Joy and Happiness - Simcha
The holidays of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, are referred to as, "the time of our rejoicing."
As such, let's take a look at some of the words of our Sages and Chasidic teachings about the importance of joy and happiness in our lives.
King David in Psalms advises us, "Serve G-d with joy, come before Him with jubilation."
The power of joy is unlimited, for, as stated in the Talmud, "Joy breaks all boundaries."
In addition, G-d attaches a great deal of importance to joy, for "The Divine Presence rests only upon one who performs a mitzva in a joyous spirit." (Talmud)
In fact, it is said about the famous 16th century Kabalist, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, that he merited Divine inspiration and even to meet Elijah the Prophet, because he infused his mitzvot with so much joy.
Simcha, joy, is one of the most essential elements of the Chasidic way of life.
In fact, in the early stages of the Chasidic movement, before the name "Chasidim" was coined, Chasidim were often referred to in Yiddish as "di freilicha," meaning, "the happy ones."
The Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chasidut, would say that sometimes, when the Yetzer Hara (the Evil impulse) tries to persuade a person to commit a sin, it does not care whether or not the person will actually sin. What it is looking for is that after sinning, the person will become depressed and overcome with sadness. In other words, the depression that follows the sin can cause more spiritual damage than the actual sin itself.
Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin taught that depression is considered the threshold of all evil. He said that although the 365 negative commandments do not include a commandment not to be depressed, the damage that sadness and depression can cause is worse than the damage that any sin can cause.
The Rebbe explained that if the Jewish people already begin now to rejoice in the Redemption, out of our absolute trust that G-d will speedily send us Moshiach, this joy in itself will (as it were), compel G-d to fulfill His children's wish and to redeem them from exile.
In Tanya, the basic work of Chabad Chasidic philosophy, Rabbi Shneur Zalman used the example of two wrestlers to describe the importance of joy:
"With a victory over a physical obstacle, such as in the case of two individuals who are wrestling with each other, each striving to throw the other -- if one is lazy and sluggish he will easily be defeated and thrown, even though he be stronger than the other, exactly so it is in the conquest of one's evil nature; it is impossible to conquer it with laziness and heaviness, which originates in sadness and in a heart that is dulled like a stone, but rather with alacrity, which derives from joy and from a heart that is free and cleansed from any trace of worry and sadness. This is a cardinal principle."
A Chasid once wrote to the third Chabad Rebbe, the "Tzemach Tzedek," that he found it difficult to be happy. The Tzemach Tzedek advised him:
"Thought, speech and action are within one's control. A person must guard his thoughts and think only thoughts that bring joy; he should be cautious not to speak about sad or depressing matters; and he should behave as if he were very joyous, even if he doesn't feel especially happy. In the end, he will ultimately be joyous."
What can you do to help a friend out of a slump if he isn't too happy? Tell him some good news, as our Sages advised, for good news gladdens the heart and good tidings expand the mind.
Part of this article excerpted an essay by Rabbi S. Majesky on joy published by Sichos in English.