Continuing on the timely theme of simcha, we discussed last week that a person can serve Hashem with joy by being conscious how wondrous an opportunity it is to do a mitzvah and connect with Hashem.
This appreciation for a mitzvah can often alleviate obstacles and hardships that arise in the performance of mitzvos. The Rebbe illustrated this with a parable: You instruct someone to carry a heavy chest to his house. If he is unaware of the chest’s contents, he may get tired or even complain about the difficult task allotted to him. But the moment you tell him that the chest is full of pearls and diamonds, it will seem light to him, and he’ll even ask for another one to carry as well. This is the power of simcha!
The same is true in our service of Hashem. When a person does mitzvos without simcha, it always feels difficult. Even relatively easy mitzvos are perceived as a burden. But when the ingredient of simcha is added, it’s all suddenly easy and enjoyable.
True simcha knows no bounds and breaks all boundaries. It can transform a person entirely. When one has simcha, a weak person becomes strong and obstacles disappear as if they never existed. Such is the far-reaching potency of simcha.
The question is, how can one get oneself to be in a state of simcha? Especially when personal events, and those in the world around him, do not allow for simcha.
Chassidus explains that simcha can be generated by reflecting on G-d’s mercy in creation. G-d created him, he is not self-created. G-d gives him life, even at this very moment. G-d gave him a family. G-d sustains him. He got up this morning alive and fresh. He is a Jew. He is chosen by G-d Himself. He has a mission. He has a future. He has a destiny.
The Alter Rebbe in the Tanya offers details to this reflection: “When you think deeply about these ideas, your heart will celebrate and your soul will rejoice. You will rejoice and sing out with all your heart, soul, and might with this emunah, it is so immense… Think of how much a common, lowly person would celebrate his closeness to a mortal king who came to lodge with him and is now moving into his place, together with him in his home. Now multiply that infinitely when it comes to G-d, the ultimate King, being close to you and being at home with you….” (Tanya, chapter 33).
Simcha is also the most vital ammunition to overcome our struggles with our yetzer hara (urge to do the wrong thing). The Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya (chapter 26), that “You can’t beat the yetzer hara while in a state of laziness and sluggishness, which are symptoms of depression and a fossilized heart. The only way to win is with the zeal that comes out of joy.” He drives the point home with an analogy: “Think of two men wrestling with one another, each trying to throw the other down. If one of them would be lazy and sluggish, he would be easily beaten – even if he were stronger than the other.”
This is why Chassidus distances melancholy to the extreme, and views it as the ultimate abyss a person can fall prey to. The famous saying goes, “Melancholy may not be a sin, but it can trip a person to such a low that no sin can.”
Melancholy belongs to the “heavy” attributes of the soul, which drag a person to be sluggish and despondent. In one of his letters (Igros Kodesh of Rebbe Rayatz, vol. 4, p. 357), the Rebbe Rayatz writes, “Our holy Rebbes told us that worry and melancholy – even from one’s spiritual state – is a negative trait and absolutely forbidden. They chased it away from the lot of the chassidim, and made sure to uproot any remnant so there wouldn’t be even the scent of this evil trait that can wreak such havoc.”
Every person can find in his/her life, upon personal reflection, true sources (the above and more) to generate good, healthy and pure simcha.