SIMCHAS are supposed to bring people together. But Jewish society is so divided that they often do the exact opposite.
I'm not just talking about the ferribles when someone is left off a guest list in which others of exactly the same relationship to the host and hostess are included.
I'm talking about the increasing religious differences, both on the extreme right and the extreme left, which are bedevilling contemporary Judaism.
In his book We Jews - Who Are We and What Should We Do?, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz grapples with the issue of whether we are a religion or a nation and concludes that we are really all one family.
Go anywhere in the world and start chatting to any random Jew and the chances are that you will find relations, friends or acquaintances in common. But more and more we are becoming less and less one big happy family, but rather an extremely dysfunctional one. And it is often religious differences that divide us.
Few people can honestly say that all their friends and relations are on exactly the same religious level as themselves.
Indeed, I feel sorry for those who live in religious ghettos in Israel and some Diaspora communities where everyone they know lives in their neighbourhood and keeps exactly the same level of religious practice.
Variety is the spice of life and should enhance Jewish life. But, sadly, this is becoming less and less the case. And it's often an invitation to a simcha which creates dilemmas rather than unmitigated joy.
The latest simcha dilemma has come in Manchester from the charedi anti-eruv camp which makes attending a charedi Shabbat simcha with a wheelchair or buggy problematic.
But, when it comes to simchas, the charedim are nowhere near as divisive as the more Progressive wings of Judaism. When Reform and Liberal congregations broke away to perform their own conversions and weddings, the community became really divided as the latter were not accepted by the Orthodox.
What do you do if you are Orthodox and a friend or relative is converting or marrying in a Progressive synagogue? Do you attend the simcha or not?
How many Orthodox Jewish families have been blighted by the dilemma as to whether to stick to their religious principles and risk upsetting friends and family by boycotting their celebrations, or sacrifice their religious principles in order to please the celebrants and keep the door open for a possible later return to the fold.
It is not an easy dilemma. Nor is that of whether or not to attend a wedding or barmitzvah which was solemnised in an Orthodox synagogue, but which was followed by a non-kosher meal, which is nowadays becoming sadly a more common phenomenon.
An even worse dilemma is what do you do if, God forbid, your friend or relative is marrying in a church, mosque or registrar office?
Now with Liberal synagogues set to perform same-sex marriages, the question, as to whether or not to attend celebrations, becomes even more fraught!
They say, "Only on simchas!" But often simchas can provide the biggest headaches!
THE fashion nowadays among the modern Orthodox is for women voluntarily
to take upon themselves non-compulsory religious obligations.
I have taken upon myself to pray three times a day. Others opt to wear tallit and tefillin, etc. But I recently heard a modern Orthodox rabbinic student arguing in an opposite direction.
The discussion centred around the practice of mayim acharonim - the washing of the hands, not just at the beginning of a meal but at its end before Grace after Meals.
Some - but not all - Orthodox men have a practice of passing round a mayim acharonim set before benching with which they will moisten their hands.
This particular student challenged his host as to why his wife and daughters did not follow this custom. When I suggested that surely it was up to the women themselves as to whether they wanted to adopt the custom, his response was the unfeminist one that the wife is the property of her husband and therefore has to do what he says.
It reminds me of the Jewish myth that in the next world the good wife will be the footstool of her husband.
Sadly, not all men - not even Orthodox Jewish men - are saints. Unfortunately, domestic abuse is not unknown, even in Orthodox families. In the next world, run by an all-seeing God, will the abused wife continue to be her husband's footstool?
Not if God is just and compassionate as we believe him to be.
Surely every woman owes her primary obligation to God and should choose to follow her husband's practices only when they do not go against her religious conscience.