Do you sometimes feel that life is overwhelming and it takes all one’s might just to get through the day or for that matter, to simply get out of bed in the morning? As the saying goes, misery loves company so if it’s any consolation, you’re not alone. The good news is that there is light at the end of the seemingly hopeless tunnel.
You may believe that Hashem has thrust you into the world unaided, forced to swim for your life, but we are taught that He never gives us anything we can’t handle. Just as a baby can be thrown into water and not drown, we are born with the tools we need to keep our heads above the water, if only we are able to discover them. Rebbe Nachman, of blessed memory, provided a wealth of advice for us in trying to avoid or overcome sadness and depression resulting from the trials and tribulations we are faced with on a daily basis. While HaShem wants only the best for us and guides us along the way, the yetzer hara (evil inclination) plagues us with so much negativity it pushes us farther from our true mission in this world. Rebbe Nachman instructs us to be happy, for through joyfulness, we can defeat the harmful feelings which plunge us deeper into the abyss. If we try to focus on our sincere efforts of growing closer to G-d and fulfilling the mitzvot (commandments and good deeds), this elusive delight will permeate our souls and give us the energy we require to persevere.
“Joy is the foundation of spiritual strength, as is written ‘For rejoicing in G-d, that is your strength’ (Nehemia 8:10)” – Likutey Moharan 1:72
How will this rid us of our problems? Through teshuva (repentance), prayer, both prescribed and hitbodedut (personal prayer) and giving tzedaka (charity), we will unfailingly witness miraculous salvation from our bleak ordeals. By forcing ourselves to undertake our spiritual responsibilities with a smile rather than a scowl, the gladness will soon enter our hearts.
Rav Natan, Rebbe Nachman’s principal disciple, reiterated this point in a letter (#224 Alim LeTrufah):
“It is essential to stay far away from the bitterness of depression and sadness and to turn all of the sighing and sadness to joy. And we have already spoken of this often, but a person needs to understand from himself and decide to strengthen himself with all of his strength to gather the joy of the Torah and mitzvot that we have every day and put the joy into his heart.”
It is not easy to accomplish, but nothing worthwhile comes without effort. Hashem gave us 613 mitzvot; 248 Positive commandments (mitzvot aseh) and 365 Prohibitions (mitzvot lo ta’aseh). Whatever our present level, if we take on just one additional mitzvah at a time and perfect it until it becomes ingrained in our character, we will soon be ready to move on to the next challenge. We are also not expected to go it alone without the aid of qualified guides, respected Rabbis and our Holy Tzadikkim who help us hold on to the life raft as the Divine laws of Torah rescue us from the murky depths.
A very important mitzvah that men are obligated to undertake is wearing Tefillin (phylacteries). One of the first sources we learn about this is in the Chumash, our Bible, in the Book of Exodus, at the end of Parshat Bo, Chapter 13:16. After we are told about the last plagues unleashed upon our oppressors and our ensuing redemption from slavery, we read “And it shall be for a sign upon thy hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes; for by strength of hand Hashem brought us forth out of Egypt.” This is a most significant point demonstrating a G-d-given practice that has been passed down through the generations. By putting on Tefillin daily, one is not only fulfilling a commandment, but continually reminding himself of the Almighty’s devotion to our People in bringing us out of Egypt and our resulting commitment to Him.
“Behold our affliction, take up our grievance and redeem us speedily for Your Name’s sake, for You are a powerful Redeemer.” (from the Shemoneh Esrei prayer) If you feel abandoned and forlorn with nowhere to turn, remember our Heavenly Father is always there for you 24/7. You can speak to Him, cry to Him and beseech Him for help and He will surely rescue you. He loves you and will never forsake you. All he asks in return is that you attempt to implement His precepts with an abundance of gratitude for all your blessings and all your difficulties.
Before long, you will find yourself buoyed up by G-d Himself and your face will glow from basking in His Majestic Light.
So keep that smile on your face and G-d willing, you will soon be surrounded by all your loving brothers and sisters welcoming Moshiach at the newly rebuilt Beit Hamikdash, may it be speedily, in the coming days. Amen.