Where's the Joy?

Dear Reb Shohama, It’s been such a difficult month, remembering 9/11, worrying about impending war, and sitting through Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur, focusing on everyone’s sins. I want a religion that teaches me how to be happy. Can I find that in Judaism? Sincerely, Andy

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Dear Andy, It has been a difficult month with all that has been happening in the world. And you are right, Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur are the most serious of our holidays.

But now we in the season of joy, the week of Judaism’s harvest festival, HeChag, Sukkot. It is zman simchatenu, the time of our joy. Even as we sit in a Sukkah, a fragile hut, we are aware of the beauty and bounty of life, and also how tenuous it is. But we are commanded to sing with joy, and to sing with our family and neighbors. In community there is joy.

We read from the Book of Ecclesiastes (Kohelet), "There is a time for every season under heaven." Life is complex, with joy and sorrow intertwined. It is important to come together with other people and to celebrate, to really feel lasting joy. It is important to be part of a community that cares about each other, that is there for each in times of joy and in times of sorrow.

Finding a Jewish Community

It sounds to be like you have not yet found your Jewish community. There are many wonderful, warm Jewish communities that celebrate all the holidays with joy, including Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Many of them have their own websites, and can be found by searching on the internet; most of them list their activities in the local Jewish newspaper.

If you live anywhere in the metropolitan NY area, you are most welcome to visit the synagogue where I am rabbi, Beth El of City Island, www.YourShulByTheSea.org, (adjacent to the Bronx and Westchester County, NY), Tel. 718 885-3098.

May you be blessed to find a Jewish community that speaks to your heart and soul.
Moadim l’simcha (To joyous times), Reb Shohama
BUY NOW: Seeking and Soaring: Jewish Approaches to Spiritual Direction, Published in honor of Rabbi Shohoma Wiener