a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance. — Ecclesiastes 3:4
We begin a new year of devotional teachings from Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein with a focus on joy, simcha — the joy found in the grateful acceptance and celebration of each day God has given to us. Join us as we explore Rabbi Eckstein’s teachings on the joy found in connecting with God and with others.
We invite you to dig deeper into the Jewish roots of Christianity with Rabbi Eckstein’s monthly teaching series, Limmud. Check it out here.
It’s much easier, and definitely more enjoyable, to laugh and dance than to grieve and mourn. Yet, when confronted by loss, we automatically turn to sadness, but we don’t often take the time to enjoy the good times in life when they occur. In the hustle and bustle of life, all too often we let the good things in life pass us by with barely any recognition.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, when King Solomon enumerated the different times and seasons in life, he included that there was “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” The Jewish sages teach that this verse refers to moving through the stages of grief and then moving back to normal life.
In other words, there is a time to weep and mourn, but that time period should not be exaggerated. When it is appropriate, one must return to normal living, which includes dancing, singing, and rejoicing in the day God has given us.
This teaching reminds me of a time when I had attended a shiva, the traditional seven-day mourning period in Judaism observed by the closest family members of the deceased. During these days, the mourners sit on low chairs, refrain from showering and other pleasures while family and friends come to comfort them. This particular shiva was very difficult since the deceased was a father who had young children still living at home.
I remember one of the sons asking his mother how he would go on after the shiva was over. She said there is a reason why it is called shiva, which means “seven” in Hebrew. After a full week, it’s time to begin the healing process. Other mourning customs are still observed, but the most intense time of mourning must come to an end.
It’s important that we never get too caught up in the tragedies of life that we miss out on living our lives with celebration and joy. There is a time for sadness, but it always gives way to a time to be joyful if we permit it.
Moreover, this verse reminds us that there are times that we should be joyful and celebrate. We should never be so busy that we don’t have time to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and other important milestones. God gives us so many occasions to be joyful in life – we would be remiss if we did not relish and treasure each one. There will always be difficulties in life, so let us remember to celebrate and praise God for all the good things in our lives.
Check out Rabbi Eckstein’s study on Abraham, the father of our faiths, Abraham, in his Limmud (“study” in Hebrew) teaching, “Abraham: The Patriarch of Loving-kindness.”