Joy and Happiness - Simcha | Living with the Rebbe | A Slice of Life | A Call To Action
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The holidays of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah which, happily, are approaching, 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.
The last Torah portion, V'Zos HaBracha, is never read in shul on Shabbat. However, in the customary review of the weekly Torah portion performed by each individual on Shabbat eve, the portion studied during Sukkot is V'Zot HaBracha.
The portion begins, "This is the blessing which Moses... blessed the Children of Israel before his death." However, the Talmud states that "Moses did not die." It explains, "Just as before he stood and served on High, so does he now stand and serve on High."
"On High" describes Moses' Divine service not just in Heaven but here on earth.
How, then, might we understand when the Torah says "before his death"? This means before there was even a possibility of thinking he had died; Moses' blessing was given before the incident which could be interpreted with physical eyes as death in the literal sense.
It is not surprising that one might come to an incorrect conclusion concerning Moses' passing or that his service is not in the physical world. For this view itself is a result of the contraction of G-d's presence by which G-d created the Universe.
Indeed, some scholars misinterpreted the teaching of G-d's concealment of His Infinite Self in creating this world.
They understood that G-d had literally removed Himself and his Essence, G-d forbid, from this world and only guides it from above. Just as G-d is not removed from this world, similarly, Moses is not removed from this world.
With this knowledge, one can go out and explain that, in truth, Moses did not die. There is no fundamental difference between now and before except that the possibility was created to see it that way.
It is certainly good if these words are readily accepted.
But how should one answer questions that people may have?
An example may be found in the dynamics between a student and his teacher.
When a small child asks the teacher a question, to which the teacher does not know the answer, the response often is, "When you grow up you'll understand." Similarly, one can respond: "This is the reality, even if we do not understand!"
We can take another illustration from the holiday of Simchat Torah.
Though the Torah scroll is covered when we dance with it and its wisdom is hidden from us, the fact of its truth remains.
Similarly, the Tzemach Tzedek (third Chabad Rebbe), said once on Shabbat eve that Moshiach would come. Someone asked him, "But does it not say in the Talmud that Moshiach cannot come on Shabbat eve?"
The Rebbe said, "When Moshiach comes he will answer all questions and he will answer this question as well!"
Adapted from Toras Menachem, Simchat Torah, 5711 (1950).
by Aliza Horowitz
Eighteen years ago, on the holiday of Simchat Torah, I walked into "770" Eastern Parkway for the first time. That moment changed my life and affected the lives of my future children and their children's children for eternity.
I grew up it the deep south in New Orleans, Louisiana.
I didn't know the difference between a Hebrew alef or bet and I didn't really know about the holiday of Simchat Torah, either.
From a very young age I felt a tremendous void in my life which I unsuccessfully tried to fill. And, though I had a vivid imagination, my most unusual dreams would never have included living as a Chasid in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, with a houseful of children and guests.
When I was wandering around trying to find "truth" in the 70s, the Rebbe -- with his unlimited love for every Jew and his far- reaching vision -- was speaking about starting a yeshiva for women who had returned to Judaism as adults; while my Jewish soul was crying out to be found, the Rebbe was preparing the way for me to come back home.
When I was 21 years old a friend invited me to come to Crown Heights for Simchat Torah. I stopped first at my great Aunt's house in Brooklyn and exchanged my blue jeans and hiking boots for Aunt Fanny's dress, shawl and shoes. She was 70 years old at the time. I looked like I had just walked off the boat at Ellis Island.
I arrived at 770 and walked into the shul where thousands of other women and girls crowded into the upstairs women's section. Thousands of visitors came from all over the world to share this tremendously joyful holiday with the Rebbe.
Amidst the intense excitement and anticipation which filled the room, several women noticed my unusual attire and confused expression. They guided me as I wound my way into the first row of a crushing crowd.
My face was pressed into the glass and my feet were barely touching the floor. In the main shul below there was a tremendous surging crowd of men -- dressed in black and white -- all singing wonderful, soulful tunes and looking in one direction.
My eyes followed their stares and suddenly I saw someone dancing with a Torah scroll. I looked into the piercing, gentle, radiant, blue eyes of the Rebbe. I sensed at once that here my search for truth had ended. I felt these eyes were filled with the deepest joy and yet understood and brought consolation for the most profound pain. I looked into the eyes of the tzadik of our generation and they pierced the very essence of my being and awakened my deep and everlasting love of G-d.
His loving blue eyes woke up my Jewish soul from its deep sleep. I had come home at last.
A huge orchestra of sound and motion was conducted by the Rebbe. The strong movement of his arms or the shake of his head sent tremors of excitement throughout 770.
The greatest choreographer could not have undertaken to unify this huge group yet everyone moved in unison, like one body. Men, women and children had all put aside their everyday problems; the joy permeated the very walls of the shul.
After Simchat Torah I went to live with the Abehsera family who taught me a hands-on example of Judaism in a warm Jewish home.
They encouraged me to learn Torah in the Lubavitcher schools for women, Beis Rivkah, Beis Chana and Machon Chana. Simchat Torah became my spiritual birthday.
Each year I made sure to be in 770 for this special holiday, though never again in the front row as family obligations made that all but impossible. And every year I relive those special moments of connecting for the very first time to the Torah and to my Jewish self.
Though each Simchat Torah has its own special quality, it is always a time when the Rebbe is shining with a joy that breaks all barriers, literally arousing in everyone the joy of being a Jew.
It was on Simchat Torah, 1977, when the Rebbe had a massive heart-attack, yet with superhuman strength waited until the last hakafa (dance with the Torah) was over before going up to his room and collapsing.
The Chasidim continued to dance and rejoice, but solely because of the mitzva. For how else could we go on when our beloved Rebbe was in pain. Yet, dance we did, and with more intensity than ever before.
On Simchat Torah in 1980 the Rebbe called all the children to dance with the Torah. Hundreds of children were passed across the shul over the heads of the men into the middle of the room. The Rebbe's love of children is boundless. Though the children had not the slightest semblance of decorum, still, the Rebbe smiled his beaming smile, warming the hearts and souls of everyone there to last the long winter months to come.
The most unusual and most meaningful Simchat Torah yet was in 1992. No amount of words, written or spoken, could suffice to describe what I witnessed with my own eyes. For, truly, seeing is believing. I had the great merit of being present to see the Rebbe accept the proclamation by one person, then another, and another, and another, until it became a thundering proclamation made by thousands of Jews, "Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu V'Rabeinu Melech HaMoshiach L'Olam Vaed--Long Live the Rebbe, Melech HaMoshiach forever."
The awe of that moment lives with me and will continue to inspire me until the time that we are reunited with the Rebbe and he will lead us into the Redemption, may it take place this very Simchat Torah, if not before.
Simchat Beit HaShoeiva
In the times of the Holy Temple, special festivities were held each night of Sukkot, in celebration of a special water-drawing ceremony.
Commemorating these festivities, Chabad-Lubavitch Centers throughout the world will be featuring evenings of dancing, singing and joyous gatherings.
Join a celebration or organize one for yourself and friends. And, as the Rebbe suggests, make it a family affair by having the entire family participate.
Translated from a letter of the Rebbe
Beginning of Marcheshvan, 5734
[ed. note: This letter was written three weeks after the Yom Kippur War. This year 5755 is a Hakhel year.]
...The month of Tishrei ushers in the new year.
In particular, it is the festivals of this month that provide the resources -- spiritual powers and material means -- to accomplish the above [to fulfill the imperative, "All your actions should be for the sake of heaven," and "Know Him in all your ways."
Inasmuch as all matters of the Torah are meaningful in all their details, how much more so such a comprehensive matter relating to Tishrei.
It is significant that all the festivals of the month of Tishrei are "sealed" with the Season of our Rejoicing and Simchat Torah.
This pointedly re-emphasizes the explicit commandment, "Serve G-d with joy," -- with true joy derived from G-d's Torah and G-d's precepts that "rejoice the heart."
What has been said above regarding the meaningfulness of all details in Torah, applies, of course, also to the time element.
For although each year the month of Tishrei sets the tone and provides benefits for the entire year, each new year also introduces additional new elements pertaining to it, and each year brings its own distinctive teaching.
Thus the special teaching of the current year is related to its distinctive features which set it apart from the six years which preceded it and the six years which follow, in that it is the year of Hakhel [gathering]: "Gather together all the people, men women and children."
To be sure, this mitzva -- in its plain and actual form -- is confined to the Holy Land, "the land which...always [including the time of exile] G-d's eyes are on it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year," and to the time of the Holy Temple. However, the spiritual aspects and content of all mitzvot are eternal, being part of our eternal Torah.
The general character of the mitzva of Hakhel calls for the implementation of its contents and purpose, not on an individual basis, but in the manner of Hakhel, i.e. congregationally and collectively, with multitudes of participants, and with special emphasis on congregating the young, including boys and girls of tender age, and for the purpose specified in the Torah, "That they should heed to do all the words of this Torah."
That they should heed," also in the sense of eager anticipation and longing; "to do" -- in actual practice, not being content with merely a "good heart," "good intention," or "good resolution," but in actual deed; "all the words of the Torah" -- a person should not think that since his merits outweigh his demerits, and by a substantial margin, he has already done his duty, for one is required to fulfill all the words of "this Torah" -- as if "pointing a finger" demonstratively and emphatically that this is the Torah exactly as it was given to Moses at Sinai, the Written Torah together with its interpretation, the Oral Torah, free from any, G-d forbid, distortion, misinterpretation, compromise, etc.
The significance of the said Hakhel concept has been accentuated by the events that began on the Holy Day (Yom Kippur) in this Hakhel-Year, directed against our men, women and children as a Holy Congregation.
But the togetherness of our people in the spirit of Hakhel will stand our people in good stead, as it did in the past, in fulfillment of the prophetic promise: "The L-rd of Hosts shall shield them" -- His people, the "unique and united people on earth"; "He redeemed them, elevated them, and exalted them all the days of the world."
And as Jews gather together to increasingly implement the Hakhel objective, they should heed all the words of Torah, spreading the light of Torah and mitzvot in an ever growing measure. Thus, they dispel the darkness of the exile and thereby (through Torah and mitzvot in daily life) bring closer the coming of our Righteous Moshiach and our true and complete Redemption: "And the earth will be filled with (G-d's) glory."
This is an appropriate time to call attention again, to the appeal for Torah and tzedaka in every day practice, in light of the prophet's words: "Zion shall be redeemed through Mishpot (Torah) and its returnees through charity."
IT DIDN'T GET LOST
As every year, this issue of L'Chaim (#335) is for two weeks, Sukkot and Simchat Torah. The next issue you receive will be dated Tishrei 25/Sept. 30.
DANCING IN THE STREETS
Tens of thousands of Jews will be dancing in the streets of Crown Heights during Sukkot in celebration of Simchat Beit HaShoeiva. During the intermediate days of the Sukkot holiday the dancing will be enhanced by live music. According to the organizers, this year will be the liveliest yet. Join the celebrations which start at 10 p.m. and last until the wee hours of the morning.
Jews working in the Big Apple can eat in public Sukkot again this year thanks to the Lubavitch Youth Organization. The Sukkot are located at four key points in NYC and will be open from 12 noon until 5 pm during the intermediate days of the holiday. For locations and more info call (718) 778-6000. Call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center for info about your closest Sukka.
The thirteenth of Tishrei, is the yahrzeit of the fourth Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Shmuel, known as the Rebbe Maharash.
There is a well-known adage which characterized the service of the Rebbe Maharash, "LeChatchila Ariber":
"The world says, 'If you can't crawl under, try to climb over,' but I say, 'At the outset, one should climb over.'"
Since the Rebbe Maharash was a leader of the Jewish people, the Moses of his generation, all the qualities he possessed are relevant to everyone. Thus, the Rebbe Maharash's approach and motto of "Lechatchila Ariber" can and should be actualized by every Jew in his daily conduct.
This most certainly applies to the mission entrusted to each one of us to do everything within one's ability, and even that which transcends one's ability, to bring Moshiach immediately.
Suggestions by the Rebbe as to how this mission can be accomplished include the study of matters concerning Moshiach and the Redemption, additional mitzva observance, and sharing this information with others.
Especially appropriate at this time is the mitzva of blessing the lulav and etrog and helping others fulfill this mitzva and organizing or attending special Sukkot celebrations.
As is befitting this season of rejoicing -- the Sukkot and Simchat Torah holidays which are quickly approaching -- our fulfillment of this mission should be infused with joy.
And, as the Rebbe explained, "That joy should be enhanced by the knowledge that in the immediate future, Moshiach will come. For the imminence of Moshiach's coming is already an established fact, and one's exuberant celebrations should reflect one 's awareness of this.
May we be immediately successful in our "LeChatchila Ariber" approach to bringing Moshiach now.
The etrog (citron)
The etrog is a unique fruit in that it remains on the tree for an entire year, thriving precisely on the changes in climate of the different seasons.
For this reason the etrog is symbolic of the Jew, the eternal wanderer who must endure all kinds of trials and tribulations as he suffers in exile.
Yet like the etrog, the Jew will thrive even in the most adverse conditions and emerge triumphant with the coming of Moshiach.
And you shall rejoice in your festival and be happy - "ach sameach" (from the holiday Torah reading)
Without certain boundaries, unrestrained rejoicing can lead to levity and frivolousness. By using the word "ach" (literally, "but"), the Torah cautions that even while we rejoice, we must always be conscious of the reason for our rejoicing.
And you shall take unto yourself on the first day...
According to the Midrash, the festival of Sukkot is considered the first day in the calculation of sins. Why? On Yom Kippur, the 10th of Tishrei, the slate was wiped clean.
For the next few days, the 11th through the 14th, every Jew is busy eagerly preparing for the holiday. The first day of Sukkot, on the 15th, is the first opportunity an individual could have possibly had to commit a sin! Furthermore, according to some opinions, the fruit of the Tree of Life eaten by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was an etrog. The first day of Sukkot therefore marks the beginning of the calculation of sin for all mankind.
You shall celebrate the holiday of Sukkot for seven days, in your gathering of the [fruits of] your deeds from the field.
After you have gathered in the bounty of the land, and your homes are filled with all manners of goodness -- corn, new wine and pure oil -- you shall dwell in sukkot, in order to remember that for forty years I sustained you in the desert. With this in mind you shall give thanks for your inheritance and for your houses full of plenty; do not say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hands have wrought this strength.'
Year after year, Reb Mordechai of Lechovitch used to prepare a stock of boards and lend them out to the poor folk of the town during the few days between Yom Kippur and the festival of Sukkot.
One year, on a Friday, the very eve of Sukkot, a threadbare cobbler, lame in one leg, made his way up to the door of the tzadik. Could he borrow just a few planks for his sukka? The tzadik answered that there were none left.
Looking out of his window, he then saw the ragged fellow limping from house to house, still in search of a few boards. He felt so sorry for him that he burst into tears.
"Master of the Universe!" he cried. "Just look how Your Children cherish the mitzva of living in a sukka. See with what self- sacrifice they are determined to fulfill it! It's raining outside. The alleys are full of mud and mire. Yet there he tramps that ragged cobbler, lame in one leg, and wearing torn shoes -- looking for boards for a sukka. Look down, then, Master of the Universe, from Your holy dwelling place in Heaven. Bless Your People, Israel, and "spread out over them Your Sukka, Your Tabernacle of Peace," with the coming of our righteous Redeemer.
The tzadik then climbed up to the roof of his house, and searched about until he found a few boards. These he handed to his attendant with the instruction that he should run after the cobbler with them, and since it was the eve of Shabbat, when time would be even shorter than usual, he should help him to build his sukka as well.
On the eve of Sukkot, Reb Chaim of Zanz told his sons that he needed several thousand rubles. As soon as they brought him the money that they had quickly borrowed from various wealthy householders, he distributed it all to the needy.
As he entered his sukka that evening he said: "People are accustomed to decorate their sukkot with all kinds of pretty ornaments. But the beauty of my sukka is different: tzedaka, charity -- that is what makes my sukka beautiful!"
In the days before Reb Yissacher Dov of Radoshitz became known as a Rebbe, he was so poor that he often fasted because he simply had no bread to eat.
One year he had eaten nothing for a few days before Yom Kippur, and even after the fast was over he had nothing better than meager rations of bread and water. Nor could he afford to prepare anything at all for the oncoming festival of Sukkot.
After the evening service on the first night of the festival he remained in the synagogue, for he knew that at home there was nothing to eat. But he did not know that on the eve of the festival his wife had sold some modest item of jewelry that she had found among her possessions, and with the proceeds had bought braided challahs, candles and potatoes.
When he decided that most people had by now finished eating in their sukkot and had probably returned to their houses, he left the synagogue and went home.
Entering his sukka, he was overjoyed to see candles and challot on the table. He washed his hands, recited Kiddush, and sat down to eat. By this time he was well-nigh starving, so he ate the potatoes which his wife served him with a ravenous appetite.
While he was eating, a thought flashed through his mind.
"Berl," he said to himself, "you're not sitting in the sukka: you're sitting in your plate!"
And he stopped eating.
There are two customs regarding the order of the Ushpizin (our ancestral guests whom we invite into our sukkot each evening).
Either, following a chronological sequence, Joseph is fourth -- immediately after his father, Jacob, and before Moses and Aaron. Or, based on a Kabalistic teachings, Joseph follows Moses and Aaron as the sixth guest.
Reb Yitzchak Aizik of Komarna once decided that he would like to reverse the usual order in which he invited the Ushpizin to the sukka on their respective nights.
This year he would like to adopt the other custom and invite Joseph before Moses. But he first sent his son, Reb Eliezer, to Reb Yitzchak Aizik of Zhidachov to ask for his opinion on the matter.
Replied the latter: "I am surprised that your father should propose this change. For last year we saw with our own eyes how Moses entered our sukka before Joseph!"
From Sipurei Chasidim
When the Ark is opened before the Torah reading on the festivals, we pray: "May there be realized in us the verse [describing Moshiach] which states, 'The spirit of G-d shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength, knowledge and the fear of G-d.'"
Since within every Jew there is a spark of Moshiach, every Jew can ask that this verse be fulfilled with respect to the spark of Moshiach within his soul.
Thus, this prayer is appropriate for every Jew, regardless of his spiritual standing.
(The Rebbe, 5743)