Building a Connected Community

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Written by:
Rabbi Yehuda Chanales
Access editable doc with student handouts:

The goals for the Friday night session are to enable participants to:

  • Engage in dialogue and reflection on issues of religious growth and communal challenges in a comfortable setting
  • Reconnect  with and reflect on their own sense of simcha in their general and religious life 
  • Consider the ways in which they model and teach simcha to their children
  • Learn from each other to consider potential ways they as individuals and members of the community can help build a culture of simcha in our community


  • The line of questions below represent suggested prompts to encourage sharing, discussion and conversation
  • You can choose when to go around and ask all participants to share (recommended at the beginning) and when to open up the question to those who wish to share
  • Allow for some pauses or space after answers are shared to enable others to share/respond
  • You are encourage to summarize/reflect back answers that were heard, synthesize/categorize various ideas and push participants to explain their answers or go deeper
  • Feel free to skip, change the order or add questions based on where the group takes you
  • At any point if you feel the more reflective questions or discussion is too much you can move to learning the source/s together and discussing them (though past experience suggests that this is unlikely to happen)

ברכה ראשונה

  1. Everyone shares: Name and finish the sentence- I came to the shabbaton because/to…
  2. Share some background: As we just began the month of Adar, the month and holiday of Purim encourages us to explore the role of שמחה in our lives. Sometimes it is easier for us to feel “b’simcha” and sometimes it is harder. All of us know that it’s rare to feel “בשמחה תמיד”. Tonight we will try to learn from each other and connect to our personal experiences of simcha in the different roles we play. 

(Note for facilitator that you may want to share: Discussions about simcha can easily stay in the abstract, up in the clouds realm. We want to make sure to steer the conversation way from what “could” make “someone” happy to personal experience- what does it look like for me.)

לימוד ועבודה פנימית

The joy which a person derives from doing good deeds and from loving God, who has commanded us to practise them, is a supreme form of divine worship. Anyone who refrains from experiencing this joy deserves punishment, as it is written: "Because you have not served the Lord your God with joy and with a glad heart" (Deuteronomy 28:47). Anyone who is arrogant and insists on self-glory on such occasions is both a sinner and a fool. King Solomon had this in mind when he said: "Do not glorify yourself in the presence of the King" (Proverbs 25:6). On the other hand, anyone who humbles himself on such occasions is indeed great and honored, for he serves the Lord out of love. David, King of Israel, expressed this thought when he said: "I will make myself even more contemptible than this, humbling myself in my own eyes" (II Samuel 6:22). True greatness and honor are attained only by rejoicing before the Lord, as it is written: "King David was leaping and dancing before the Lord" (II Samuel 6:16).

רמב"ם יד החזקה – הלכות לולב פרק ח

 (טו) השמחה שישמח אדם בעשיית המצוה ובאהבת האל שצוה בהן עבודה גדולה היא וכל המונע עצמו משמחה זו ראוי להפרע ממנו שנאמר (דברים כ"ח) תחת אשר לא עבדת את ה' אלהיך בשמחה ובטוב לבב וכל המגיס דעתו וחולק כבוד לעצמו ומתכבד בעיניו במקומות אלו חוטא ושוטה ועל זה הזהיר שלמה ואמר אל תתהדר לפני מלך וכל המשפיל עצמו ומקל גופו במקומות אלו הוא הגדול המכובד העובד מאהבה וכן דוד מלך ישראל אמר (שמואל ב' ו') ונקלותי עוד מזאת והייתי שפל בעיני ואין הגדולה והכבוד אלא לשמוח לפני ה' שנאמר (שמואל ב' ו') והמלך דוד מפזז ומכרכר לפני ה'

ליקוטי מוהר"ן תנינא תורה כג

בְּעִנְיַן הַשִּׂמְחָה עַל-פִּי מָשָׁל, שֶׁלִּפְעָמִים כְּשֶׁבְּנֵי-אָדָם שְׂמֵחִים וּמְרַקְּדִים, אֲזַי חוֹטְפִים אִישׁ אֶחָד  מִבַּחוּץ,  שֶׁהוּא  בְּעַצְבוּת  וּמָרָה  שְׁחרָה,   וּמַכְנִיסִים  אוֹתוֹ  בְּעַל-כָּרְחוֹ  לְתוֹךְ  מְחוֹל הַמְרַקְּדִים,  וּמַכְרִיחִים אוֹתוֹ בְּעַל-כָּרְחוֹ שֶׁיִּהְיֶה שָׂמֵחַ עִמָּהֶם גַם- כֵּן,  כֵּן יֵשׁ בְּעִנְיַן הַשִּׂמְחָה כִּי כְּשֶׁאָדָם  שָׂמֵחַ,   אֲזַי  הַמָּרָה  שְׁחרָה וְיִסּוּרִים נִסְתַּלְּקִים מִן הַצַּד אֲבָל מַעְלָה יְתֵרָה-לְהִתְאַמֵּץ לִרְדּף אַחַר הַמָּרָה שְׁחרָה דַּוְקָא,  לְהַכְנִיס אוֹתָהּ גַם-כֵּן בְּתוֹךְ הַשִּׂמְחָה,  בְּאפֶן שֶׁהַמָּרָה שְׁחוֹרָה בְּעַצְמָהּ  תִּתְהַפֵּךְ  לְשִׂמְחָה  שֶׁיְּהַפֵּךְ  הַמָּרָה  שְׁחרָה  וְכָל  הַיִּסּוּרִין  לְשִׂמְחָה,  כְּדֶרֶךְ הַבָּא לְתוֹךְ הַשִּׂמְחָה,   שֶׁאָז  מִגּדֶל  הַשִּׂמְחָה  וְהַחֶדְוָה  מְהַפֵּךְ  כָּל הַדְּאָגוֹת וְהָעַצְבוּת וְהַמָּרָה שְׁחרָה שֶׁלּוֹ לְשִׂמְחָה  נִמְצָא שֶׁחוֹטֵף הַמָּרָה שְׁחרָה וּמַכְנִיס אוֹתָהּ בְּעַל-כָּרְחָהּ לְתוֹךְ הַשִּׂמְחָה, כַּמָּשָׁל הַנַּ"ל וְזֶה  בְּחִינַת  (יְשְׁעַיָה  ל"ה):  "שָׂשׂוֹן וְשִׂמְחָה יַשִּׂיגוּ וְנָסוּ יָגוֹן וַאֲנָחָה"- שֶׁהַיָּגוֹן וַאֲנָחָה בּוֹרְחִים וְנָסִים מִן הַשִּׂמְחָה,  כִּי בְּעֵת הַשִּׂמְחָה דֶּרֶךְ הַיָּגוֹן וָאֲנָחָה לַעֲמד מִן הַצַּד כַּנַּ"ל, אֲבָל צָרִיךְ לִרְדּף אַחֲרֵיהֶם  דַּיְקָא,   וּלְהַשִּׂיגָם וּלְהַגִּיעָם,  לְהַכְנִיס אוֹתָם דַּוְקָא לְתוֹךְ הַשִּׂמְחָה כַּנַּ"ל וְזֶהוּ: "שָׂשׂוֹן וְשִׂמְחָה יַשִּׂיגוּ" וְכוּ'-שֶׁהַשָּׂשׂוֹן וְשִׂמְחָה יַשִּׂיגוּ וְיִתְפְּסוּ אֶת הַיָּגוֹן וַאֲנָחָה, שֶׁהֵם נָסִים וּבוֹרְחִים מִן  הַשִּׂמְחָה,   לְהַכְנִיס  אוֹתָם  בְּעַל-כָּרְחָם  לְתוֹךְ  הַשִּׂמְחָה  כַּנַּ"ל  כִּי יֵשׁ  יָגוֹן  וַאֲנָחָה שֶׁהֵם הַסִּטְרָא-אָחֳרָא,   שֶׁאֵינָם רוֹצִים לִהְיוֹת מֶרְכָּבָה אֶל הַקְּדֻשָּׁה,  וְעַל-כֵּן הֵם בּוֹרְחִים מִן הַשִּׂמְחָה עַל-כֵּן צָרִיךְ לְהַכְרִיחַ אוֹתָם לְתוֹךְ הַקְּדֻשָּׁה, דְּהַיְנוּ הַשִּׂמְחָה בְּעַל-כָּרְחָם, כַּנַּ"ל:

  1. Invite anyone to share, don’t need everyone to answer: The hebrew term שמחה is hard to translate. Instead of trying to choose an English word, describe a moment or experience in your life where you felt בשמחה
  2. Work in pairs: You can leave it up to members of your group to find a partner. This can be spouses together or not.Think on your own and talk with your partner. Listeners are encouraged to ask clarifying questions and help the person speaking articulate/understand what they are saying:
    • In what places, or areas of my life do I most feel בשמחה? What places do I know I can find שמחה?
    • In what places, or areas of my life, would I like to find or bring more שמחה? Where would I like to broaden the circle of שמחה?
  3. Bring the group back together and ask if anyone is willing to either:
    • Share something of what they answered with the full group
    • Share what they learned or noticed from the conversation 
  4. Ask participants if they connected with something someone else said. Ask them to say the person’s name, what they connected with (and perhaps why they specifically connected with it now)  For example: I also had a similar experience… I feel the same way… I also struggle with… I also want more in area X…
  5. You could do another round- first in partners than together OR just everyone together of:
    In my role as a parent, where do you find simcha?Where would you like to find more simcha in your role as a parent? Your relationship with your children?

    You could also include this in the instructions for the first- EITHER answer the questions as an individual or in your role as a parent.

ברכה אחרונה


Go around in a circle to each participant and ask them, based on what they heard and learned tonight, to:

  1. Give a ברכה to themselves- I give myself a ברכה that I should…
  2. Give a ברכה to the community- I give us a ברכה that we should…

היום השמחה שלי במקום X- איפה אני שיודע שיש? איפה אני מוצא את מעגל השמחה?

איזה מקום השמחה  לא כמו שאני רוצה? לא שאין, אלא שאני רוצה עוד? איפה אני פחות שמח- לא הכי כואבים - מקומות בזה בסדר אבל אני רוצה יותר 

(חפשי לבחור)

מי שהוא רוצה לשתף…

מה למדת, למה שמת לב? (תוך השיחה)

מה גילית? What do you uncover

למי התחברתי- עם שם- אני רוצה גם ככה… אני גם רוצה עוד שמחה…

סבב- לאחל לעצמי ברכה, לאחל לקהילה

Notes to the teacher

  • This is the place to make suggestions to the teacher of different ways they may choose to facilitate this limmud
  • Or particular grade levels or sensitivities to take into account
  • Or anything else you think is important for the teacher to know

עבודת המורה

  • This is the place to raise some questions that make sure the teacher tests the limmud on themselves or others
  • Could be a general question like - which part of the limmud resonated most for you? Which question was the hardest for you to answer?
  • Or questions anticipating students’ responses- What do you think students will say for X or Y? To what extent are you open to being surprised?
Download with student handouts:
Please help others by sharing how you used the resource, how you adapted it (link to your own version!) and what worked more or less well. You can also post questions that Lifnai Vlifnim staff or community members will try to respond to.

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