Simcha (Joy on Shabbat)

  • Rav Binyamin Tabory
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

The Weekly Mitzva
Yeshivat Har Etzion

Parashat Beha'alotekha


Simcha (Joy) on Shabbat


By Rav Binyamin Tabory



"There are four things which were said in connection with Shabbat – two of Biblical origin, and two mi-divrei soferim, which were described by the prophets.  The Torah said zakhor (remember) and shamor (observe), while kavod (honor) and oneg (enjoyment) were described by the prophets. (Rambam, Hilkhot Shabbat 30:1)


            The two rabbinic laws of kavod and oneg apply not only to Shabbat, but to Yom Tov, as well (see Rambam, Hilkhot Yom Tov 6:16).  However, on Yom Tov there is also a Biblical obligation of simcha – to rejoice: "You should be happy on your holiday" (Devarim 16:14).  Is there a mitzva of simcha on Shabbat, as well?


            In Parashat Beha'alotekha, the Torah lists the days on which the chatzotzrot (trumpets) must be sounded in the Temple, including "on your days of simcha, on your designated holidays and on the New Moons… " (Bamidbar 10:10).  Inasmuch as the "designated holidays" are also days of simcha, what does the Torah add with the phrase, "days of simcha"?  Ibn Ezra (ad loc.) explained that this refers to days of celebration that we must declare when we emerge victorious in war.  It seems that in his view, days such as Chanuka and Purim, though halakhically treated as rabbinic obligations, actually have a Biblical source.  One may conjecture how this might apply to Yom HaAtzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim.  In any event, the Sifrei, in our standard edition, presents a different explanation of the phrase,  "days of simcha," claiming that it refers to Shabbat.  The variant text of the Vilna Gaon, as cited in the Netziv's edition of the Sifrei, says that "the day" – rather than the complete phrase, "days of simcha" - refers to Shabbat. Quite possibly, these two versions differ on the question of whether there is an obligation of simcha on Shabbat.


            Many other sources indeed indicate that such an obligation exists. The Bahag enumerated the mitzva of Shabbat as "the simcha and oneg of Shabbat."  It should be noted that the Bahag most likely refers here to rabbinic obligations of simcha and oneg, as he is wont to count rabbinic laws in his list of mitzvot. 


            The Sefer Ha-Manhig records that the custom in France and Spain was to omit tachanun every Friday afternoon, despite the fact that Spanish communities had the practice of reciting tachanun on the afternoon before Rosh Chodesh.  He explains this custom on the basis of the fact that Shabbat, unlike Rosh Chodesh, is a day of "feast and simcha," and he cites the aforementioned comment in the Sifrei, that "days of simcha" refers to Shabbat.  The Shibbolei Ha-Leket (section 82) also cites the Sifrei and mentions that Rabbi Avigdor Kohen Tzedek viewed this Sifrei as the source for the recitation of "yismechu bemalchutekha" ("They will rejoice in Your kingship") on Shabbat.  He also makes reference to a text, "All the lovers of  Your name will rejoice," which some recite on Shabbat.


            The Yerushalmi (Megilla 1:4) establishes that if Purim falls on Shabbat, the Purim feast should not be held on that day.  It explains that the Megilla instructs us to "make" Purim a day of simcha and feast.  Inasmuch as Shabbat is automatically a day of simcha, there is no way or need to "make" it a day of simcha.


            Tosafot (Ketubot 7b) ruled that although generally we recite sheva berakhot at a meal during the first week of marriage only in the presence of "panim chadashot" (someone who has not yet taken part in the wedding celebration), this condition does not apply on Shabbat. They explain that Shabbat itself constitutes "panim chadashot," as we always observe Shabbat as a more festive day through simcha and feast.  Though one might claim that Tosefot here do not refer to a halakhic obligation of simcha, but merely observe common practice, on the other hand, this might indicate that an obligation of simcha does exist.


            A well-known halakha establishes that although a mourner does not observe mourning practices on Shabbat, the day of Shabbat nevertheless counts towards the seven days of mourning.  Yom Tov, by contrast, cancels mourning altogether: if a person passes away on Yom Tov, mourning does not begin until after Yom Tov.  The Yerushalmi (Mo'ed Katan 3:5) discusses the reason for this distinction and says that if Shabbat would cancel mourning, there would never be a seven-day week of mourning.  The Yerushalmi appears to hold that fundamentally, both Shabbat and Yom Tov are days of simcha and should cancel mourning.  It is only due to a technical problem that we count Shabbat as a day of mourning.


            On the other hand, other sources seem to indicate that no obligation of simcha applies at all on Shabbat.  Tosafot (Mo'ed Katan 23b), for example, write explicitly that Shabbat counts towards the seven days of mourning because simcha is not mentioned in connection with Shabbat.  Only Yom Tov, which features an obligation of simcha, cancels mourning entirely.


            The Shita Mekubetzet (Ketubot 7) quotes an opinion that one may not get married on Shabbat because doing so violates the prohibition against mixing together two types of simcha ("ein me'arvin simcha be-simcha").  However, this opinion was rejected by the argument that there is no law of simcha on Shabbat.


            The Maharil (end of Hilkhot Yom Tov) forbids fasting on Yom Tov, as it is a day of simcha, but permits fasting on Shabbat, on which there is no obligation of simcha.


            The Shulchan Arukh (O.C. 529:4) writes that we should wear nicer clothing on Yom Tov than on Shabbat, and the Magen Avraham (ad loc.) explains this ruling based on the fact that Yom Tov, unlike Shabbat, is a day of simcha.


            The Tashbetz (298:2) goes so far as to suggest the possibility of allowing eulogies on Shabbat.  He says that inasmuch as Shabbat is not called a day of simcha and one observes some mourning laws (in private, though not in public) on Shabbat, perhaps we could permit eulogies, as well.


            We have thus encountered different opinions regarding this issue.  It is possible that traces of this discussion can be found in variant texts of the siddur.


            On Friday night, we say (or sing) "Lekha Dodi" as we welcome Shabbat.  The last stanza of this poem reads, "Come in peace, crown of her husband, in simcha and good cheer."  The Ari substituted the word "rina" in place of "simcha."  When, however, Shabbat and Yom Tov coincide, the Ari recited "simcha" instead of "rina."  Apparently, he felt that the idea of simcha applies only to Yom Tov, and not to Shabbat.


            On the other hand, the Ari had the practice of reciting "yismechu" during all the Shabbat prayers, as opposed to custom of Nusach Ashkenaz, to recite it only at musaf.  Including this paragraph in every prayer would imply that simcha applies to Shabbat, whereas limiting it to musaf would suggest that there is no law of simcha per se on Shabbat.  Rav Soloveitchik zt"l explained that the verse in our parasha cited by the Sifrei as the source for an obligation of simcha on Shabbat refers only to the actual time when they brought the sacrifice (musaf).  There is an obligation of song and simcha when the sacrifice was brought, and therefore the Ashkenazic custom is to recite "yismechu" only at musaf.


            Regardless of the dispute we have seen concerning this issue, it is worth recalling the last words of Shulchan Arukh Orach Chaim.  In a totally different context, the Rama writes, "One should fulfill all opinions by making a greater feast and a good-hearted person will always feast."