(baby pictured is not actual baby!)
The headlines seem to get a bit darker every day. More people are in the hospitals, more businesses are closing, and there is more pessimism in the news. But those weren't the headlines at KJ today. Here, we had no less than 3 smachot: a bris, a pre-Bar Mitzvah celebration, and an engagement. Amidst all of the bad news, we had plenty of good news.
This conjunction of joy and anxiety is jarring. Kohelet talks about how "there is a time for everything under the sun...a time to cry and a time to laugh…". But today was both a time to cry and laugh, all mixed at once.
This roller coaster day carries with it powerful lessons about life. First, it reminds us how precious simchas are. In a large community, there are many opportunities to celebrate; it is easy to take them for granted, as a regular part of life. Rabbis, who go to many simchas, can at times be caught telling their spouses that "we have ANOTHER bar mitzvah this week" (or so I've heard). But a simcha in difficult times is all the more precious, and a reminder that we should cherish each simcha as a true gift from God. There is no such thing as just another simcha, and today we understand that more than ever.
The simchas teach us about despair as well. Gloom always feels permanent. It must preclude any hope for the future, otherwise that optimism would sweep away the gloom. A simcha in times of gloom refutes the dominant mood; it points to a future of love and life that we have temporarily forgotten.
One day the coronavirus will disappear, but the simchas will continue. And when we celebrate then, let's remember how precious a simcha really is.