The Chassidic Approach to Joy

torah with Gartel

“The Chassidic Approach to Joy” or  better yet…  “How I spent  my Year in Seminary”  

I was asked to speak at the Mitzpeh Nevo monthly Rosh Chodesh gathering of women organized by Annie Kadosh Orenstein. I immediately started to  consume  Sichot of the Rebbe, but I knew I could rely upon my teacher at Machon Chana Rabbi Shlomo Majeski’s fantastic book on the topic of joy. I  couldn’t put it down and I wanted to make sure that I was true to his words and representing the Rebbe accurately.

I learned that the Chassidim were at  first known as “de Freilicha”  – the happy ones! I have had the opportunity to spend this year learning in Malchus Seminary in Jerusalem, a project of Chabad Lubavitch.

The father of Chassidut – The Baal Shem Tov – taught that the yetzer hara/ the evil inclination wants you to be depressed.  When a person has problems they can be paralyzing and rob a person of the ability to problem-solve with clarity.

Rabbi Akiva said everything that  Hashem  is does is for good. Every painful experience leads to something positive.

Chassidut teaches that vitality and the entire existence of the world depends upon G-d.  With 10 Divine Utterances everything exists.  The Tanya explains that the belief in the constant renewal of the universe is part of a Jew’s existence.

This leads us to an appreciation of Divine Providence in the world – Hashgacha Pratit – G-d causes everything to happen.

And…. simcha (joy) comes from the belief that G-d is good and everything happens for good.

Okay, how?

There are two kinds of goodness and each has its roots in holiness.

1. Revealed – we all think we know what that looks like. Nachat /satisfaction from your children, winning the lottery or just being healthy.

2. Hidden – this requires a mindset. G-d wants us to search for him. Sometimes it takes a nisayon /test  – not to verify, but to know  for yourself and about yourself.  This test is meant to “raise us high” and to show us that we possess inner resources and strength.  G-d’s Will is purpose oriented.

So I ask you to expand your vision and know that there is Olam HaBa and Olam HaZeh and  there is a physical and a spiritual world.

The Chassidic approach is to tune out the pain and because  thinking about it reinforces and magnifies it. Make a diversion and don’t feed the flames.

The Alter Rebbe in Tanya says to push away a bad thought with both hands.

Schneur Zalman of Liadi

Schneur Zalman of Liadi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chassidut teaches that the mind is the key to the emotions. Head over heart -Moach Shalit al HaLev is our mantra.

If you are serious about making changes there is no time for crying. Personal growth depends upon a person controlling his/her feelings.

For example, here is an effective technique if you are prone to worry. Set aside a specific time to do it – 5-6  pm or whenever and do a chesbon ha-nefesh / inventory of your soul. When that time comes, make your decisions and move on after the allotted time.

The Rebbe said do not focus on your pain – instead focus your energies. Transform the pain to positivity and productivity. Reach out to another person share your insights with him. Benefit another Jew and you will have relief.

The Rebbe’s approach is to explain everything in the positive and to focus on joy/simcha.

The Rebbe tells the story of when his father-in-law was called before the authorities on Moscow where they were to harass and scrutinize him and it was very dangerous. It involved great misirut nefesh / inner strength and risk. Yet he was tranquil.

The Freidikker/previous Rebbe – the father-in-law of our Rebbe explained    “A person should train himself to focus on the matter in which he is personally involved. Nothing of the past or the future should bother him, no matter their significance.  They are non-existent! Once this state of mind is achieved, the person can perform many tasks in even a short period of time, for the lack of disturbing thoughts enables him to utilize even a moment to its utmost.” This he called “successful time”.

Genuine happiness is an expression of inner truth and understanding and appreciation of the good qualities we possess.

Chassidut goes further to teach: There are two ways of being in the world:

With Yayshoot/ an obsession with self motivated by ego. This way a person takes offense at everything. If a person is too tied to the self that is what their life becomes about. We all know people who  succumb  to this way of being.

Or to be a Batteil / Selfless person. A healthy person is centered on their goals and objectives. You need goals. Happiness in the Kabbalistic sense is Kabbalat Ol / accepting G-d’s yoke. Our energy stems from profound spiritual awareness and the absolute clarity of direction. By transferring our control to Hashem we can  achieve  Simcha which is considered a high level of Divine Service.  Whether we are running carpools, cleaning our mikdash me’at / dwelling place or reciting Tehillim / Psalms for those in need, we are in service.

This changes a person’s conception of who they are – by being selfless with G-d.

Rambam says in his Mishneh Torah “the happiness with which a person should fulfill the mitzvot and the love of G-d is a great service.  There is no greatness or honor other than celebrating before G-d.  Bitachon means having confidence and trust that G-d will help.

Pesach is the season of understanding the concept of the puffed up ego,  respresented by Chametz, and shrinking our egos.

To conclude, we can see that there is a connection between our spiritual realm and our material reality. They both depend on our conduct and our words, speech and actions.

Our Deeds >>>>> effect the flow of activity in the spiritual realm >>>>> and the spiritual in turn affects the material world.

It is so important to :

TRACHT GUT VEN Zein GUT/ Think good and it Will Be Good

And to know  in a deep spiritual way that Simcha poretz geder/ joy breaks through barriers. The power of our joy is such that with simcha we can change the makeup of the spiritual realm and we can bring blessings to ourselves, our families and the entire Jewish people.

Regarding Pesach, the Rebbe used to wish people a Chag Kasher VeSamayach / a kosher and happy holiday) with an emphasis on the Sameach.  As we go through what we need to do to make a kosher  home for Pesach we have to do it B’Simcha / in joy. . .  May Hashem bless us with Successful Time to utilize every minute to its fullest.


I Never Saw It Coming…

B”H My husband got a follow-up call from  He has tried a few people out and they are very good at following up the “shidduch”/match. I was at my computer terminal in our joint office and I was listening to the conversation. They offered my husband someone he knew from the old country.  My husband jumped at the chance to learn with his old friend. I suggested to my husband some topics he might enjoy and that is when the lady on the other end of the phone asked to speak to me. She said that they need women willing to learn with women. She asked me if I would be interested. I said yes and I told her that I have an interest in Tanya and Torah parasha as well as women’s issues. As a Chabadnik I am supposed to be learning Chumush, Tanya and Tehillim.  I try to improve on each part each day- I don’t always make my mark. Life can get in the way. Part of being a Chassida of the Rebbe is to be mesudar/organized. Last summer I was giving a parasha class with Chassidus from the Rebbe and I gave it up because I didn’t have any guidance on how to prepare it without over preparing. Then something made me uncomfortable and I got intimidated. I shut down. I regret this till today. I struggled with this and I have done teshuvah on this a lot. I asked my mashpia what I should have done- she said I was wrong to give it up.  She said I should teach and I am trying to get a Mommie and Me off the ground for after Pesach. But…along comes this phone call and I knew immediately that this is a message from above.  I going to teach on the level I am on with a person that needs meEsther Rosen. Now I am dreaming about this yet unknown woman- will she be a career girl in some exotic place on earth, or a married women carving out time for herself??? Hashem is so amazing because he always know what I need. I need to learn.