A seemingly impossible and certainly difficult requirement of Torah is that a Jew serve Hashem with simchah (joy);1 How often are we to be b’simchah (joyful)? It appears the requirement is constant. Who can be joyful all the time? What about the irritations and frustration of daily life? Nevertheless, as Hashem will never test people with what they cannot do, it is not only possible but eminently achievable to be joyful all the time. Both here and later in this book, we will learn how together. Meanwhile, there is some important prerequisite information.

As mentioned (in Building Block No. 2), Hashem blesses every neshomah with a combination of three separate berachos. One is health, one is children and one is parnossah (sustenance). Very few Jews merit, for whatever reason, to have all three berachos at all times in their life in the way they would like. The most a Jew is usually permitted is two. More rarely, he receives one and sometimes, unusually, none. There are some apparently unfortunate people who have bad health, who are bankrupt and who have no children or no nachas from those children they do have. For these people the tests are very difficult. Even where one has all three berachos, it is unusual to find all three available at one time.

The astonishing thing about the requirement of being b’simchah (joyful) is that it does not apply only to those Jews who are lucky enough to have all three berachos. It is a requirement for every Jew irrespective of whether he has any of the berachos! Even people with some experience in Chassidus find this a difficult thing to take on board so that it becomes their private perspective (daas).

Happiness is an aspect of being b’simchah. Society teaches us from our earliest moments however, that happiness is dependent on what we accumulate or how physically capable we are or whether our children will act out our unfulfilled dreams through their achievements. If a man does not possess any or all of those things, it is axiomatic in Western culture that he is therefore deprived. Being deprived, he in fact feels miserable the opposite of simchah. Without matching BMW’s and
10 million worth of assets, we cannot have the resources to be happy because happiness is dependent on these very resources.

Furthermore, it is apparently obvious that Shimon who is rich, healthy and has nachas from his children is better off than Reuven who is bankrupt, sick and has rebellious children. It seems axiomatic that Shimon is going to be more b’simchah and indeed happier than Reuven.

Extraordinarily, a Jewish neshomah has the obligation to be b’simchah even without any of those berachos, G‑d forbid. How is it possible to adhere to this cardinal principle of Jewish life in a traffic jam, in planning and being disappointed in a business deal, in hospital and, G‑d forbid, when children are sick?2

We will learn this very deep secret together by reference to what we have learned already. Every Jewish neshomah undergoes a yeridah, a descent into its body, in order to afford it the opportunity to do one or more specific jobs. These tasks have to do with refining the body and the Nefesh HaBahamis, and elevating the surrounding environment. The process of refinement and elevation can only be accomplished by each neshomah in its precisely suitable environment.

So if the highest point of greatness a neshomah can achieve in one gilgul is from poverty, then it is an act of chesed, an act of kindness for Hashem to organize the man’s affairs so that he is without money. For the duration of his life, no matter how he tries, no matter his standard of education, how many jobs he works at or how many business deals he attempts, he will remain without money. Of course, this chesed is not understood. People spend their lives cursing their bad fortune when in reality they have the precise and perfect fortune for their specific need. Conversely, a man to be tested with money may be the most apparently undeserving recipient but whatever he does will turn to gold. The opportunity to be catapulted to the stars, to fulfill his tests, may come in the personification of a filthy beggar seeking help, or the building of a new Yeshivah. The point is that his environment will be perfect for his specific tests.

We have learned that the three berachos are beyond the control of a Jew. Effort is required to make the vessel. But this is the only contribution we make. Whether the chance for our aliyah is from wealth or poverty, it is Hashem’s kindness which provides that forum in which to function.

Needless to say, just as we are tested as individuals in each gilgul, Am Yisrael is tested in each generation. There are generations which are rich, those which are poor; there are times of peace and times of stress. Always the Hashgochah Protis is for our benefit.

Why then are we encouraged to pray for change? A man dying does not have to accept this as only an act of chesed, the best environment for his neshomah, and go ahead and die. He can, and indeed according to Halachah (Jewish law) must, ask Hashem to change his position.3

Meanwhile for a Jew the best chance to improve any of the three berachos and all of them is to learn Torah and do mitzvos.4 The next chapter will discuss the parnossah for a Jew. The best way for him to have good children is to have a home which is a Torah home. And the best way for him to be healthy in body is to be healthy in spirit, i.e. in living consistently with Hashem’s will. It is an absolute waste of time to wish to substitute one person’s environment with another’s.

If the man next door has a Ferrari for every one of his teenage children and an indoor and outdoor swimming pool and whatever else we believe we need for our happiness, we now see this is not so. It takes years of learning this and a lifetime of Chassidus to be able to understand that the environment we have is perfect for our life and the man next door has the perfect environment for his. The desire to change therefore, gradually disappears as this perspective becomes daas (See Building Block No. 3).

Obviously, if a person is short of money and needs to fix his children’s teeth, he will feel pain at some level at his inability to supply the money. The pain however cannot affect the recognition that his neshomah is presently in a perfect position to do its job generally.

The recognition of this brings a man to joy. The realization that one is perfectly placed is a joyful realization. Not just once in a lifetime; not just a shaft of light occasionally realizing the neshomah to be perfectly placed, but every day. Every day when the bank is pressing or when the deal goes wrong.

We are going to be tested very day. Let us understand this. It is a generalization for every Jewish neshomah. A Jew cannot get out of bed and be free of tests. If the test was passed yesterday, there will be a brand new set of tests today. Always however these tests are perfect for the respective neshomah and therefore a cause for joy.

Why joy? Even if the environment is perfect, why joy? It has to be understood that each test is a potential for growth and every time adversity is overcome there is spiritual growth. Indeed, we learn that a man should try and turn down the volume on his needs for physicality and turn up the volume on his needs for spirituality. In spirituality, the more one has, the better one is. In physicality, the more one has, the harder it can be. So ironically the more of those three berachos a person has, the harder could become his spiritual development. It is much easier for a man living on bread and water and sleeping on the floor in Jerusalem who has never seen a movie to learn Torah than a person brought up in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney awash with money and the capacity for every distraction.

Realizing one’s position is a perfect potential to be able to complete his neshomah’s mission in life and therefore attain its aliyah, a lifelong process. It is so important that ultimately a man can reach the level that he can in sincerity make a berochah (a blessing) on adversity. According to Jewish law, we make berachos when, G‑d forbid, things go wrong. We bless Hashem for being just. Without Chassidus this is incomprehensible. With Chassidus we do understand it. The berochah is this; Hashem is providing the perfect environment for the neshomah to have its potential for its aliyah. We cannot see it at the moment? We are not looking. Put on the binoculars of Chassidus.

There is one other point. There is a legitimate human emotion in grief. At first glance from what we have learned, this should not be. As everything is divinely controlled with Hashgochah Protis, and as every neshomah is in its perfect environment with the maximum potential for a neshomah’s aliyah, and recognizing that must make us b’simchah, then how come we cry? Why sit shiva when a relative dies? Why do we have laws on mourning? There are Halachos5 that say how sad we have to be for the first seven days, for the next thirty days, and then ultimately for the remaining eleven months.

Hashem created man with certain psychological needs and those needs, when denied, are accompanied by pain. If an appendix malfunctions there is pain. The pain is a signal. The pain allows us to recognize and then fix an appendix. Pain is a necessary part of life and part of the psychological process with which we have been created. Still, it must be contained within boundaries.6 So when a father dies, G‑d forbid, the level of mourning is controlled. There is a week when we mourn at a certain level and then there is change to a different level of mourning for a further thirty days and finally change for the next eleven months. After the twelfth month, mourning is completed and indeed forbidden.

It is forbidden to mourn on Shabbos even in the seven days. There was no greater Chosid of any Rebbe than the Rebbe of the Previous Rebbe. The Previous Rebbe passed away on Shabbos and the old Chassidim who still remember report that the Rebbe did not exhibit the slightest difference in behavior on that Shabbos as compared to any other Shabbos. For a Tzaddik who is living tissue of Hashem’s will, the Halachah is paramount.

Shabbos overrides mourning so the Rebbe was b’simchah as on any Shabbos. The moment Shabbos came out, the moment Havdalah was said, the Rebbe broke down.7 Similarly, when his wife, the Rebbetzin, died, the Rebbe cried publicly. When it came Shabbos, the Rebbe farbrenged as usual, waved his hands as usual and everyone sang as usual.

So then, what method is available to a man to focus on realizing his position is perfect all the time?

The answer comes from a great secret of Torah implicit in all the above. Happiness and one’s environment are actually unrelated! If this where not so, Hashem would not require all Jews to be equally joyful without giving them equal blessings and surroundings. It must be the simchah that is a state of mind.8 It must also be that that state of mind can be absolutely controllable by each of us with effort and training irrespective of our environment. And so it is. We pray that Hashem improve our berachos because we pray for the test to be over.

Until his position is changed by such prayer, understanding the mechanics of this controlled joy removes a Jew totally from the apparently random choppy sea of daily existence. Where the mind is b’simchah and steady in its emunah (faith), there is light and warmth with the best view in the world. To enjoy it takes time and effort living any other way takes more.