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Motti Wilhelm

There is so much joy in being Jewish!

Chabad Shluchim Dance with the Torah as they celebrate the Torah and Jewish life.
Chabad Shluchim Dance with the Torah as they celebrate the Torah and Jewish life.

There is so much joy in being a Jew.

There is the joy that comes with purpose: the knowledge that one has been called upon to play a unique role that is exclusively theirs to play.

There is the joy of connection: a connection with heaven and earth, and a connection between the past and the future.

There is the joy of community: the joy of being joined together with others in accomplishing something far greater than oneself.

The joy is real and ephemeral, and we celebrate with real-world treats like blintzes and cheesecake.

The Talmud (Pesachim 68b) records a dispute on the requirements of celebrating a Jewish holiday:

Rabbi Eliezer opines that a Jew can choose whether to spend their holiday either immersed in Torah study or enjoying a holiday meal, while Rabbi Yehoshua states that a holiday must be divided: half the day is to be spent in study and prayer, and during the other half, one is to celebrate by eating and drinking.

The Talmud then qualifies their debate:

On the holiday of Shavuot, the day the Torah was given, all agree eating and drinking are required acts of celebration.

When it comes to celebrating the Torah, our teachings, our guide, and above all, our connection with the Divine, it is important that we celebrate in our real-world reality. Our joy is to be one that we experience with our five senses and can be perceived in the earthly reality.

To be sure, the same Talmud (Yevamot 47a) is very aware of the bias and challenges the Jews face. Should one come forward to convert, they are asked:

What did you see that motivated you to come to convert? Don’t you know that the Jewish people at the present time are anguished, suppressed, despised, and harassed, and hardships are frequently visited upon them?

Yes, we are very aware of the challenges we may face, but the joy we experience is much more powerful than our fears.

About the Author
Rabbi Motti Wilhelm received his diploma of Talmudic Studies from the Rabbinical College of Australia & New Zealand in 2003 and was ordained as a rabbi by the Rabbinical College of America and Israel’s former chief Rabbi Mordecha Eliyahu in 2004. He was the editor of Kovetz Ohelei Torah, a respected Journal of Talmudic essays. He lectures on Talmudic Law, Medical Ethics and a wide array of Jewish subjects and has led services in the United States, Canada, Africa and Australia. His video blog Rabbi Motti's Minute is highly popular as are his weekly emails. Rabbi Wilhelm and his wife Mimi lead Chabad SW Portland as Shluchim of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
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