13 Tamuz 5779 / Tuesday, July 16, 2019 | Torah Reading: Pinchas
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Flexing the Joy Muscle    

Flexing the Joy Muscle

Hashem is giving us special attention. The fact that He takes the time to give us something difficult means He sees growth inside us that He wants to bring to the surface…


It's a blessing to live in Israel. The Rambam states that living in Israel carries the weight of performing all of the 613 mitzvot. Rebbe Nachman states that walking 4 amot, 4 steps in the Land of Israel is a mitzvah. Here, Hashem showers us with blessings: many in the form of tribulations and tests.  


After all, according to the Talmud, anyone who goes 40 days without any tribulation needs to make serious repentance for his life. To all of us who have been blessed with reminders that our lives need no more than some minor course corrections, Gam zo L'Tova becomes life's melody. It means answering adversity with this too is for the best.


But do we really mean it?


I often struggle with this phrase. I seldom get past this too isn't bad. My victory is when something I wanted so badly fails to materialize, or something I didn't want to happen does happen and I can actually remain apathetic.  At least I wasn't angry about it, I tell myself, thinking that this is what the mitzvah of emunah means.


It's not enough.


The real test is to be joyful when these things happen. The hidden treasure of this mitzvah comes when we experience the slap on the wrist as a payout. It's the difference between a boxer raising his arms in defense of his opponent hitting him nonstop, and lowering his arms, smiling, and continuing to advance towards his opponent, even as he keeps taking blows.


We are all getting hit with something. Despite the shower of social media posts deceiving us into thinking everyone else has the perfect life, almost everybody in this world has a set of troubles following them throughout every moment. If we didn't have something to feel bad about, how could we reach the highest levels of joy, or tap the greatest wealth of emuna?


Every day, we are faced with obstacles that serve to bring us down, to question why Hashem is doing it to us, or at the very least that push us to approach life with less energy, and tempt us to hide out via television, digital screen, smartphone, the bar, or worse.


The kneejerk reaction for anyone with emuna is to tow the company policy and say this too is for the best.


It's up to us to really feel from the heart that whatever the test, we just won a million dollars. Our boss gave us a promotion, along with the rest of the month off. Our soulmate and children are hugging us in unison. The number of events in your life that can bring you joy have just doubled.


According to the Tanya, the magnum opus of Chassidut, there is no bad in this world. There is only the good we can see clearly, and the unseen good – events that we have to believe are good. So how can we gain joy out of good that is hidden?


1. Realize that suffering gains us Torah, the Land of Israel, and the World to Come. These are the most valuable things in life, and we get them with every difficult moment. Any suffering brings its own great reward. What nation has suffered more than any other? Israel. In a few short years, at most, what nation will benefit more than any other – to an unprecedented level?


2. A tribulation means Hashem is not rewarding us to our end. If we never suffer in this world, it means that G-d is waiting until all of our merit is spent, so we can pay in full in a Place where reward and punishment are infinitely amplified. Who punishes a man with a terminal illness, or someone condemned to death? A tribulation means we are alive. There is further purpose to our life. We still have a clear shot at the Big Bright Light at the end of our mission.


3. Hashem is giving us special attention. The fact that He takes the time to give us something difficult means He sees growth inside us that He wants to bring to the surface. He sees a repentance He wants to bless us with.


4. It doesn't say it's a mitzvah to be happy. It states, it is a GREAT mitzvah to be happy. There is no better opportunity to show Hashem gratitude towards the greatest gift – the gift of life – than to be happy throughout our most difficult moments. Not just "not sad" – but really happy – like dancing on the ceiling even after the guy from the tax authority sent you an SMS about next week's audit.  


5. We are creatures of habit, doing everything we can to stick to our daily routines of life. Deep inside there is a yearning for something different – a little excitement to shake things up a little. Whether Good or almost good, any strong event will rattle us out of our self-made cages. That itself is cause for cheer.


This is not something we are born with. It is a spiritual muscle we must develop and maintain. The Ramchal, in his masterpiece Path of the Just, talks about character traits and states that in order to develop the right emotions for them, you have to act first. In order to come to the point where you have the emotional disposition to jump out of bed early in the morning – you have to first develop it by jumping out of bed early in the morning when it is the last thing you want to do. You have to do something unnatural so many times that your body becomes dependent on you doing it to feel normal. This is when your actions recreate your emotions, and you are predisposed to doing something extraordinary every day.


So get upset! Think of the biggest disappointment in your life. Recall the worst thing someone did to you. Tick off 20 reasons why life stinks!


Then scream at the top of your lungs – BARUCH HASHEM! THANK YOU FATHER!


Set your Youtube to Nissim Black, Itzik Eshel, Adi Ran, Benny Friedman, Rabbi Brody, and anyone else who can energize you – and start dancing.



* * *

Dovber Halevi runs the website http://www.proudlycandid.com/. On it you can find 1,001 Reasons to Love Israel.

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