Friday, October 25, 2019

True Joy

(Painting by Zvi Malnovitzer)

Shaarey Tzaddik, Vol. 3,
Rabbi Gedaliah Aharon Kenig, zatzal
Excerpt from Letter 74
Translation by Dovid Sears

In memory of my dear friend Reb Yaacov Matisyahu ben Zvi (Sternbach), zal, who was niftar last summer (2019)

Yahrtzeit: 13 Tammuz

The last time that I spoke over the phone with Reb Yaacov, he was already in the advanced stages of prostate cancer. I asked him how he was coping emotionally, and he replied, “I’m b’simchah!” I was amazed. I asked him, “How do you do it?” Reb Yaacov explained, “In the Rebbe’s story of the Seven Beggars, the king who gives over the rulership of his kingdom to his son during his lifetime tells the prince that his spiritual test will be whether or not he can remain b’simchah even when he loses his throne. I understood from this that always being b’simchah must be a very important thing. So I am always b’simchah!”

During the shiva, I heard from one of his sons that Reb Yaacov was in good spirits until two hours before his passing, when he lost consciousness.

May he intercede above for his family and for Klal Yisrael, and have a “lechtigeh gan eden,” amen.

[Reb Gedaliah writes:]

The first thing [one needs] to open the gate through which the tzaddikim pass, and thus to enter the “holy palace,” is to acquire true simchah (joy), and to banish depression, which is utterly worthless (pasul). In this context, the entire Jewish people are deemed tzaddikim. By means of true simchah, whose source is in the heart (as our Rebbe repeatedly states), the understanding of the mind is prepared, and the heart is opened to grasp each matter clearly and without error. And through the banishment of depression, one attains the perception that “Hashem is the Lord, there is none other than Him,”[i] and “His kingship extends over all.”

One can open [the gate of] the “palace” of simchah only by heeding the fitting advice of Lesson 282 in Likutey Moharan, “Azamra… I will sing unto my G-d b’odi”—[according to Rebbe Nachman’s reading of the verse, “with the little bit of good that I still can find”].” One must always search for each good point in whatever one merits to do, time after time, and to enliven oneself with this. Thus, one will come to rejoice in G-d with true simchah.

No good point should ever seem insignificant in one’s sight, even if it may seem to be infinitesimally small. For we do not have permission, nor do we possess the ability to measure any good point, whatever it may be, or assess the height of its spiritual status. For our mortal minds are too poor and small to measure it, and we don’t know [the nature of these mysteries]. Thus, it is self-understood that each good point in one’s divine service is bound up with Eternity—which is the Infinite One, may He be blessed. If so, how can one give [this good point] any measurement? Who can be so presumptuous as to say that this point is great and that point is minute, this one is lofty and that one is lowly?

This is as our Sages state: “Be as careful with a minor mitzvah as with a major mitzvah—for you do not know the [heavenly] reward of the mitzvos” (Avos 2:1). For in truth, Hashem esteems and delights in every good point in one’s divine service, whether in Torah or Tefillah or good deeds, which ascends above from this physical world through the actions of the holy nation of Israel. This is all precious “merchandise” to Hashem; it is all stored up in His treasure trove of goodness, and not one of these [good points] is missing.

Look and see what our Rebbe writes (L”M I, 17, in the lesson “And it was when they emptied their sacks...”, section 1) that all of the higher and lower worlds, and all that they contain, in general and in particular, receive their effluence of the divine life-force only from the pride and delight that Hashem derives from the divine service of the Jewish people, His holy nation, in this lower realm, which is the central point of physicality and materiality. See there, where he states: “It sometimes happens that some ordinary Jew gives his peyos (sidelocks) a shake, and the Blessed One takes great pride even in this!” Understand and consider how far these matters reach, and you will derive life from them.

According to these words and this truth, Hashem has helped me to explain the praise of the Omnipresent One that we recite in the first blessing of the Shemoneh Esreh prayer, [where we refer to the Creator as] “Owner (koneh) of all.” [Koneh can also mean “purchaser.”] That is, Hashem possesses every good point that is inherent in the divine service of Israel, His Holy Nation, because He derives pleasure and delight from them all; and through this, He sustains all the worlds entirely and confers upon them all goodness. This is comparable (l’havdil) in physical terms to a great merchant who purchases the finest merchandise, paying for it the price it deserves. Now, the Blessed One does not forsake anything, but possesses everything, for every good point that ascends from this world is most precious in Hashem’s eyes. Only Hashem knows how to measure in truth the value every good point, whatever it may be. All of them are “good merchandise,” and He pays for them a high price—which is the divine effluence of goodness to all the worlds, quite apart from the reward that is stored away in the World to Come for [that individual who has thus served Hashem]. This is the meaning of “Owner (koneh) of all.” That is, Hashem acquires each good point, and for this reason is called the “Owner of all”—because for the sake of His receiving this pleasure and delight, Hashem created all of His “possessions,” which are the [various] worlds and all they contain, and He sustains and confers upon them all goodness.

Through the deep contemplation of this holy advice, you will come to true and complete simchah, with the help of Hashem, in all your endeavors. For it is impossible that there not be in all of one’s efforts in divine service some point which is good in Hashem’s sight. This is the path one should follow until one reaches the zenith of true simchah in Hashem, in cultivating the knowledge of His ways, may He be blessed, which are embedded in our holy Torah and in the fulfillment of her holy mitzvos, in all their details, with the desire of a pure heart and spirit, according to the Blessed One’s will.

These words of encouragement came to my mind when I was standing and praying the morning Shemoneh Esreh on the Seventh Day of Passover this year (5724 / 1964).

[i] The Chasidic understanding of this verse, based on earlier sources such as the Shnei Luchos HaBris and the Maharal, and as is implicit in the kabbalistic works of Rav Moshe Cordovero, is that Hashem is not only the one true God, but the Ultimate Reality, within which everything is subsumed. I have enumerated some of these sources elsewhere, including in “The Water Castle” (BRI), Overview of Hilkhot Tola’im 4, pp. 31-32, notes 6-8 (see references there).

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