Simon Hardy Butler
Simon Hardy Butler

After Every Simcha, a Hallelujah

Another night passed, and another dream came along.

I have lots of them these days, presumably the result of the medication I’m taking for Tourette syndrome, which I was officially diagnosed with last week. They are vivid, powerful. But one stuck out more than others.

It concerned an animated film.

In the dream, I was immersed in a fantasy landscape—conveyed by my subconscious as a marketing effort aimed at touting the movie—filled with CGI bubbles and multicolored waterfalls. One line came to me, repeated in the air throughout the scene.

“A simcha is always followed by a hallelujah.”

My reverie-self was skeptical of this claim, which I’d never heard while growing up or in my adulthood. A simcha is always followed by a hallelujah? Since when? Since when does joy or a wonderful celebration precede, as a rule, thanks to God?

So I did some research. I asked an actress who voiced a character in the picture if a simcha is indeed always followed by a hallelujah. “Yes,” she said. Dissatisfied, I proceeded further: to a small tower that served, in the dream, as the home of a blogger well-known to readers of this site. I asked her the same question.

“No,” she said. “A simcha is not always followed by a hallelujah.”

Here’s my question, in real life, then: Should it? Shouldn’t we always praise God—something I, personally, often forget to do—after we experience a moment of joy? Isn’t that something to be thankful for?

I do have a lot of joy in my life, and I’m extremely thankful for it. I’m thankful for the fact that my Tourette syndrome doesn’t impede my writing … much. I’m thankful for the fact that I apparently lost a couple of pounds since I was last weighed at the doctor’s office. I’m thankful for the fact that I have an extraordinary wife who supports me, believes in me, loves me as much as I love her. I’m thankful that I got the chance to interview two Auschwitz survivors—individuals who sprung back and thrived after the worst manifestation of anti-Semitism in history—and that the audio of my interview is now in the collection of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I’m thankful that I had a bar mitzvah. I’m thankful that my parents are still alive. I’m thankful that I’m working. I’m thankful that I’m living.

Yet even after all of these wonders, after all of these things to be thankful for, I’ve never once said, “Hallelujah.”

Perhaps I should. Is it because of me that I have attracted these joys in my life or because of God? I am not particularly religious, but I do believe in a universal deity, despite my rational adherence to the tenets of science and logic. Do I ascribe my loves to him or her … or to myself? What should a person like me, who is both cynical and credulous, do?

I say: I’ve had too many celebrations in my life not to be grateful to an all-encompassing creator directing them to me. Yes, they may be coincidences, but there is also an order, a rationality to their incidence. My dream, therefore, is right. Every simcha should be followed by a hallelujah. And I should have walked this path all along.

It’s not too late, though. I just said, “Hallelujah,” right now, as I neared the completion of this blog post. For it, like much of my writing, brings me joy. One is a result of the other. Because I am able to do it and not collapse into a heap, even though my disability sometimes makes me feel like doing so. I am able to continue—and succeed.

I’m not sure the real-life blogger referenced in this article would concur on my point about simchas and hallelujahs, but maybe we could agree to disagree. Such a mandate isn’t too inconvenient, is it? After all, in my dream, it was a general precept. Couldn’t it be that way in my actual existence as well?

After every simcha, a hallelujah. I can start adopting that maxim now—and live it to its fullest, because I feel right about it, happy. I am truly a reflection of this idea. I am truly what it means and should represent.

In that light, I say, again: hallelujah. And thank you to God, who has given me such joy. Thank you. I am grateful.

I will never stop being so for as long as I live.

About the Author
Simon Hardy Butler is a writer and editor living in New York City. He has written for publications ranging from Zagat to Adweek and has interviewed innumerable people—including two Auschwitz survivors whose story may be heard at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website. His views and opinions are his own.
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