I still remember the reaction of one of the men my husband learns with when he received the invitation to our daughter’s wedding. “I can’t make it,” he responded, “but you have a bunch of kids so I’ll make it to the next one.” (He didn’t!) What struck me then and continues to strike me now is that when you have a large family, k’ein ayin hara, some people act as if every simcha is the same, as if they are replaceable or interchangeable.

Another child? Another Bar or Bat Mitzvah? Another wedding? Another grandchild? Okay – mazel tov. But if they would stop to think, they would realize that whether you have two children or 12 or something in the middle, each one is still an individual. And each celebration is still unique and special.

The Torah recognizes this by not allowing any kind of “doubling up” of simchas. One simcha can’t take place simultaneously with another. It can’t be allowed to upstage the joy of the other. Because each situation is unique and needs to be celebrated as such.

Who knows the struggles it took to conceive and carry and give birth to this particular child? Did this Bar Mitzvah preparation come easily or was it a source of great pain and effort on the part of the family? How about that wedding? How many years did it take? (How many frogs did she figuratively kiss?)

When we dismiss a simcha, we are dismissing an entire human being with their strengths and weaknesses, with their challenges and accomplishments, with their failures and their successes. It shows a lack of compassion and understanding. It diminishes the individual who is being feted. Would you ever say that about your own children or yourself?

But more than that, it also robs us of the opportunity to participate in a joyous occasion and reap the benefits. We are lifted by the joy of others. Our hope is renewed and we are reconnected to friends and family, to community. We can feel the Almighty’s love and presence through the joy in the room.

We all lead busy lives. It may not be possible to attend every simcha, especially those out of town. But we can all participate in the joy of the parents – through our own expressions of excitement, through our own enthusiasm, through participating in their happiness. This is something available to all, an opportunity for true pleasure.

I think the aforementioned friend sincerely couldn’t make it. But he also didn’t fully appreciate what he was missing. I’d like to try not to make that mistake. I’d like to not grumble and just participate with joy in the celebrations of others – because I recognize that a lot of effort went into the occasion – by the parents, the child and the Almighty Himself. Their happiness is everyone’s happiness. Their happiness can lift us all. Why would I rob myself of that opportunity by the naïve suggestion that all joyous occasions are the same? More than damaging my relationship with the hosts, I would be hurting myself.

If the Almighty gives us the opportunity to participate in joyous celebrations, I only want to kick up my heels and dance!