Our Holy Sages said that the nature of man is to be sad and depressed; Rabbi Yisrael Salanter said that it is easier to learn the entire Torah than it is to improve even one personality trait; and Rebbe Nachman of Breslev said that achieving real happiness, in our present exile, is more difficult than anything else in Judaism.
If these Tzadikkim (righteous ones) of earlier holier generations found it so hard to be happy what chance do we and our children have to achieve real happiness in today’s atmosphere of spiritually depravity?
The answer is that today there has never been more potential for every one of us and our children to receive unprecedented, awesome, and spectacular levels of lasting joy and happiness – the very highest of all possible Blessings. Hashem, whose essence and crowning glory is Joy, wants nothing more than to send the Light of His joy – His highest Spiritual energy - to you and your family. This is a happiness that is so different than how we usually think about happiness that we have nothing to compare it to - it is a happiness that is beyond our present conception of happiness – and, when it comes – your joy will be like nothing else - powerful, deep, lasting - yet simple and uncomplicated. Your happiness will be something that secular psychologists and psychology know nothing about – it will be devoid of philosophical speculation.
There is only one prerequisite for unbounded joy in this world and the next and that is emuna – the complete faith that there is a Creator – a Super-Being who loves you more than your human conception of love can fathom and wants you to succeed. The prerequisite is that He simply wants you to believe that nothing is happening haphazardly; that He does not make mistakes in running His world and so there is absolutely nothing to ever worry about. Just believe in Hashem and His true leaders and you will be ready to fly high – you will learn to extract sparks of holiness, which are joy, from literally every situation and occurrence in your life - then you will participate in the greatest miracle there is – giving life to the spiritually dead - to the masses of sad and depressed people who still suffer. Literally without words – just the radiance of your smile will inject life into your children and others - for this - you will acquire the highest levels of Eternal reward – higher than that of scholars and philanthropists.
The essence of Rebbe Nachman’s most important teaching about joy is that the biggest impediment to happiness is: excessive seriousness. The Rebbe writes, in many places, that excessive seriousness, somberness, and thoughtfulness lead us away from Hashem’s protective Light. A person who is forever thinking, evaluating and contemplating life will almost always fall into depression. There are those who protest against this and say that this does not apply to them - they claim to not be depressed – yet just look at their faces and you will see their emptiness and detachment from the flowing Source of joy and life. Like trees whose roots have been severed – they appear to be alive – but they are not. One need not be suffering from a major depressive episode, G-d forbid to be detached from Hashem – even subtle levels of sadness and discontent will severe one’s connection to the true Source of joy and life.
One of the most powerful and fundamental teachings in Breslever Chasidus is that we can learn everything that we need to know about being happy from one very special holiday that Hashem gave to us – the holiday of Purim. Purim is an intense day of joy and celebration and a blueprint for how to be happy all year round. Many people believe that Yom Kippur is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, but the Talmud calls Yom Kippur Yom Ha-Ki-Purim – the day that is like Purim. The Talmud explains that while Yom Kippur is very holy and can do wonders for a person who observes it, it is still only like Purim. Purim with its emphasis on simple fun, humor and non-intellectual joy can actually do much more for us than Yom Kippur can.
On Purim there are prescribed activities that naturally lead to states of joy and ecstasy such as: giving mutual gifts of food and drink, giving charity to the poor, a celebratory feast; drinking wine, wearing masks and costumes, dancing and singing – but the essence of the day is to depart from seriousness by allowing ourselves to become silly, less inhibited, we dare to be “child-like” and engage in simple fun. One day a year even the stuffiest professor lets his hair down and let’s himself re-new his connection to Hashem for saving the Jewish people from annihilation by the ancient Persian Empire.
There is so much to say about the subject of simcha (happiness) that I hope to devote a series of articles and lectures to this subject. In the meantime, here is my prayer for you and me - please feel free to adapt it in any way that you want for yourself and your children.
Master of the Universe, Source of all Joy, help us to come closer to You and your limitless Joy. Teach us to trust You and your Holy teachers. Instill in us the certainty that you will open your great treasury of happiness and from Your limitless Light of Joy, bestow upon us, Your children, your precious wondrous Light. We beg you, Hashem to remove all sadness from Your world. We implore you, Holy Father, to put an end to all forms of sadness, depression and fear – we are so broken now from the ravages of evil. We cannot bear it anymore. Look upon us now with Mercy, loving Father, for we have not the strength to bear this suffering on our own. How many more rivers of our tears must flow before you awaken to our bitter cries?
Holy Creator, show us Your path to recovery. Illuminate for us, with your Light of healing the true path to being happy with what we have…to being happy with whatever you deem necessary for our welfare. Help us to never be embarrassed to carry out your directives. Empower us, please Hashem, to turn away from alien philosophies and to only seek You and Your paths to Joy and contentment. Save us, loving Father from ourselves…from our intellectual “maturity” and “sophistication”. Teach us the simple pure ways of children so that we can fully participate and enjoy the real substance of our lives…so that we can connect to the pleasant wholesomeness of our moment-to-moment experience. We beg you, our Savior, to remove all doubts from our minds that You will do this for us, your loyal servants so that we merit to feel a boundless, total, complete and constant happiness in our lives. G-d of Wisdom, inspire us to even use silliness, humor, and levity to serve you better. Help us to see the folly of this temporary world so that we have the steadfastness to bear its stinging pain with laughter. Show us, G-d of Kindness, how to elevate our pain to humor so that we always keep our sights on the True purpose of our lives.
And finally, Master of All, we ask all of this not for ourselves, but for our children and our fellows. Bless us, G-d of Love with the Light of you Holy Crown that we may transmit the Joy of Your way of life to our children…particularly our troubled youth who have been led so far from your Holy presence - through no fault of their own. We are sure, Holy Father, that you will never turn you’re back on our children - never! Who more than You can see the damage to their precious souls. Save them now. Bring them back now to the safety of Your protective wings. G-d of compassion, allow our newfound Joy to find its way into their hearts. May they forever turn away from the sources of sadness and know Your One and only recipe for fun that lasts…for fun that they can take with them to the transcendent realm. King of Justice, we humbly beseech You - that our tireless efforts on behalf of our children and our prayers have not been in vain. Amen.
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Zev Ballen, LCSW has been a practicing psychotherapist for 32 years. He is licensed in Israel and the State of New York. Zev has the endorsements of prominent Gadolei Yisrael such as the Nikolsburger Rebba, Shlita, Reb Yitzchok Fagelstock, Shlita, The Kasaner Rebbe of Forshay, Shlita, Rav Shalom Arush, Shlita, and Rabbi Lazer Brody, Shlita. He resides with his family in Jerusalem where he learns in Rav Arush’s Kollel and maintains a part-time practice. You can write to Zev Ballen at: email@example.com or call him at: 845-362-8600 (US line) or 054-840-9499 (Israeli line).