By Rabbi Yechezkel Spanglet
This final sheet of our series will be, in part, a review and summary of what we have learned as well as a means of tying emunah into a topic of vital importance.
What is simcha? Rav Aryeh Finkel related a story a number of years ago: A Rebbe of post high school yeshiva asked his talmid “What brings you happiness? He talmid answered, “My greatest enjoyment occurs when I go to certain place where there is fast music and blinking lights. I dance, jump and gyrate. I have a blast”. The Rebbe replied, “Take a look at an aquarium. The fish are “going with the flow.” They don’t appear to be particularly happy. However, remove them from the water and, wow, are they jumping and gyrating! Are they happy?”
When you remove someone from his source, he cannot be happy. The underlying cause of a person’s simcha is his connection to the Borei Olam. As mentioned before, emunah causes this bond. How so? For one, we have learned that Hashem is infinite goodness and He wants to share that goodness upon us. (Mesillas Yesharim-Chapter 1) When a very great person, let’s say an adam gadol, takes a personal interest in our lives and welfare, it is great source of happiness and security. Hashem is our personal G-d, our Heavenly Father. No being or force comes close to the Al-lmigty’s concern and interest in our welfare. Furthermore, we have learned, what we view as nesyonos and suffering are situations that Hashem has brought upon us order to grow and fulfill our tachlis in life. If we understand this in our seichel as well as integrate it into our hearts, we will have a great yearning to draw closer to Hashem and this brings the highest simcha and serenity.
The gemarah in Sanhedrin states, כל המקיים נפש אחת בישראל כאילו מקיים עולם מלא-“Whoever saves a life is as if he has a saved an entire world.” It is a wonderful feat to save a life, but let’s be honest, how does that translate into saving an entire world. The answer can be illustrated in the following mashal:
Let’s view the world as a round chain. One of the links on the chain becomes weak and breaks. The chain losses its function. Each person with his tachlis is a link in the chain. Hashem’s views each of us a vital link in the existence of the chain, that is, the world. Each person is so valuable in Hashem’s Eyes that He considers him an essential part of the world’s existence.
As mentioned last week, we need to value ourselves as well. When we know who we are, ponder on the holy neshama that Hashem has endowed within and how realize the potential we have as a tzlelem Elokim, we feel uplifted.
My mashgiach in the Yeshiva of Staten Island emphasized that simcha is a davar p’nimi. It begins within and spreads outward. It is not dependent on external factors. If purpose and meaning in life does not come from within, then a person turns to the spiritual degradation of his environment for fulfillment. However, these pleasures as they dissipate bring stronger cravings. Instead the mishna in Avos is our guide- איזהו אשיר-השמח בחלקו- Our happiness depends upon being satisfied in what Hashem has granted us. Desiring other’s possessions, honor, or approval or the tumah of the outside world puts one’s happiness under the control of others.
Furthermore, the Gemarah teaches (Chullin 89a) The Holy One blessed be He said to Dovid “I desire you because when I shower you with greatness, you humble yourself before Me by saying “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned of humanity, despised of nations.” (Tehillim 22:7). Dovid HaMelech is teaching “Compared to Hashem, I am a lowly creature. Hashem gives me so much even though He owes me nothing.” Consequently, our challenge is not to take for granted the multitude of gifts that Hashem grants us and delight in them. This applies to children, spouses, Torah, our heritage, parents, parnasa, food, sustenance, the air we breathe and so much more!
Every day is a new day to contemplate and reflect how lucky we are to be alive and how great our status is in the Al-lmighty’s Eyes. This does not mean to say that we should remain situated in one state; we need to aspire. Our Father has given us a capability to accomplish and grow and in that also lays joy and contentment. We need to set personal goals, goals that are achievable in relation to the talents and potential that we possess and be careful not to fall into habitual patterns. Habits are not conducive to simcha because they hold back spiritual elevation as the Or Hachayim says “Laziness (for example) is the weed that chokes striving.”(Parshas Yisro).
Even when people insult us, shame us, or hurt us we can remain happy for we can learn from the experiences of Yosef Hatzdik. When the brothers stood trembling before Yosef after their father’s burial, Yosef told them, “Your intentions were for evil, but Hashem’s plan was for the good” (Parshas Vayechi 3:20). Yosef was saying, My brothers, I don’t view all of the atrocities that you caused me as atrocities, for it was Hashem’s will for a good reason and higher purpose. It was His will that you remain alive and I cannot change that (Rashi). Therefore I have no bad feelings toward you and I will continue to sustain you. (Or HaChaim-Parshas Vayechi) This is a madrega in emunah that we need to strive toward; the attainment of that madrega is to perceive situations from the higher Divine perspective.
Yosef Hatzadik ability to grow from his many yesurim became a very happy person and צדיק יסוד עולם –the source of all the shefa brocho that comes to the world.
The posuk says,-עבדו את הי בשמחה Rav Yitzchak Siberstein,shlita teaches that serving Hashem with simcha is the highest spiritual achievement. “It spurs one to yiras and ahavas Hashem, guiding him to through difficult situations and helping him to cling to Hashem. (Barchu Nafshi-Parshas Nasso).
When we are happy, we join Yosef Hatzadik in bringing shefa brocho to the world. When we are happy, so to speak, we cause Hashem to be b’simcha. If we would have the intent to make Hashem happy, that increases our happiness. The saying goes “Don’t tell Hashem how big are your worries, tell your worries how big Hashem is.”
There is no such thing as a failure; it is merely a learning experience. Let’s live each day with a smile- and meet the other person with a smile first.
This ends our “Growing in Emunah” essays and begins our growing in emunah. We hope everyone has gained some new insight into this vital tool and may we be successful in this lifelong process.
I would like to thank Hagaon Rav Moshe Beuer for his vast information and knowledge contained within these essays.
Rabbi Spanglet is a consultant and counselor in personal and family issues. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.