A recent Facebook thread among Reform rabbis caught my eye.
One of my colleagues asked if any of us knew the citation for a Jewish text that teaches 10 different terms for “rejoicing.”
Another colleague quickly posted the text. Here it is (Avot de Rabbi Natan 34 or Shir Hashirim Rabbah 1:4):
“Rejoicing is designated by ten different terms: joy, gladness, merriment, a ringing cry, leaping, exulting, a shrill cry, jubilation, a resounding cry, and shouting.”
I’ve long believed that you can learn a lot about a culture or civilization based on it’s language. I think it says a lot about Judaism that our tradition has such a robust vocabulary for expressing one of life’s most fundamental and fabulous emotions: joy.
Having 10 different terms for rejoicing is an invitation to not simply experience joy, but to really reflect and analyze this wonderful emotion. What kind of joy are we experiencing in this moment? Is it the joy of contentment or the delight of being pleasantly surprised? What a gift to be asked to consider more closely the joy that we experience in our lives.