Chapter 26: the need for joy and alacrity in serving G-d and the negation of sadness and depression
20th Shevat/(LY)1st Adar 1
1. A great rule for the Beinoni-Have zeal and self-confidence against the evil inclination:
- Laziness in battle leads to one’s downfall: The following great rule must be mentioned regarding the Beinoni. Just as when facing an opponent in this physical world, such as when two people are involved in a wrestling match with each person aiming to take down the other, the key to success is zeal, alacrity, and self-determination, and if one of the opponents is lazy and sluggish then he will easily be overcome even if he is physically stronger than his opponent, the same applies spiritually in our battle against evil inclination to the same extent.
- To overcome the evil inclination you need to have joy and alacrity: It is not possible for one to overcome his evil inclination with laziness and sluggishness which derive from depression, sadness, and lack of emotion in the heart in which the heart is like a stone. Rather, the key to success against the evil inclination is alacrity which derives from joy. When a person is in a joyous state his heart is open with purity and free of any worry and depression and sadness.
2. Using sadness and depression as a counteroffensive to battle the evil inclination:
- Understanding the verse which states that sadness is advantageous in service of G-d: The verse states that there will be positive outcome from every state of sadness [which seems to imply that sadness is a positive ingredient in one’s battle against his evil donation, in contradiction of that which is stated above].
- No immediate advantage from sadness: However, in truth from here we can imply that the depression itself contains no [immediate] advantage and it is just that positivity can eventually derive from it in the future. [Hence, in a current battle against the evil inclination it can only be overcome with zeal and alacrity as stated above, however, this does not mean that sadness has no place in service of G-d and that no advantage can be gleaned from it, as we will now explain.]
3. The joy in service of G-d that can result from the sadness:
- True joy comes after sadness: What then is the positive outcome that can come out of sadness and depression? A true joy in connection to G-d. This true joy can come after a true depression for the past sins that a person has committed are aroused at specific times and occasions.
- Breaking the side of evil through being brokenhearted due to one’s sins: When one contemplates his sins at specific times he comes to a state of bitterness of soul and brokenness of heart. This causes the spirit of impurity and Sitra Achra to then be broken and the iron division that was created due to sin between man and his father in heaven falls down.
- The teaching of the Zohar: This concept is stated in the Zohar. On the verse “a broken spirit is a broken heart” the Zohar states that this means that through having a broken heart one breaks the spirit of the forces of evil. Through doing so one then merits the fulfillment of the beginning of the verse with states “let me hear joy and jubilance, return to me joy of your salvation and a pleasant spirit.”
- The joy in G-d that comes after Tikkun Chatzos: It is due to the above reason that the Arizal instituted for this psalm of Lamnatzeiach Mizmor Ledavid to be said after the recital of Tikkun Chatzos, prior to commencing with the accustomed Torah study. This Psalm was instituted to be said in order so one study Torah with a true joy in connection with G-d, which comes as a result and as the aftermath of the broken heartedness and sadness. This joy is of greater quality [than a regular joy] similar to the raised quality of light when it shines during a time of darkness, as the Zohar states on the verse that wisdom has an advantage over foolishness like the advantage of light over darkness.
- The need for joy in service of G-d: It is well known the commentary of the Arizal on the verse” due to that you have not served G-d with joy,” that serving G-d with joy is an essential ingredient in one’s service of G-d, to the point that if one serves G-d without joy then he can be fit for punishment as stated in verse. [Hence, we reprove our initial statement with which we began the chapter that it is not possible to serve G-d and battle the evil inclination in a state of sadness and rather one must have happiness and alacrity.]
4. How to rid oneself of sadness and melancholy regarding worldly matters:
- [After having explained the great harm that sadness can cause in one’s battle against the evil inclination and how one must always be in a state of joy during the battle, the Alter Rebbe will now explain what to do regarding depression and sadness that results from worldly matters.] The following is the advice on how one can banish and purify his heart from any sadness or worry regarding worldly matters, even if they relate to core issues such as one’s children health or livelihood.
- Blessing G-d and rejoicing even in the bad: It is well known to everyone is saying of the sages that just as one is to bless G-d for good occurrences so too he should bless G-d for the bad occurrences. The Talmud explains this to mean that one should accept the suffering and bless G-d with the same amount of joy as he would rejoice by those occurrences that are good in the revealed sense.
5. Suffering is in truth from a much higher level of Divine interaction, than blessing:
- Gam Zu Letova-Finding the good even in the bad: The reason for this is because even the bad that occurs to a person is really all for a good and positive purpose and it is simply that the positive purpose is not revealed and known to the eyes of man.
- Revealed bad derives from a higher level of holiness: The reason that this intended ultimate good becomes expressed in this world in a form of evil and suffering is because it comes from the level of the concealed world which are above the revealed words. This good which is expressed in a negative manner derives from the letters Yud Kei from the name Havaya of G-d as opposed to the revealed worlds which come from the letters Vav Kei of the divine name. It is due to this that Scripture states that praised be the man who G-d brings suffering to, as this embraces the man with a much deeper level of good.
- Rejoicing in suffering: It is due to the above that the sages state that those who rejoice in their suffering are referred to by Scripture as the friends of G-d and will merit in the future to have the might of the sun shine on them [which is an allegory to the revelation of G-d]. The joy that one has in his suffering shows that he cares more about his love and closeness to G-d than he does of all the matters of this world, as it states in the verse that “better is your kindness than is actual life.” Now, the closeness that one can achieve with G-d is infinitely greater when he receives an expression of G-d from the hidden worlds, which contains hidden in it the might of G-d, as it states in Scripture “Yosheiv Beseiser Elyon,” that the most supernal level rests specifically in the concealed words.
6. The future reward for those who rejoice in suffering:
- The sun will come out of its sheath in the future: Those who rejoice in their suffering merit in the future to have the sun come out in its might to shine on them. This refers to the fact that in the future times the sun will come out of its protective layer with which it is covered with in this world, and hence in the future the sun will be revealed from its concealed state.
- Revelation of concealed worlds: Spiritually, this refers to the fact that in the future the concealed worlds will be revealed and shine with great and powerful revelation within this world.
- Revelation is only for those who rejoiced in their suffering: Now, this powerful revelation of G-d in the future will specifically be felt by those who in this world have taken shade in G-d, by rejoicing in their suffering due to the closeness that they feel to G-d during those times. In this sense, the term shade refers to the shade of the wisdom of G-d which does not contain revealed G-dliness, and hence revealed good is not apparent from it.
7. How to rid oneself from melancholy due to guilt of one’s spiritual failures:
- The above advice to rejoice during times of sadness due to suffering only holds true with regards to physical suffering. However, regarding the sadness that can result from spiritual downfalls and struggles that one may have, this requires a different type of advice in order to rid one’s soul of this consequent sadness.
- Negation of sadness during times of Avodas Hashem: It goes without saying that during times of service of G-d in which one is required to serve G-d with joy and gladness of heart that there is no room for this sadness which relates to one’s spiritual state, but furthermore even during one’s mundane and day-to-day activity there is no room for the sadness.
- Negation of sadness or spiritual guilt during hours of mundane activity: If during one’s day-to-day mundane activities one is overcome with feelings of sadness and depression and worry because one’s spiritual state, one should know in that in truth these feelings are coming from the evil inclination.
- The guilt and sadness comes from the evil inclination to make the person succumb to his lusts: The evil inclination is attempting to cause the person to later succumb to his lusts and fall to sin as a result of his melancholy state, and hence is doing whatever he can to make him feel sad, including making him feel sad due to his spiritual failures. The proof for this is because in order to experience true and real feelings of guilt and remorse for sinning, the person must contemplate and arouse love for G-d or fear of G-d. Certainly, one did not contemplate and arouse love or fear for G-d in the middle of his day-to-day business, and hence the fact that these feelings of guilt and sadness are showing up instinctively without any stimulation is a sign that it is coming from the evil inclination.
8. The message to tell oneself to get rid of the spiritual sadness and guilt:
- Whether the sadness and guilt are being felt by the person during his service of G-d, such as Torah study or prayer, and whether it is being felt during other times in which one is not serving G-d he should tell himself the following message:
- Now is not the time-establishing a time for such feelings: Now is not the time for feeling true regret and sadness and broken heartedness for sins, including not even for severe sins heaven forbid. Rather, for this we need to establish a set and auspicious time, to arouse these feelings of regret and remorse, through first contemplating the greatness of G-d whom one’s sinned against. This contemplation of G-d’s greatness is necessary in order so one’s heart become truly broken with a true bitterness and broken heartedness, as explained elsewhere the time that is proper for such an exercise.
- Experiencing joy after the broken heartedness: Even during these established times for feeling true remorse and broken heartedness for one’s sins, one must immediately afterwards completely remove the sadness from his heart [and bring himself to experience joy], through believing with an absolute faith that G-d has forgiven his sin, as G-d is great in His forgiveness. This is the true joy that is achieved in one’s connection to G-d after the sadness that results from the sin, as explained above.