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Can Everything Really Be Done With Joy?

Can Everything Really Be Done With Joy?


Dear Rabbi,

In general, I enjoy your daily thoughts. However, today’s Daily Dose made me very upset:

Everything can be done with joy.

Even remorse can be with joy.

My son is going through treatment for a rare form of leukemia. Not “everything” can be done with joy, and trying to do so would make you crazy.

There is clearly no joy to be found in watching one’s son suffer.


You are not just upset. Mothers don’t get “upset” when their child is suffering. You are angry. Which is good. It means you are alive.

That’s the hardest part of watching suffering—the anger that seethes just beneath your skin, eating away at your soul. Hold it in and it can burn you out. But if you release it, in the right way, at the right time, it can heal the pain.

The time of prayer is a time when you can release that volcano rumbling beneath the outer crust. It’s a time when you can scream at G‑d, “Why did You do it this way? Why does my son deserve this? Where is the meaning in any of this? What kind of a world have You made?”

Everything now is out on the table. And you discover you have faith. After all, if you don’t see G‑d as a good G‑d, a just G‑d, what are you angry about? Whether you admit it or not, your anger is the greatest confirmation of a deep-seated, interminable conviction that G‑d must be good, and there must be only one of Him.

Beneath this release of bitter anger, as strange as it may sound, is a deep joy. Not a joy you may be aware of in any way—although eventually it too must come to the fore. It is a joy that you have a G‑d to be angry with. That the two of you have a relationship; that even when you are angry with Him, nevertheless He is still your G‑d, and you have a right to speak with Him, even to admonish Him and demand an explanation.

It is a joy something like the love of a couple who have been married long enough to become so close that even when they fight, yell and slam doors, the love is still pulsating just below the surface.

So, and much, much more so, is our relationship with our G‑d. There is nothing closer.

My prayers are with you, that your son should come out of all this healed, healthy and strong. May he give you only joy from now on.

See The Heresy of Kindness.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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Anonymous July 18, 2013

Real Happiness There is a line on one American comedy, when the lead role says "I was so unhappy, yet I did not know it, because I was trying to be happy all the time". So perhaps instead of trying to get happiness from our brain cells by will, or by chemical reactions to sweets or pleasure or whatnot, we may just relax and allow ourselves be, at ease, in faith, and the real happiness may arise. Reply

Anonymous The villages, Fla May 5, 2012

Everything with joy? I find this to be such a huge issue in my continued Jewish education and adapting a more religious life-style. I enjoy the ceremonial aspects, but cannot get beyond the bad things to good people question. Reply

Irene Glen Burnie, Md US May 2, 2012

joy in everything I remember a time when I was very angry with G-d and in fact told him to leave me alone, that I was not going to read his word or even pray anymore to him. After about 3 or 4 days while sitting in the field of our farm, looking around at all the beauty HaShem created, I felt such peace and felt the presence of G-d and it was as if he was saying to me, "Feel better now?'" Are you ready to talk to me now? And of course I was. Thank you for your article. Reply

Mike Lady lake March 11, 2012

Always joyful I also have major problems with having joy when I have sorrow and torment. Please offer some readings that you feel may help. Thanks, mike Reply

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