My Rebbe's smile is so beautiful and so real; lately I've been wondering about it. The world is filled with beautiful people with beautiful smiles, but somehow when Rabbi Shalom Arush smiles - you feel something different - it's hard to describe. I've seen the 'confident' smiles of the wealthy and even of those rich in Torah scholarship - but my Rebbe does not smile like they do either. I don't think I ever saw a real smile until I saw his.
What is his secret? What makes Rabbi Shalom so happy? Does his pleasure come from being a best-selling author? No. He smiled before this. Is he proud of the Torah institutions that he has built? No. He smiled before this. Is he smiling about his financial success, after years of poverty and debt? No. He smiled before this. Maybe Rabbi Shalom can smile as he does because he is proud of his achievements in learning or because of the beautiful children he has. No. He smiled before all of these.
So what in the world is he smiling about?
I think that my Rebbe is smiling because he knows the deepest Truth about life and it just keeps nurturing him and giving him more and more pleasure all the time. He found this Truth when he was poor and unknown. He realized that G-d is good and that He is the One Reality. Once my Rebbe saw that everything is G-d, it became impossible for him to complain about anything. He saw how much he had, and was grateful for it all. Life became joyous, calm, sweet and worry-free. There were no more problems. There was only good. My Rebbe's smile expresses his total and complete centeredness in Truth. When he smiles, he also wants nothing more than to share the Truth with you. His passion to give can be found in his every intention; thought; movement and word. He has forfeited the illusion of 'self.' He is a limb of Hashem in this world.
Imagine, for fun, how a Holy person would score on a 'cutting edge' 'highly reliable and valid' personality inventory. The doctors would laugh at him like people laughed at the pure and simple man in Rebbe Nachman's story of The Wise Man and the Simple Man. There are no psychological categories that can contain holiness. If a tzaddik took a personality test, G-d forbid, he might appear psychotic, schizoid, isolative, obsessive, or grandiose. How ironic that the gatekeepers and guardians of 'sanity' spend their lives measuring thereality of others when they do not have a clue about what is real. I am sorry to say that secular doctors know less about reality than our first graders do. Only Holy people are in touch with reality and only they can be happy.
Why don't Holy people want to take pleasure from this world? It's because they have a highly developed sense of fairness. They think, "It's not my world and I didn't earn anything that I have. How much of a free gift can I take?" They don't see any reason to feel pride or specialness either because whatever they have came from Hashem.
So where does their great joy come from if not from this world? Their joy comes from detachment from this world. The Rambam said that the great holiness of a Jew is that he can live in Heaven and earth at the same time. The Holy person's happiness comes from a place where there is only happiness and only goodness - yet his feet are still on the ground. The tzaddik brings indescribable joy, love and hope to us to purify us from this world.
A tzaddik's joy also comes from not having to depend on anything or anybody but Hashem. He is not anchored to money or moored to honor. Like Hashem he hides himself and does not want to take credit for anything that he does. Since he is not attached to money, honor, material comfort - or even people - he is not afraid to die. He is free to fly away at anytime; and even while he lives, he is really not here. A tzaddik knows the folly of this world and what happens to all our plans when we are called back to our service Above.
As a disciple of Rabbi Arush, my job is to emulate him. How do I do that when the discrepancy between us is so huge? First, I try not to compare. Then, I tell myself that even I can smile. I can smile at my kids when I feel like yelling. I can smile at strangers when I want to ignore them. I can even smile and laugh at all the huge 'problems' that I have.
Question: How real is my smile? Answer: It is real enough for now. The main thing is to never give up.
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Dr. Zev Ballen, Psy.D. has been a practicing psychotherapist for more than 30 years. He is the founder and developer of Emuna Therapy, a faith-based method of counseling based exclusively on the teachings of Rabbi Shalom Arush. Dr. Zev has the endorsements of Gadolei Yisrael such as the Nikolsburger Rebba, Rabbi Yitzchok Fagelstock, Rabbi Shalom Arush, and Rabbi Lazer Brody. You can see Dr. Zev's live video broadcast every Wednesday at 5pm Israel time here on breslev.co.il. You can write in with questions to Dr. Zev at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can call him at: 845-362-8600 (US) or 054-840-9499 (Israel). Dr. Zev resides in Jerusalem, with his family, where he learns in Rav Arush’s Kollel and maintains a part-time private practice. You're also welcome to visit Dr. Zev's personal blog, Emuna Therapy.