10. Women’s Mitzva of Simḥa

It is a positive commandment for women to rejoice on the festivals. Even though this is a time-bound positive commandment, it is incumbent upon both men and women, as the verse explicitly states: “You shall rejoice in your festival with your son and daughter” (Devarim 16:14). Furthermore, a man must join with his wife to eat the shelamim offering that was bought with the money of ma’aser sheni (second tithe). The source is the verse: “You shall feast there in the presence of the Lord your God, and rejoice with your household” (Devarim 14:26). The Gemara explains that “household” here means “wife” (Yevamot 62b). Even though women are not obligated to make a pilgrimage to the Temple and offer sacrifices on the festivals, nevertheless they have the same obligation of simḥa that men do. Therefore, women who did make the pilgrimage would fulfill the mitzva of simḥa through eating the peace offering (MT, Laws of Pilgrimage Offerings 1:1). Women who did not come to the Temple on the festivals needed to find other ways to enjoy themselves (Sha’agat Aryeh §66).

Ever since the destruction of the Temple, women’s mitzva of extra simḥa is fulfilled through the purchase of new clothing or jewelry for the festival, as these bring women more joy than food. Even if they do not wear the new clothing throughout the festival, it still brings joy to the entire festival and constitutes fulfillment of the first part of the festival mitzva of simḥa (doing something special which gives one enjoyment, as explained above in section 8) for women.

In addition to the first part of the mitzva of simḥa, there is a Torah commandment for women to delight in wearing their best clothes and jewelry, as well as through drinking wine and eating meat at the meals. This is the second part of the mitzva of simḥa. However, it is not necessary for a woman who does not enjoy drinking wine or eating meat to force herself to do so. Rather, she should eat the foods which make her happiest.

In the past, it was standard for the husband to be the one to buy clothes or jewelry for his wife before the festival, since in most families the husband was the sole provider and was in charge of the money and the purchases. Additionally, since there was not a wide selection of clothes or jewelry, a woman would enjoy any new item of clothing or jewelry which he bought. The very fact that her husband bought it for her would intensify her simḥa. In contrast, now that there are so many types of clothing and jewelry available, choosing has become complicated. In many families, it has become the norm for the wife to choose clothes or jewelry for herself, and for the budget to be set by the couple in accordance with their means (as explained below in section 12). In order for the husband to participate in the mitzva, it is appropriate for him to encourage his wife to buy an item of clothing or jewelry for the festival. This way it can be considered a gift from him to her, which will increase her simḥa. There are men who make the mistake of spending hundreds of shekalim on a beautiful etrog, while spending very little on clothing for their wives. What they are forgetting is that buying clothes or jewelry for their wives fulfills a biblical mitzva, while buying an etrog that costs ten times as much as a basic kosher one fulfills only an optional enhancement (hiddur).

An unmarried woman, whether single or previously married, is obligated to fulfill all aspects of the mitzva of simḥa. She should buy an item of clothing or jewelry for the festival, have enjoyable festive meals, and participate in enjoyable events, while avoiding sad activities (Sha’agat Aryeh §66).

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Translated By:
Series Editor: Rabbi Elli Fischer

The Laws of Shabbat (1+2) - Yocheved Cohen
The Laws of Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Women’s Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Pesach - Joshua Wertheimer
The Laws of Zemanim - Moshe Lichtman

Editor: Nechama Unterman