On the verse,1 “A good-hearted person is always celebrating,” the Talmud comments:2 “This refers to a person who is broadminded.” Rashi, in his gloss to the verse, comments: “‘A good-hearted person’ — one who is happy with his lot.”3 The interpretations complement each other: Being broadminded enables a person to be happy [at all times].

On the surface, [this requires explanation, for seemingly, a person’s mood] is dependent on the nature of the Divine influence meted out to him. If he is granted influence from the attribute of kindness and is blessed with everything he needs, he will be happy. If, by contrast, he is granted influence from another attribute,4 it is entirely possible that he will worry. Nevertheless, the Talmud’s interpretation of the verse, “A good-hearted person is always celebrating,” implies that one who is broadminded will be happy in all circumstances.

The possibility for such an ongoing positive attitude can be understood by prefacing an interpretation given by the Rebbe Maharash5 in the name of the Alter Rebbe. On the phrase from the liturgicalhymn,6 “The needs of Your people are numerous and their understanding is scant,” the Rebbe Maharash comments: Why are “the needs of Your people numerous”? Because “their understanding is scant.” Were they to be truly broadminded, their “needs” would not be “numerous,” [as explained below].

On that basis, we can understand the statement of the Talmud cited above: When a person has breadth of mind, he will be glad of heart, because he lacks nothing — he possesses everything he needs.

Oversized Clothes

There are two rationales that explain why having “numerous needs” comes about from “scant understanding”:

Firstly, by and large, a person’s needs are granted to him from Above, [but not necessarily those things he desires that are beyond his needs]. Thus when a person seeks excessive material satisfaction, it is possible that not only will he not receive the luxuries that he seeks, but he may also forfeit the influence from Above for the matters which he needs.

There is a well-known analogy given by the Tzemach Tzedek,7 explaining that a person’s clothes must be tailored to his size. If his clothes are too large, not only won’t they help him proceed; they will impede his progress. Similarly, in the spiritual analogue, it is necessary to “shave her head and cut her nails,”8 i.e., restrict one’s excessive activity in material concerns. When a person craves luxuries and therefore invests himself excessively in his material endeavors, trying various schemes, not only does this not help him achieve his desires, but it causes him losses.

What is the source of this flawed approach? “Their understanding is scant.” A person does not correctly appraise who he truly is, what is his spiritual standing. Therefore he thinks that everything is due him and that he needs everything, so he actively seeks those luxuries.

When, by contrast, he possesses broad understanding, he can honestly appraise who he truly is. He then feels that everything granted to him from Above is an expression of G‑d’s kindness. As a result, he feels no sorrow that he has not been granted more, nor does he pursue these excesses feverishly, because he realizes that what he does have was granted to him solely because of G‑d’s kindness.

A Question of Priorities

The second reason [is more fundamental]: When a person possesses broadminded understanding, material things don’t mean so much to him, for materiality is inherently limited. Instead, it is the Torah and its mitzvos that he eagerly pursues. They are unlimited, not bound by the constraints of this world and not even by the limitations of the spiritual realms. Instead, they represent something that is truly unlimited and boundlessly expansive. For a person with genuinely broad understanding, they are the only considerations of real importance and true value. Since he is wholly concerned with the spiritual, material matters are important to him only to the extent that they are related to the Torah and its mitzvos.

As Rambam writes9 [that] the sages did not yearn for the era of Mashiach for the great wealth and material satisfaction that will characterize that age, since these matters will hold no importance to them.10 Support for this concept can be brought from the verse:11 “On that day, a person will possess a calf and two sheep.” [The intent is not that in the era of Mashiach, possessions will not be plentiful, but rather] that people will be content with less. Why then did the sages yearn for the era of Mashiach? Because then our observance of the Torah and its mitzvos [will reach consummate perfection] and our comprehension of G‑dliness [will reach the fullest extent of human potential].

There was a chassid who could have been a rav. He did not, however, desire such a position and became a merchant. Once he adopted that walk of life, he began to invest himself too heavily in it. The Rebbe wrote him a letter, saying:

“Not by bread alone does man live, but by every utterance of the mouth of G‑d does man live.”12 The body’s hunger for physical bread stems from the soul’s hunger for the spark of G‑dliness in the bread. That is what motivates the body to long for the physical bread.13 Thus what is of primary importance is the spark of G‑dliness found in the physical, not the physical entity itself.

This is the meaning of the phrase: “The needs of Your people are numerous and their understanding is scant.” Because of our scant understanding, material entities become important. As a result, “The needs of Your people are numerous.” When, however, one is truly broadminded, material matters are not important to him. And as a consequence, he is continually “glad of heart” and “celebrating.”

Support in Time of Need

Our supplication, “The needs of Your of Your people are numerous and their understanding is scant,” is a request that G‑d fulfill all the many needs of His people even though they stem from the fact that “their understanding is scant.”

To explain: It is written:14 “A righteous man will fall seven times and rise,” i.e., even the path of a righteous man’s progress is not always consistent. Certainly, one who is on a lower level than that of a righteous man can, at times, fall from his rung. He could lose his broad understanding and operate from a narrow perspective. [In such a state, he can fall prey to the two errors mentioned previously:]

a) material matters will be important to him; and

b) he will not appraise his spiritual status correctly.

Our request of G‑d is that even when our understanding is narrow and limited, we will lack nothing. [The fulfillment of this request comes] as a result of broad understanding. When, in general, a person possesses broad understanding, he is granted what he needs. Even when he falls from his level, he will have everything that he requires.

On this basis, we can understand our Sages’ interpretation that the verse, “A good-hearted person is always celebrating,” refers to a person who is truly broadminded. When, by and large, a person possesses broad understanding, this draws down the influences from Above that enable all his needs to be fulfilled. As a consequence, “A good-hearted person is always celebrating.” At all times, even when he falls from his level and understanding is limited, he will still be glad of heart, because he will be granted all his needs.

(Excerpted from the sichos of Shabbos Parshas Ki Sisa, Shushan Purim Kattan, 5717)