Joy is one of the deepest and most elusive mysteries of creation.

Do you know what genuine joy is? Can you describe perfect joy?

Every time I was presented with this stumper during my initial joy-discovery process, I searched frantically through my mental files, groping for a satisfying answer. Even after I’d sifted through a good amount of Torah sources on the topic of joy, when people asked me “what is true joy?” I found myself a bit mystified.

I was on a quest to answer this. On myWe should not allow miserable people to bring us down friend’s enthusiastic recommendation, I downloaded a lecture by Dennis Prager, a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host who has also authored a popular book called Happiness Is a Serious Problem.

He reminds us, with his rich and practical humor, that we should not allow miserable people to bring us down. Whereas most people think pursuing happiness is an egotistical activity, he proposes that, on the contrary, it is egotistical to be unhappy; we have no right to inflict our own misery on others. Even when we may be unhappy, out of consideration to others, as well as for our own benefit, we could at least act as if we were happy.

All of this is useful, powerful and persuasive, but we’re still left with our question: What is happiness?

As I mulled over the content of the talks, I realized that it is not actually happiness that he and many other happiness experts expand on, but the idea of unhappiness! What we usually hear is why we’re unhappy and how to get over it. I experienced a Eureka! moment as I gained a new understanding of the power and sway that unhappiness holds in our contemporary world. We naturally relate to our current reality and experiences, and right now our lives are marked by struggle, pain and, let’s be honest, unhappiness.

One day, joy will be our currency. But now, we’re here, deep in the galut (“exile”) culture. Right now, frankly, the futuristic joy of the Redemption, while appealing, is simply not relevant. The language here is tzores, “troubles.” That may be why we talk endlessly about lacking joy and needing joy.

I asked Aviva, an insightful Israeli-born teacher, if she can define joy. She considered the question thoughtfully. “Unhappiness is complaining ... feeling sorrow. So, happiness is no complaining ,,, no sorrow ... ”

“But you’re using unhappy terms to describe happiness! Can you give me information about happiness?”

Aviva was stumped. “You chose a difficult topic to write about,” she conceded.

Pure, perfect joy is a mystery to us because we have never really experienced it. Since Adam and Chava were evicted from Gan Eden, a series of unending troubles has been our lot.

Despite all that is written and said on the topic of joy from Torah sources, as well as a ceaseless stream of articles in all kinds of journals, people have a limited grasp of what joy actually is. Perfect, pure joy, all on its own, is a mystery. It’s part of the mystique of the unknown future.

And, this may come as a shock, but even the eras of the Holy Temples, the height of Jewish glory, were not times of perfect joy.1 Consider this: If the world were perfect and complete during the Holy Temple eras, destruction would not have been necessary. Apparently, there was still work to be done to bring the world to its perfect state.

Perfect joy will be experienced only with the advent of the Geulah, the ultimate Redemption, when our mouths will be filled with laughter. Filled means nothing intrudes. There is no crevice left for anything but joy; the pie of joy is 100 percent complete. The experience of joy will be perfect, genuine and inviolable.

Imagine a world of permanently perfect joy.

What a different world we’d live in if we went about our daily tasks and lives with ineffable happiness and undimmed exuberance. Luxuriate in that blissful vision for a moment. Here’s a sample scenario: you are marrying off your daughter and there is nothing to mar the joy. There are no ill people or singles to pray for. There is just a totality of joy. The joy of the Redemption is this, and then some. This kind of existence was envisioned for us since Creation.

Adam and Chava’s eviction from Gan Eden opened the way for the etzev, depression and suffering.

G‑d has constructed our lives and paths in ways that make joy difficult to secureWhat can be done to bring the world to its perfect state? and maintain, but He didn’t mean for us to be trapped in sadness and suffering forever. He has an ideal world awaiting us. We have been working towards it since Adam and Chava’s eviction from Gan Eden.

“Working towards it” means we have a hand in it. What can be done to bring the world to its perfect state?

We must flood our lives with more and more joy, until we outpower all vestiges of darkness.

“We must fight the darkness with great joy ... only by adding in light can we truly overtake the darkness.”2

“Joy ... breaks through the person’s limitations, the limitations of this world and the limitations imposed by this dreadful darkness of exile ... 3

Joy is redemptive! We do not need to feel chained, passively watching the ticking clock as it creeps closer to the perfect future.