March 29, 2016
Menachem Ziegelboim in #1015, Chassidic Thought, simcha

The attribute of simcha, which is something we all want, is accessible. The fact that a Jew feels that it’s hard is an indication that he is on the wrong track, because true simcha is an expression of an inner truth and understanding, traits that are congenital to us. Still, we see that sadness and depression undermine the functioning of thousands of talented and intelligent people and drains the joie-de-vivre out of many others. Why is it so hard for us to attain simcha? * An interview with R’ Shloma Majesky, menahel of Machon Chana, and author of the book, “The Chassidic Approach to Joy.” * Part 2 of 2

Is the mitzva of “serve Hashem with joy” a standalone mitzva or does it have broader ramifications?

The importance of simcha lies in that it is a basic component in avodas Hashem. Just like love and fear of G-d are necessary, so that the service of Hashem is complete, so too simcha is vital for the perfection of our spiritual service. All the mitzvos that a person does and all actions by which he expresses his bond with Hashem must be done with joy. Simcha is not a mitzva of a particular time or a particular place; it applies to all times and all places.

This is reflected in T’hillim where it says, “serve Hashem with joy, come before him with song.” Simcha enables us to approach Hashem and to feel His presence. The Rambam says this clearly: “The joy that a person has in rejoicing in doing a mitzva and in the love for G-d who commanded them is a great service … and there is no greatness and honor except to rejoice before Hashem.”

Regarding prophecy, the Rambam mentions what the prior conditions are, without which one cannot receive prophecy. These conditions epitomize human perfection. “Prophecy does not rest except upon someone very wise, strong of character, whose inclination does not overcome him in anything in the world; rather, he always overcomes his inclination with his mind.” And yet, he emphasizes, “Prophecy does not rest in sadness nor in laziness; rather in joy.” Prophecy is associated with the revelation of the Sh’china within a person and this is impossible unless the person is happy.

This idea is also seen with the Beis HaMikdash which is the permanent home for G-d as it says, “Strength and joy in its place.” What characterized the house of G-d was simcha. The Levites sang joyously and were accompanied by musical instruments.

The same applies to time. Shabbos, the sanctified day of the week, and the holidays which are holier than the rest of the days of the year, are days of joy, for simcha draws us close to our Father in heaven.

Not only is simcha a critical component in avodas Hashem, but in a certain sense, service of Hashem with joy can be considered loftier than all other forms of service of Hashem.

Why is simcha required in every situation? Why is it a “comprehensive mitzva” unlike other mitzvos?

Because simcha is not a localized mitzva – simcha enables a bond with G-d on the most complete level. When a person does an “ordinary” mitzva he does not necessarily transcend his ego. For example, when a person gives tz’daka, true – he forwent his money and gave it away, but that does not mean he has transcended himself completely. Often a person feels satisfied that he gave tz’daka; his ego is still playing a role.

This is true for all other mitzvos; they do not necessarily raise him up above himself. This can even be said about love for Hashem, because love needs to be a feeling and not merely an abstract thought, and just as with any emotional connection, a person senses his own being.

Simcha, on the other hand, by its very essence, requires a person to transcend himself. The only way a person can truly feel simcha is when he is completely free of himself. If he is not willing to forgo his sense of self there will always remain something that pressures him. As long as a person is thinking about himself, his worries – whether material or spiritual – will prevent him from being happy. It is only when a person leaves his ego behind and connects to Hashem that he can think about genuine happiness.

This idea relates to the statement of our Rebbeim, “simcha poretz geder.” When a person is happy, his joy fills him up with new strength and enables him to break through every impasse that stands in his way. This is why we see that when people are happy, they can overcome various weaknesses that they would not be able to overcome under normal circumstances. Everyone has limitations and weak points that prevent him from making real progress. Simcha enables him to leave these weaknesses behind, because simcha reveals and draws forth a person’s truest powers which are not limited by his ego.

Simcha engenders strength; it pushes us forward and gives us a sense of creativity and growth. This does not mean that we forget all our problems and pretend that they don’t exist. It means that we have new strength which enables us to overcome problems that might stand in our way.

The secular world is also starting to recognize the power of simcha. There is scientific research which shows that even physical problems and illnesses can more easily be cured with simcha. They call it Laughter Therapy. There were people with cancer who were not being helped by conventional protocols. When they were helped to attain a state of great joy, they went into remission!

The body has a system of self-healing, but sadness often undermines the body and hinders its proper function. Simcha arouses hidden powers and gives the body a chance to overcome its weakness.

This approach can also be applied to the proper functioning of the mind and heart. Simcha does not merely divert our attention from our problems. It brings out infinite inner energy which enables us to break out beyond our problems, weaknesses and limitations. It unleashes our creativity and gives us strength to live life effectively, and consistently move from one peak achievement to another.

“Simcha poretz geder” – what is this fence-breaking we are talking about?

The “breaking forth” is beyond anything we can think of, not just in the physical sense as mentioned before, or the emotional sense, but also in the heavenly spheres. When a person is truly happy and sees things in a positive light, he creates simcha in the upper worlds, as in the saying from the Baal Shem Tov, “know that what is above – is from you.” What occurs above is according to your actions down below. If you are happy then you create simcha up above.

This creates a cycle – the simcha that you have down below generates simcha up above, and the simcha up above does not remain there but flows outward and brings joy to many others down below. When we are in a happy frame of mind, whether for a material or spiritual reason, we bring simcha not only for ourselves but also for our families and all those around us. And as we explained earlier, the simcha is not passive potential; on the contrary, “simcha poretz geder” and batters down all the blockages and difficulties that stand in a person’s way.

A person who is happy rises above all his limitations and weaknesses. He can do things that he cannot ordinarily do. He can forgive his worst enemy. His joy engenders an inner force that breaks forth and shatters every barrier that stands in its way.

The same thing occurs simultaneously in the upper worlds. There too there are limitations and barriers, because Hashem chose to establish a natural order by which He rules the world. Just as there are laws of nature that prevail in the physical world, so too there are causative rules that establish the spiritual outcomes of our behavior. Because, as we said, everything that we do here, affects things up above and that in turn creates a result down below.

In a general way, the Rambam expresses this principle as follows, “And we are promised in the Torah that if we do it happily … and toil in its wisdom constantly, that He will remove from us all those things that prevent us from doing it … and bestow upon us all the good things that support us in observing Torah … and likewise He informed us in the Torah that if we knowingly abandon the Torah and are involved in time-bound follies, then the true Judge will remove from the deserters all the good things of this world … and bring evil upon them … so they return from their evil way.”

A person who is happy creates simcha in the upper worlds. Hashem Himself, as it were, rejoices too, and He reveals a loftier dimension which is not limited by the causative rules mentioned earlier. Simply put, this means that Hashem bestows manifold blessings and makes things good happen even if, ordinarily, without the simcha, these brachos would not have been given.

If, G-d forbid, negative situations arise, we need to understand that they are coming as a result of the cause and effect system that Hashem established. At the same time, we need to remember that if we awaken ourselves to be happy and radiate joy around us, we can arouse simcha up above and bring about a complete change for the good in our situation.

We see the enormous power of simcha that can change the nature of the spiritual system and bring blessing to ourselves, our relatives and the Jewish people. The best time to start living a life of simcha is now, in these days “when Adar enters, we increase the joy.” The power of the month of Adar gives a Jew the power to start living this way and this should extend to the entire year.

Simcha is also associated with the Geula. What is the connection between them and how do they influence each other?

First, just as simcha is a general mitzva that needs to be incorporated within every mitzva and deed a person does, the same is true for the Geula, as the Rebbe said in a sicha, that everything needs to be permeated with the intention to hasten the Geula.

Furthermore, in a sicha from Ki Seitzei 5748 (see sidebar) the Rebbe says that through simcha we can hasten the Geula and the Rebbe speaks about this in no uncertain terms:

“The inyan of simcha is associated with and pertains to Geula: Simcha in its ultimate form will be present in the true and complete Geula through Moshiach Tzidkeinu when all undesirable things will no longer be, as it says, ‘And Hashem will wipe away tears from every face.’ Moreover, the undesirable things themselves will be transformed into good, thereby increasing the joy in greater measure and greater force. And that is why those who return from Tziyon are described as having ‘everlasting joy on their heads.’ Perhaps we can understand that this idea is alluded to in the word ‘simcha’ whose three letter root: shin, mem, ches are the root of the word Moshiach.

“To explain the connection between them, simcha’s nature is such that it breaks all barriers, and this is also what Moshiach is about. He is descended from Peretz and is also called ‘ha’poretz,’ as it says, ‘The poretz goes up before them,’ because Moshiach does away with all barriers, confinements and limitations.”

Then the Rebbe adds explicitly, “And here is the suggestion and special request – to increase joy in order to actually bring Moshiach Tzidkeinu and the true and complete Geula.

If only we already broke through, via simcha, all that which constrains us and we did away with all the undesirable things, and welcomed Moshiach with everlasting joy on our heads.


Some excerpts from the Rebbe’s sicha of Shabbos Parshas Ki Seitzei 5748 about hastening the Geula through simcha:

On the verse, “Tziyon hee, doresh ein la” – She is Tziyon , no one seeks her out, i.e. cares about her (Yirmiyahu 30:17), Chazal say this tells us that a person must seek out Tziyon. The term doresh is associated with demanding the Geula. Similarly, with our subject, those who are “dorshin” in the matter of joy, it’s not just about any joy, but the joy of the Geula – they seek and demand that we already have the complete joy of the true and complete Geula.

And now for a suggestion and special request – to increase joy in order to actually bring Moshiach Tzidkeinu and the true and complete Geula.

… Hashem does not ask “except according to their strength.” Moreover, if Hashem wants perfection of avoda then this is another reason to hasten the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu and the complete Geula, at which time the avoda of the Jewish people will be “in accordance with the command of Your will” in the most perfect way!

If so, the question is, what more can we do that was not yet done?

One can say that there is one thing that was not done yet – the avoda of simcha directed entirely at bringing Moshiach.

In addition to simcha breaking all barriers, including the barriers of galus, simcha has a special quality in bringing the Geula as is explained in [the hemshech] “Sameiach Tisamach 5657,” that Hashem’s “simchas libo” with the first and second Mikdash was not complete, and the main joy will be with the future Mikdash, with the future Geula, “when the simcha will be in an aspect of Ein Sof, His very Essence and Being, in an aspect of essential joy, literally.”

The maamer goes on to explain that this essential joy is aroused by the joy of a mitzva, because the joy of a mitzva reaches further than the mitzva itself and thereby the essential joy of the future is aroused.

And even though there was certainly the joy of a mitzva throughout the previous generations, for the joy of a mitzva is an essential component in the service of Hashem, as it says, “Serve Hashem with joy,” still, in earlier generations, the main emphasis of “simcha shel mitzva” was on the actual avoda and the manner of the avoda, i.e., that the avoda needed to be with joy. In contrast, the suggestion spoken of here about simcha, that should serve to hasten the coming of Moshiach, is emphasizing the joy itself, pure joy.

(Obviously, for a Jew, even simcha itself is connected with serving Hashem with Torah and mitzvos, as it says, “The laws of Hashem are straight, making the heart rejoice.” Still, the simcha itself is being emphasized here, not just the things that lead to simcha, but the simcha itself, and simcha will bring Moshiach.)

However, a question arises: how is it possible that throughout the generations they did not try to bring Moshiach through simcha, even after the pronouncement of the Rebbe, my father-in-law, Nasi Doreinu, “L’Alter l’T’shuva, l’Alter l’Geula?”

Think about it: They already did everything that could be done to bring Moshiach, even grinding the precious gem in the king’s crown in order to pour it down the prince’s throat, to the point that they dispersed and disseminated the precious stone of the king’s crown in seventy languages in order for even the non-Jew to be able to receive it … and nevertheless, they did not try to bring Moshiach through simcha?!

The answer to this is clear – when you are in the double and redoubled darkness of galus, when all the Jewish people are in galus, and also the Sh’china is in galus, obviously, due to the great anguish of galus, it is impossible for there to be simcha in its pure state.

And still, since ultimately we must bring Moshiach, we have no choice but to bring Moshiach through simcha, pure joy.

Regarding the difficulty in arousing the pure form of simcha within us when we are in the darkness of galus, since we must bring Moshiach Tzidkeinu, we must say that at the very end of galus we are given special strength with which we can arouse pure joy. This is within the ability of everyone. By contemplating that Moshiach Tzidkeinu is coming immediately, at which time there will be the perfection of simcha in the world, we can already now sense the feeling of pure joy which is something like the joy of the Geula.

The main thing is that instead of all the talk on the subject, and the give and take, they should begin to take practical action; to go forth and proclaim a special increase in joy whose purpose is to bring Moshiach. Surely, by doing this, they will succeed in actually bringing Moshiach with the greatest speed, “He did not delay them for even the blink of an eye.”

If there are those who are not convinced that this is the way to bring Moshiach, they should try it and see!

And through the addition of simcha, we will come to the perfect simcha, the simcha of the Geula at which time, “Then our mouths will be full of laughter and our tongues with song.”

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (
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