Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh

The Sounds of Rejoicing and of Happiness

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By: Rav Avraham Rivlin

The sounds that every bride and groom look forward to: "The sound of sasson (rejoicing) and the sound of simcha (happiness), the sound of groom and the sound of bride" – these sounds that are happily sung by everyone during the wedding ceremony – are mentioned in this week's Haftarah in a very unhappy context.

In the course of the punishment that Am Yisrael will receive for sacrificing outside of the Temple and for the Molech worship, Yirmiya prophesizes: "I will eliminate from the cities of Yehuda and from the streets of Yerushalayim the sound of rejoicing and the sound of happiness, the sound of groom and the sound of bride; for the land will become ruin." (Yirmiya 7:34) In two other places this phrase appears again in an unhappy context: "Behold, I am abolishing from this place, before your eyes and in your days, the sound of rejoicing and the sound of happiness, the sound of groom and the sound of bride." (16:9) "I shall eliminate from them the sound of rejoicing and the sound of happiness, the sound of groom and the sound of bride, the sound of the mill and the light of the candle." (25:10)

In contrast to these three verses of wrath, there is the prophecy of comfort, which is the source of the last of the sheva berachot (33:10-11):

Thus said Hashem: There will again be heard in this place about which you say "it is destroyed, without man and without animal," in the cities of Yehuda and the streets of Yerushalayim that are desolate without man and without inhabitant and without animal, the sound of rejoicing and the sound of happiness, the sound of groom and the sound of bride, the sound of people saying, "Praise Hashem."

The text of this blessing is composed of the two central phrases in these verses.

The combination of rejoicing and happiness appears in the Prophets and Writings thirteen times. The Gemara notes that sometimes sasson precedes simcha and sometimes it is the other way around (Succah 48b):

Rejoicing said to happiness: "I am better than you as it says: 'They will attain rejoicing and happiness.''' (Yeshaya 35:10) Happiness responded to rejoicing: "I am better than you as it says: "The Jews had happiness and rejoicing.''' (Esther 8:17)

The Gemara does not mention that in most places sasson (rejoicing) indeed precedes simcha (happiness), and only in the two mentions in Esther does happiness precede rejoicing.[1] We will try and explain below why rejoicing precedes happiness, and whether there is any symmetry between the combination of rejoicing and happiness and the combination of bride and groom?

The Chatam Sofer in his commentary to Ketubot explains the difference between sasson and simcha[2]:

"The word 'sasson' belongs more with a spiritual happiness and 'simcha' with a physical. Therefore, [Chazal] taught: 'The Jews had light and simcha and sasson and honor' (Esther 8:16) – 'simcha' is a holiday. It also says: ''Be happy on your holiday," referring to physical happiness of eating and drinking and clean garments. It is done for the sake of heaven, yet it is still physical happiness. 'Sasson' is circumcision, as it says: ''I rejoice about your saying," and this is clearly a spiritual happiness, as the child is in pain.[3]"

It is now possible to understand why rejoicing precedes happiness in most places. It is because we prefer the spiritual world and its rejoicing to the physical pleasures of the material world. However, Purim is meant to commemorate Am Yisrael's triumph over the decree "to destroy, to slay and to exterminate",[4] and its mitzvah is observed through physical pleasures: "To observe them as days of feasting and happiness, and sending delicacies to one another, and gifts to the poor." (Esther 9:22) This is the only place where physical happiness precedes the spiritual rejoicing.

Now we can understand the parallel between the sound of rejoicing and the sound of groom, and the common denominator between the sound of happiness and the sound of bride. From the Maharal we know that man characterizes the spiritual, and woman's character is more material. "The woman is more material than the man, because man is of a higher [Divine] form than woman."[5] The Maharal also explains in this vein the Gemara: "A man and woman – if they are worthy the Shechina is between them; if they are unworthy then fire consumes them." (Sotah 17a) He writes: "esh [fire] is in the word ish [man] and in the word isha [woman]. When Hashem, blessed be He, removes His Name from between them, then the fire consumes the man and the fire also consumes the woman." (Chidushei Aggadot) Hashem's name (yud, hei) is divided so that the 'yud' is in the man and 'hey' is in the woman, which alludes to the Gemara: "This world is [created] with 'hei' and the next world with 'yud.'" (Menachot 29a) Thus, the spiritual man and the material woman correspond to the sounds of rejoicing and happiness in the pasuk.

The word 'again,' which opens the phrase "will again be heard," can be explained in two ways. The first is its literal meaning in the prophecy, which means to repeat, to receive a second opportunity,[6] a return to the previous situation that no longer exists. The place is now barren, as it says: "There will again be in this place, which is desolate without man or animal." (Yirmiya 33:12) The prophet is saying that in the future, like in the past, the sound of rejoicing and the sound of happiness will be heard there. Similarly, it says later on: "There will again be in this place, which is desolate without man ... a cote for shepherds who rest their flocks" (33:12), and also: "I shall yet rebuild you and you shall be rebuilt, O maiden of Israel." (31:3)

However, when we make this wish under the chupa and in the framework of Sheva Berachot, then the sound of rejoicing and happiness, the sound of bride and groom, are also here in the present. The word 'again' in this context does not come as a prayer to return to the previous existence that was halted. Instead, it comes as a prayer that the pleasant, wonderful present will continue into the future.

It is the way of the world that at the time marriage and immediately afterwards love is at its peak. As time goes on, though, the couple enters a routine, which dulls the beauty of the love and its strength.[7] This is the reason for the prayer: "I shall betroth you forever" (Hoshea 2:21) – that the glamour of the betrothal period will last into the routine of married life, so that also in the future the sound of rejoicing and happiness, the sound of bride and groom will continue to be heard.

[1] "Sasson and simcha" appears 4 times in Yeshaya, 5 times in Yirmiya, once in Zechariah, and once in Tehillim.

[2] The GR"A also comments on this difference in his commentary to Esther (8:16).

[3] Chidushei Chatam Sofer (Ketubot 8a s.v. "Sos tasis" and "Kol Sasson") He explains there, based on this difference, several verses that contain the words sasson and simcha.

[4] See the Maharal's introduction to Or Chadash pg. 49; the GR"A's commentary that is mentioned in Rav Hutner's book, Pachad Yitchak, Purim pg. 46. I expanded on this subject in my book "Hestarim B'Esther" in the shiur 'Kippurim – K'Purim", pg. 349 and onwards.

[5] Derech Chaim, Avot 1:5 on the Mishna: "Do not speak overmuch to a woman."

[6] Da'at Mikra, Yirmiya 31:3, 33:10 and 33:12.

[7] Some explain in this way the wish in Tehillim: "One thing I asked ... would that I dwell in the house of Hashem ... to visit his Sanctuary." How can you visit a house that you are already dwelling in? David wished to dwell permanently in the house of Hashem, but feared that the routine would dull the initial excitement. Therefore, he asks that even while he is dwelling he will be like a visitor. (There are those who explain "levaker" as to delve or to mean morning.)

Shiur ID: 3728

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