Monday, July 18, 2011

True Happiness!

WHOAAAA. 3 weeks! Do these 3 weeks stress you out? Do you loath them? What’s this period all about, really? Are we supposed to be miserable now? When do we get to be happy again? What’re we supposed to do?

I heard the following amazing shiur by a true Talmid Chacham:

The Gemara in masechet (page 29): Mishna says “mi sheh nichnas adar, marbim b’simcha. Mi sheh nichnas Av, mematim b’simcha.” Whoever enters Adar should increase his happiness. Whoever enters Av should decrease his happiness.

The months of Tammuz and Av are grouped together because they’re both mourning periods.

These are moments where it is understandable for one to decrease level of joy. On the 17th of Tammuz, 5 main tragic events took place; one of them being the breaking of the two luchot. One the 9th of Av, the destruction of the 1st and 2nd Temples took place. So, during the following 3 weeks, one has to decrease his happiness.

The Sages, on one hand, say we have to increase, and then decrease. But the sages never said one should not be b’simcha. But by no means should a Jew ever be UNHAPPY.
During these 3 weeks, one should weep over the destruction of the Temple, take on more restrictions, and get into mode of mourning. Yet, one still must be joyful on Tisha b’Av!

But how can this be? Don’t we have sad times in life? Tragedies, deaths, mourning days?
How is possible to be joyful when he’s weeping? Isn’t that a contradiction?
What’s the definition of simcha/joy?

Tractate of Shabbat (page 30; lamed amud bet) – Gemara says “the Divine Presence (Shechina) will not delve into one who is sad.”
So, sadness is not a state of mind that a Jew should be into. One who is sad pushes away the Shechina.
The Baal HaTanya writes that sadness is the father of all impurity. Because by pushing away the Shechina leads to a status of impurity. Impurity means disconnection from G-d.

On 9 B’Av – we’re asking HaShem to please come back to us. But if we’re all sad while asking, then how can Shechina be with us? The Shechina can’t be with us when we’re sad!
So even on 9 B’Av, one can NOT be sad! Sadness is not compatible with the state of mind of a Jew because sadness pushes away Shechina.
So, where will Divine Presence find itself? The Gemara says only among those who accomplish the mitzvot JOYFULLY.

It’s not optional to be joyful while doing mitzvot. Arizal says simcha is part of the accomplishment of the mitzvah. If you’re missing the joy, you’re not fully accomplishing mitzvah. If you’re lacking simcha, it’s like you’re lacking part of the mitzvah!!
In the Torah, there’s a parasha where we have 91 curses. The Gemara asks what prompts the 91 curses? Ad it answers because of the moments when Jews do mitzvoth without joy.

Okay, so we get it now…we must serve HaShem with joy!!! Ivdu et HaShem b’simcha!!! Wait…but what is joy? Is it laughing? Surely we shouldn’t be laughing on 9 b’Av! So, what is the definition of joy?

The Ramchal, in Mesillat HaShem, explains that there are 3 levels of fear of HaShem:
1. Lowest level: fear of punishment . This person is not scared of G-d. This person doesn’t want to get punished and feel pain. The main factor here is myself. I’m fearing the pain of the action I’ve done. That in itself is definitely a level of fearing G-d, but it’s a low level of fear.
2. 2nd level: I feel G-d’s presence every second of my life. It pains G-d when I sin. My actions depend on closeness. I love HaShem so much that I don’t want to disrespect Him. Love here depends on how much you know of G-d.
3. 3rd level: Fear of G-d’s presence (to be in awe of Him).

Rambam explains that knowledge leads one to love G-d. Only when one has knowledge of G-d, can he love Him more.
It’s possible for a person to have Torah and mitzvoth in his life, yet he can still be lack the knowledge of G-d. And therefore, he’s still under the power of Amalek.
What?? Amalek?? What do they have to do with anything??

Doubt (safek) is amalak – safek and amalek have the same gematria: 240. The essence of Amalek is to doubt…what’s going to happen today? Tomorrow? Next year? Doubt is often the root of all the anguishes and the stresses. Amalek made everyone scared, and this fear is due to the lack of knowledge of G-d. Lack of emunah and bitachon. Amalek loves the theory of coincidence. Amalek wants to show that G-d may have created the world, but He’s no longer in control of the world.
Amalek fought against the Jews when we were on our way to Israel. Amalek affects us when we were on our way – on our journey. Amalek affects us when we’re on our way somewhere. There’s danger during a journey- we think: anything can happen, and that’s why we say Tefillat Haderech. We need to overcome that feeling of Amalek – that we’re scared. Amalek says there’s no way out, there’s no hope. But We have to be calm and think and know that HaShem is with us. Have hope, courage, faith.
-doesn’t care that you’re fulfilling 613 mitzvot – he says do them, but do them with habit. Don’t think about them! Don’t prepare yourself, don’t look forward to the mitzvoth, etc. end Shabbat the second it’s over. Don’t extend by even 10 minutes, let alone Rabbeinu Tam! No excitement or enjoyment in your avodat HaShem. Routine.
Even a talmid chacham can c”vs be a product of Amalek.
-loves coincidence: laws of nature control the world. You caught a cold, the medicine is helping you, you found your zivug? It’s because you made a lot of money, had good manners, lost weight, etc. In this case, a person is tracing back to cause of causes and not the cause of all causes (G-d).
The antidote to all of this is to know there is a Divine plan which is here from the beginning to the end. HaShem never steps away from the picture. He’s always the influence in creation.

The Sages say “joy is the solution to all doubts.”
Joy is the antidote to Amalek.
How do you get to joy? Knowledge.

Rabbi Akiva was always laughing, always b’simcha, etc. He laughed when he saw fox on Temple Mount, he laughed before dying a painful and torturous death by the Romans, etc. Rabbi Akiva knew what was going on behind the scenes because that privy knowledge gives joy to a person. Clarity gives joy to a person.

Joyfulness is a complete understanding of the way of G-d. to know that nothing is a mistake or coincidence; G-d is the Mastermind of the world.
What is happening now the event to bring another event; each moment brings us closer to mashiach. Every step is a step closer. One should never lose hope because despite the events, you have to see Who is behind the events. G-d is behind the events; He wants this to happen as the ideal.

Do we affiliate with this truth or do we disconnect from it? The more we connect, the more we can laugh like Rabbi Akiva. The more we’re distant, depressed, and disconnected, then the more we feel purposeless.

Rabbi Akiva’s life was also upside down; David HaMelech was also upside down; they suffered and didn’t have easy lives, but you see David HaMelech says “ach tov va chessed yirdufuni kol yemei chayai” – from the first day I came to this world, chessed and good were always chasing me!
These hardships are my consolations! They’re a chessed from HaShem! That attitude and response the proof of a true believer.
To believe in G-d when everything is great, you don’t have to be david hamelech. You can be a typical goy. That’s not a high level of emunah.

Every breath we take, we should be praising HaShem. When a person lives his life this way, he’s always b’simcha. But people who always expect more, they’re the ones who break down and get depressed.
HaShem is the Master of all good – He knows if it’s good for us to receive it or not. We don’t always have the understanding, but we can believe it.

So, basically: joy is clarity. Clarity is the biggest bracha in life.

May we all fulfill HaShem’s beautiful commandments with JOY, and B”H in that zchut, merit to see Mashiach and the Beit HaMikdash b’mehera b’yameinu!


  1. There is a 'vort' re the whole marbim and mimatin besimcha thing. Pretty much that in adar u add to the regular simcha that u have all year round (especially in a year like this which was a leap year, so double adar and double simcha etc.. So when av comes, and its time to be memaait in simcha, it doesnt mean to go into depression, it simply means to go back to the normal level of simcha which u had before adar.

  2. The Professor - oooh, never heard that before! I like!

  3. I hate quoting without giving a source, so i hadda go look for it:) This is pretty much what i said b4.

  4. The Professor - woohoo for sources! Toda.
    Mr. Cohen - thank you for reading...I know it's a long post. But the shiur was so good that I couldn't leave out certain details.

  5. The gemara on that mishna in taanit (30b) says that "one who mourns for Yerushaliam in it's destruction will be celebrate at it's rebuilding." This is why we are sad in the month of Av, and this is why in the future (may it be this year) that tisha b'av will become a yom tov, because it is the mourning during this time that will make us zoche to the Beit Hamikdash.

  6. Wow, that's a REALLY good post! Thanks for taking the time out to share every last detail with us.

    I see you have major clarity here!

    I can tell you - there is a possibility of happiness while mourning. I remember when my family sat shiva for my younger brother Shalom a"h, although we were very sad, there was a certain comfort in knowing that it's all from Hashem who is the source of all good. And there were even times, after all those coming to be menachem avel left the house, that we were able to sit together as a famiy and laugh about things. It's not easy to be in a state of mourning but I can tell you from experience that sadness with a tinge of inner happiness is not a contradiction.

    May we never know from any more sadness and may we soon be able to rejoice in the Bayit Hashlishi!!

  7. Azriel Tzvi - b"H the rebuilding will be b'mehera b'yameinu!

    Devorah - thank you!!
    What you've shared about your shiva experience is very interesting...that there's a certain degree of comfort and happiness even when mourning. Wow. What an amazing nation we are...that our Torah allows us to laugh and be happy even in the most morbid times.

    "May we never know from any more sadness and may we soon be able to rejoice in the Bayit Hashlishi!!" Amen!

  8. SG-I don't wish it upon anyone reading this to know about it - but even during the shiva there were times (at night, after everyone left) that the family sat together and just spent time together, remembering the happy times and memories we have of my brother...and we had to be normal! It's part of the coping mechanism, we couldn't cry and mourn all day (though we did plenty of that too), we needed to breath, to talk, to air yes, we were able to accept and move on, even though it was hard.

    And it doesn't end there. It's a pain that keeps coming back and has to be dealt with properly. Every family simcha, every yom tov, every yartzheit is a reminder that he's not there with us. But truthfully, he's in a better place and he's the lucky one! We have lots of work to do while we are still here and he's up there getting rewarded for the challenges he overcame and all the mitzvos he did!

  9. That was incredible! Thank you :-)

  10. Devorah - wow. That's all I can say. B"H for special families like your own in Klal Yisrael!!

    Anon - I'm so glad you enjoyed :) thanks for reading!