between simcha, translated as joy or happiness, and Sasson, which is also translated as joy and happiness. A perusal through Scripture reveals that simcha usually connotes physical happiness, whereas Sasson denotes spiritual joy. This is definitely more than an exercise in semantics. When one rejoices at a wedding, it can be said that he is bisimcha, because he is joyful, although he may not be able to identify his feelings of joy. When one is bissason, an expression that is not commonly used, he is in touch with his inner self. When the Jewish People constructed the Mishkan, they used the skin of the tachash as a covering for the mishkan. The Targum translated tachash as sasgona, and Rashi writes that it was thus called because it was sas bigivunin shelo, it rejoiced in its colors. Based on a Gemara in Chullin 60a, we can understand this statement to mean that every creation is content with the way it was created. The tachash, however, was only created to be used as a covering in the Mishkan, thus it had no function from the onset of creation until the Mishkan was built. When the skin of the tachash was employed in the Mishkan, the tachash felt content with its purpose in creation. This was an internal joy, as the tachash understood its purpose in this world. Relating this idea to the month of Av, we can suggest that when the month of Av arrives, one diminishes his level of joy, but not because one is supposed to be sad for the whole month of Av. Rather, one is supposed to diminish his simcha, i.e. joy, in order to strip away the physicality of this world and reach the level of Sasson, where one can attain a level of inner joy. This is akin to what the Gemara states that on the outside, so to speak, HaShem is joyful, whereas on the inside, HaShem is sad because of the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash. This does not mean that HaShem is despondent. Rather, HaShem reflects our mood, where we may exhibit external joy, but we cannot be in tune with our inner joy. This is the explanation for the statement in the Gemara (Taanis 5a) that HaShem swore that He will not enter into Jerusalem above until He enters into Jerusalem below. This means that HaShem cannot, so to speak, reach the stage of Sasson, inner joy, until there is external joy. It is said vahaviosim el har kodshi visamachtim beveis tefilosi, I will bring them to My Holy Mountain, and I will gladden them in My House of Prayer. The Bais HaMikdash is a location of simcha, i.e. external joy. Yet, the Yerushalmi in Sukkah states that the Simchas Bais Hashoeva was thus called because they drew from there Ruach HaKodesh. Yonah Ben Amitai was the famous prophet who forewarned the city of Nineveh that if they do not repent, the city of Nineveh would be destroyed. When Yonah attended the Simchas Bais Hashoeva on Sukkos, the Divine Presence rested upon him. Thus, the Bais HaMikdash reflects simcha, external joy, but one who is in tune with his inner feelings will experience Sasson, internal joy. When the month of Adar arrives, we are anticipating redemption, as Rashi writes that the statement regarding increasing ones joy in the month of Adar refers to the miracles that occurred in the times of Purim and Pesach. Thus, we increase our physical joy by eating a festive Purim meal, exchanging gifts and giving charity. This increase in simcha, i.e. physical joy, enables us to enter the world of Sasson, internal joy. It is specifically for this reason that one is required to becomes so intoxicated on Purim until one cannot discern between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai. One experiences so much physical joy that he reaches the level of Sasson, where there is no distinction between destruction and rebuilding. May we all merit this Purim to experience the greatest simcha and Sasson, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu bimeheira viyameinu amen.
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10 Responses to Taanis 29a: Simcha and Sasson

  1. Avromi says:

    “It is said that although one must diminish his level of joy in the month of Av, one must still remain in some state of joy.”I know it’s drush but take a look at Tosfos in Megillah who states that one should not be in a state of joy at all.

  2. Avromi says:

    It is said in the name of the Gaon that simcha is the beginning of the happiness and sasson is the completion. most times you will find simcha before sasson. On simchas torah, we recite sissu vsimchu b’simchas torah because we want to show that torah doesnt end and even after we ‘finish,’ we start immediately again.I once said (perhaps i saw it someplace) that this can explain why we say asher bora sasson v’simcha because a marriage is also a simchas hatorah based on Rabbeinu Gershom in Bava Basra (158 I think) that ben azai couldnt be called Reb because he was a bochur and if memory serves correct (heard from Rabbi Schmaelczer a”h) he should say v’lo haya yochol lisbor sevara k’reb akiva. he didnt have the menuchas hanefesh that comes with marriage like reb akiva. It emerges that a marriage is a simchas hatorah.

  3. Avromi says:

    Last one for now: I think the bnei yisoschar explains exactly the opposite of gaon and sasson is anticipation and simcha is after it is received. Check tishrei if you have it.

  4. Avromi says:

    i guess the last one was the second to last: maharal B’er Hagolah revi’i states דע כי השמחה הוא מצב הנפש כי השמחה הוא כאשר האדם הוא בשלימותו ואין שלימות רק אל הנפש – seems to me like bnei yissoschar and not like gaon but also seems to be not like your assumption. harbei derochim.

  5. ben says:

    I believe my apporach can be found in Malbim, but Simchas Bais Hashoeva and milah are two proofs that sasson is higher level. Keep the comments coming.

  6. Avromi says:

    Radak in sefer hasheroshim states that simcha is a form of growing as the letter sin can be switched with the letter tzadi (well known), and the shoresh would be tzomeach – growing. This would be similar to the Gaon as well that simcha is the process which leads to sasson.

  7. Avromi says:

    I didn’t check yet but the Gaon in Mishlei might say a different distinction between simcha and sasson. One is when the happiness is what was expected and the other is when the happiness is more that what was anticipated.

  8. ben says:

    Although we see that Malbim writes that simcha is internal and is external, it is worth noting that in Shacharis on Shabbos, we say semiechim bitzaisam vesasim bevoam

  9. ben says:

    I recently found this in Meshech Chochma Devarim 23:17 (יז) עמך ישב – בעיר עצמו (ספרי קכה). כן גריס הגר”א, ובהשגות פי”ד מאיסורי ביאה כפי הגירסא שהוא לפנינו. ונראה דדוקא שלא לישב בעיר המוקפת חומה קפיד קרא, דאם ישבו רוב נכרים בה בטלה קדושתה כמוש”כ תוספות כתובות מ”ה ע”ב (ד”ה על), וזה עמך שהוא טפל ואתה העיקר. וכפי הגירסא שלפנינו שאין מושיבין גר תושב בירושלים נראה לפרש נוסח התפילה שמחה לארצך וששון לעירך, כי ששון נאמר על מי ששמח בעצמו, ושמחה נאמר על מי שנכללו בשמחתו אחרים ג”כ, וזה מבקש כי יתן פחדו וישתחוו לפניך כל הברואים אז יוכלו לגור בארץ ישראל, לא בירושלים, ע”ז נאמר ששון לעירך היינו לישראל עצמן, שאחרים אינם שמחים בשמחתם ואנחנו בנ”י שמחים בעיר אלדינו. אמן

  10. ben says:

    Yismach Moshe Vayeira:נ”ל על פי דששון זה שמחה לפי שעה כמו דאשכח מציאה, וכמו שפירשתי בפסוק (תהלים קי”ט [קיט קסב]) שש אנכי וגו’, ועל כן דרשו (מגילה ט”ז ע”ב) וששון (אסתר ח טז), זו מילה. ושמחה היא שמחה אמיתית, לכך נאמר (ישעיה לה י) ששון ושמחה ישיגו, ר”ל שיהיה גם שמחה משום ונסו יגון ואנחה ולא יצמח ממנה שום תוגה, והבן.

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