Chapter 31: Turning the sadness and depression over one’s spiritual state into joy
5th Adar/(LY)22nd Adar 1
1. Not to be despondent over one spiritual state:
- It may happen, that resultant of one’s deep and lengthy contemplation for one to two hours [of one’s lack of battle in serving G-d properly and his transgressions in matters that he does not view as sinful, as explained in the previous chapter] which is done for the sake of breaking his heart and humbling his spirit, that one may come to a state of depression regarding his level of service of G-d. Nonetheless, one should not be dissuaded by this, [as this type of depression is positive and good].
2. The root of depression-From the side of evil:
- Joy, from the side of holiness; Depression, from Kelipas Nogah: Now, although all depression comes from the side of evil, Kelipas Noga, and not from the side of holiness, as the side of holiness contains joy, and the divine presence only resides when one is in a state of joy, nonetheless, there does exist a good type of depression.
- The difference between good depression and bad depression: [Depression that is due to non-spiritual reasons comes from the evil side of Nogah, while] depression that comes due to spiritual reasons comes from the good part Nogah.
- The Mitzvah of Simcha-Not to think of one’s sins during prayer and Torah learning: It is for this reason that the Arizal stated that there is no place during prayer or Torah learning for one to contemplate his sinful behaviors, being that these divine acts must be done with joy which come from the side of holiness.
- Thinking of one’s sins during confession: The only time that is proper for one to think of his sinful behaviors, is during times of confession.
3. Using depression to destroy the Kelipos:
- Despite the above root of depression in evil, it is necessary to be used for the sake of destroying and crushing the side of evil, as the sages teach us that the handle of the ax which is made from wood from the forest is what is used to take down its trees, and hence here too we need to use depression which comes from the side of evil for the sake of taking down the evil.
- The advantage of this depression: The advantage of this depression is that after one accomplishes the above destruction of evil one will be led towards joy, and on this it says that in every matter of depression there is benefit.
4. Difference between Atzvus [depression] and Merirus [broken heartedness]:
- In truth, there is a difference in the Hebrew language between depression and bitterness of heart, and hence the broken heartedness and bitterness that one feels due to his realization that he is distanced from the light of G-d and that his soul is invested in the side of evil, is not considered depression at all in the Hebrew language.
- The definition of depression: Depression is defined as a sadness which numbs and destroys the heart, making it desensitized and emotionless like a stone, [energy less, and careless for anything in the world].
- The definition of broken heartedness: However, bitterness and broken heartedness, on the contrary, ignites energy within one’s heart in order to experience the bitterness and become emotionally moved by his sad state.
- Broken heartedness comes from the severities of holiness: Accordingly, broken heartedness from spiritual matters comes from the level of Gevuros of holiness. This contrasts with joy which comes from the Chesed of holiness. Now, the heart is able to handle both of these emotions as it contains both inside of it.
5. Occasionally bringing oneself to bitterness:
- Sweetening the severities and breaking the control of the animal soul: Now, on occasion, one needs to arouse the severities of holiness and bring himself to bitterness over his spiritual state in order to sweeten the judgments, which refers to his animal soul and evil inclination which G-d forbid rule over the person, as the severities and judgments can only be sweetened with their root.
- Admonishing the animal soul: On this the sages stated that one should always bring his good inclination to admonish his evil one. The intent of this statement is not that one should do so constantly, but rather on those occasions that one sees that his soul requires it [in order to free it from the grasp of the animal soul].
6. Taking advantage of depression over worldly matters:
- The most auspicious time for the majority of people to experience bitterness of the soul for the sake of crushing his animal soul, is when one is in any event depressed due to worldly matters, or due to an unknown reason. This is an opportune time to transform his depression into an introspection of his soul and fulfill the statement of the sages that one should always admonish his animal soul.
- Banishing the depression from worldly matters: By doing the above exercise, not only does one take advantage of the opportunity to crush his animal soul and reexperience his G-dly soul, but furthermore he frees himself from his depression and worry of the worldly matters.
7. Coming to a state of joy after the broken heartedness:
- After experiencing the above broken heartedness, one can experience true happiness and joy. This can be achieved through telling oneself the following message
8. The message one is the tell oneself to bring himself to true joy:
- One is to tell himself about the following message in order to doubly console himself after bringing himself to the true realization of his low spiritual state.
- The true recognition of my bad spiritual state: It is absolutely true without doubt that I am very distanced from G-d to the ultimate extreme.
- It is also true that I am low and despicable.
- All the above, however, refers only to me alone, which is my body and to its animal soul that is within it.
- The recognition that I have a G-dly soul: However, irrelevant of the above, I also contain an actual portion of G-d within me, which is found within even in the lowest of the low of Jews, which is the G-dly soul which contains an actual spark of G-dliness that is invested within it to enliven it.
- The above spark however is in a state of exile and the more distanced that I am from G-d to the utmost, and the more repulsive and repellent that I am, the deeper and greater this exile of the G-dly soul becomes within me.
- I will have compassion for the G-dly soul: Accordingly, the mercy and compassion that I must have for my G-dly soul is tremendous, and the more distanced I am from G-d and the greater and deeper the exile of my G-dly soul is, the greater the mercy and compassion I must have for it.
- I will remove the G-dly soul from exile and returning it to G-d: Accordingly, I will therefore place all my efforts and energies to remove and elevate the G-dly soul from its state of exile and return it to “its home of its youth” in which it was found prior to it descending into my body, in which it was incorporated within the light of G-d and completely united with G-d.
- I will be careful in Torah and mitzvah observance: I will accomplish this by placing all my effort and energy in the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvot, to invest within them all of my 10 soul character traits.
- I will concentrate in Prayer: Especially, I will place effort in my service of prayer to scream to Hashem from the state of exile that my G-dly soul is in within my loathsome body, in order to remove it from its imprisonment and attach to G-d.
9. Teshuvah and Maasim Tovim:
- Through performing Torah and mitzvahs and concentration in prayer, one performs not only repentance, but also good deeds. Indeed [repentance alone does not suffice to remove the G-dly soul from his exile and], it is the good deeds that return the portion of G-d that is found within the soul to its root and source in G-d.
10. Rejoicing throughout the day when one serves G-d:
- All of one’s life should be focused on performing this service of G-d [of repentance and study of Torah and Mitzvos] with great joy. During one’s study of Torah and divine service one’s soul should rejoice over the fact that he is able to remove his G-dly soul from its state of exile in the repulsive body and return it to “its father’s home in which it grew up in its youth” [i.e. within G-d’s divine light].
- To be in the state of repentance throughout all of one’s days: On this the sages state that one should be in a state of repentance throughout all of his days, [which refers to the returning of one’s soul to G-d from its state of exile, which can be done throughout the day].
- The greatest of joys: There is no greater joy than the joy experienced in leaving a state of exile and captivity, and it is similar to the son of the king who has been captured and works as a flower grinder and garbage collector in the prison, and is then freed to return home to his father’s palace.
- The joy is despite the sadness of one’s body and spiritual state: Although one’s body still remains in its state of disgust and abomination, and is hence referred to by the Zohar as a serpents skin, as the core and essence of the animal soul has not transformed from evil to good, to be incorporated within holiness, nonetheless, one should not allow the sad state of his body and animal soul to remove his mind from the ecstatic joy experienced by his G-dly soul. The G-dly soul should be of much greater value in his eyes to rejoice in its happiness [of being redeemed from its state of exile] much more than the sadness that is due to the lowly body. One should not mix and confuse the joy of the soul with the sadness of the body.
11. The spiritual Exodus-Yetzias Mitzrayim:
- The above experience of joy of the soul is similar to the Exodus in which it states that the nation fled from Egypt.
- Why did we have to flee from Egypt? Seemingly, it does not make sense as to why the Jewish people had to flee from Egypt, as they could’ve simply told Pharaoh that they are leaving forever, and he would have had no choice but to let them go. Rather, the reason we had to flee is because the evil within the Jewish people was still in its full strength within the left ventricle of the heart, as their impurity did not cease until the time of the giving of the Torah. Nonetheless, they earnestly desired to cleave to G-d and escape from the state of exile that their G-dly soul was found within the forces of evil, which is the impurity of Egypt, [and hence the term flee is used by the verse to describe our leaving Egypt even though technically we could have walked out with full permission from Pharaoh without needing to flee]. Indeed, we find many verses in Scripture which describe the running away from evil and finding refuge in G-d, representing the above concepts.
- In the future, we will not flee Egypt: The above however was only necessary by the redemption from Egypt. However, in the future, when G-d will remove all evil from the face of the earth, we will no longer need to flee from the evil, and hence regarding the future era the verse states that we will not run but rather walk before G-d.
12. The message to tell oneself to bring in even deeper and stronger level of repentance and joy:
- In order to reach a deeper level of repentance from the depths of the heart, and increase the light of one’s joy, one should tell himself the following message which will comfort his heart from its distress and sorrow over the state of his body and animal soul:
- Why did G-d exile the soul? It may be true that I am distant from G-d, however I did not make myself, and it is G-d who made me, and He did so for a purpose. Now, for what purpose did G-d do this to descend a portion of His divine light which fills and encompasses all the worlds and to which everything is considered like naught, and invest it in a serpent’s skin and putrid drop?
- The purpose is to elevate the animal soul to G-d: The purpose of this was for it to be a descent for the sake of an ascent. The ascent is accomplished when I elevate to G-d the entire animal soul which comes from Kelipas Noga, and all of its garments of thought, speech and action. This is accomplished through investing the animal soul and its garments within the action, speech, and thought of Torah. As will be explained later on in length, this elevation is in fact the entire purpose of creation.
- I will focus throughout my life on elevating the animal soul through Torah and mitzvos: Accordingly, throughout my entire life I will focus all of my energy on doing the above mission to elevate my animal soul to G-d, as the verse states “to you oh G-d I elevate my soul.” In order to accomplish this I will immerse all of the aspects of my soul in the study of Torah and fulfillment of mitzvahs. I will attach my thought and speech with the thought and speech of G-d, which are the actual laws of the Torah that are in front of us, [and is hence accomplished through immersing oneself in the study of the laws of the Torah]. I will also immerse my power of action into G-dliness through the fulfillment of mitzvahs.
- Meshivas Nefesh: It is due to this reason that the Torah is called “Meshivas Nefesh,” as it has ability to return one’s soul to its root and source.
- Pekudei Hashem Yesharim Misamchei Leiv: On this the verse states that the commands of G-d are straight and bring joy to the heart.