22 Av 5781 / Saturday, July 31, 2021 | Torah Reading: Eikev
 
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The Worthy Prince    

The Worthy Prince



By maintaining our happiness even under the most difficult of times, we show our true pedigree as the Children of Israel, Hashem's chosen people…

 



Rebbe Nachman of Breslev tells a parable about a great king*. The king's greatest aspiration was to crown his son during his own lifetime. "Why not have the joy of seeing my son reign while I'm still alive?" pondered the king. And so he convinced himself to crown his son as soon as possible and began to make arrangements for a lavish royal coronation.
 
The king summoned his son the prince. "My son," said the king, "I've decided to crown you while I still live, so that I can have the gratification of seeing you sit on the throne. But I want to warn you; it is not yet an established fact that you deserve to be king. You will therefore be tested. At some point in the future, you shall be dethroned."
 
Continuing, the king said as his son listened intently, "When you become dethroned, I won't be disappointed. Indeed, I will be very happy. For if you maintain your joy in life despite being dethroned, I will be exceedingly happy, for then, you will have shown the world that you truly deserve to be king. But, if you lose your joy in life after having been dethroned, and even worse, if you fall into sadness and depression, I will still be happy. I'll be happy that you're not the king, because in retrospect, your lack of joy in life in trying times shows that you're not worthy of being king. As such, I will be happy no matter what, whether you are happy or not!"
 
* * *
 
Rebbe Nachman is teaching us our obligation as the sons and daughters of the King of Kings to be unconditionally happy. Sure, it's easy to be happy living under the reign of a King David or a King Solomon when we have our Holy Temple and the Divine Presence dwells in our midst. It's easy to be happy when the prestige of Torah and the Jewish people are apparent to every living being. It's no problem to be happy when each person dwells on his nachla, his familial lands within his tribal province of the Holy Land of Israel, according to Divine allotment. Yet despite exile, diaspora and the lack of our Holy Temple and all the Divine abundance that goes with it, we must still maintain our happiness. Not to do so is not only gross ingratitude, but it shows that we're not worthy of being princes and princesses, Heaven forbid.
 
If we're not happy, it's our loss. Hashem is utter holiness, and according to the Ariza'l, there can't be holiness without happiness. In that respect, Hashem is the epitome of happiness; not the hedonistic amenities people confuse with happiness, but pure unblemished happiness. Hashem - The King - will maintain His happiness even if we aren't happy. For when we're not happy, we show that we're not worthy of governing the world and having the Divine Presence in our midst. The Gemara[1] says that the Divine Presence can only dwell in a place of joy. Therefore, when a person lacks joy, he isn't worthy of the Divine Presence. That's where the downward spiral begins, for without Hashem in our midst - Heaven forbid - problems just become worse!
 
So now, we're being tested. Israel and the Jewish People aren't exactly winning popularity contests. At this point, many people make wrong decisions - they think they'll be happy if they leave observant Judaism. Nothing could be further from the truth. The only way to be truly happy is to rejoice that we're the children of The King. Even though we're not in power, we still enjoy doing the King's bidding. We rejoice in our Shabbat, rejoice in putting on tefillin every morning, and rejoice every time we give a coin to charity.
 
What's more, we have the privilege of speaking to The King whenever we want. That in itself is a reason for unconditional, perpetual joy.
 
I wasn't born into a religious family. I grew up back and forth between secular America and secular Israel. King Solomon calls the evil inclination, "the silly king". For those of us that have truly tasted Shabbat, a page of Gemara and the wisdom of the true tzaddikim, a front row seat for the debut of the latest Hollywood hit movie or to the NBA finals simply doesn't excite us any more. The only way to maintain our unconditional, perpetual joy even under duress is by basking in the light of Torah and mitzvoth, which is the light of Hashem, the ohr sameach - the light of joy.
 
By maintaining our happiness even under the most difficult of times, we show our true pedigree as the Children of Israel, Hashem's chosen people, who are truly worthy of being light unto the nations.

 



*    See Thirteen Tales, Tale of the Seven Beggars
[1]    Tractate Pesachim 117a




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