Despondency and Depression

.. Bear in mind the following points:

(a) There can be no question that teshuvah, penitence, is effective in every case, whatever the transgression, for teshuvah is one of G‑d’s commandments, and G‑d does not require of us the impossible.

(b) It is likewise certain that any kind of depression, despondency or sadness [as a result of agonizing over past sins] is a trick of the yetzer hara, the evil inclination, to discourage one from serving G‑d ....

I advise you from now on to stop weighing and dwelling on things that are of no practical value, and especially the kinds of thoughts that only lead to despondency, rather place ever-increasing efforts on the performance of Torah and mitzvos. ...

(From a letter of the Rebbe, dated Erev Shavuos, 5716)

Combating Sadness

.. With regard to your inclination towards a feeling of sadness:

A useful remedy for this is to have firmly engraved in your mind that G‑d, the Creator of the world, watches over everyone individually.

Since He is the Essence of Goodness, there is therefore no room for sadness or worry; this [concept] has been explained at length in various parts of the Tanya (see Index [at the back of the Tanya]).

It would be especially good for you to commit to memory the passage of Tanya at the beginning of chapter 41 (p. 56a), second line from the bottom. Whenever you feel sad or depressed, review that section in your mind or recite it orally. This will assist you in eliminating these undesirable emotions.

(From a letter of the Rebbe, dated 7 Adar, 5717)

Three Forms of Reality

.. You write in your letter about your [depressed] state of mind.

As known, there are many matters that exist wholly outside the person; other [mental health] issues [such as neuroses and psychoses] at least exist within the individual’s inner [sense of reality and] self, and finally, there are those matters whose entire existence [and reality] is a result of the person’s thinking about them.

Although it would seem that when thinking about a certain thing [whose entire existence is predicated on his thoughts about the matter], there is no difference whether or not his thoughts refer to a factual reality, but in truth this is not so: there always exists within the individual the ability to examine his feelings and their degree of authenticity and certitude.

This assessmentaffects the person even when his capacity to make a “reality check” is concealed, or to use the common vernacular, lies within his subconscious, which can then be recovered.

Clearly, the thoughts and feelings that you are now experiencing emanate from the latter [of the three forms of reality: they only exist because you insist on thinking about them].

Such types of thoughts and feelings are much easier [to get rid of]; quite often they dissipate on their own by simply ceasing to think these thoughts — either a cessation resulting from an external factor [such as through an intervention by another person], or brought about by the person’s own resolve to stop thinking about them.

.. We verily observe that hundreds and thousands of people who found themselves in the same frame of mind as you do now were able to rid themselves of these feelings without it having any lasting effect on them at all (from which we understand that this can ultimately be achieved even by those who still retain some vestige of these feelings).

[These statistics may not be so well known,] merely because it is human nature to greatly publicize those matters that are entirely in the minority, or those matters that are truly uncommon, [i.e., individuals whose feelings of gloominess overwhelm them,] while the more common experience [of people gaining control of their feelings] is not publicized at all.

Thus, with even minor reflection we realize that it is incumbent on each and every one of us to fulfill our mission in this world; i.e., to increase luminosity within the world and particularly within our own environs, by strengthening and disseminating the light of life in consonance with the directives of our Torah, the Torah of Life.

Since this is the case, we do not even have the luxury of the available time that it takes to contemplate thoughts about ourselves, i.e., thoughts of the type that you have been having.

And although at the beginning it is not easy to replace thoughts concerning ourselves with thoughts concerning our purpose in G‑d’s world, with time and practice it becomes easier to switch our thoughts — particularly so, when we do all the above with joy, the foundation of this joy being that which the Rambam writes at the conclusion of Hilchos Lulav, [concerning the vital importance of serving G‑d joyfully].

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XIV, p. 22)

Combating Depression

.. You write that you feel depressed, as it seems to you that you have not succeeded in your studies at the Yeshivah to the extent that you expected. Even assuming that you are completely correct in your appraisal, this would still be no reason for feeling depressed.

For, as it is explained in many sources, especially Tanya, even in the case of spiritual failure, no Jew should feel depressed, for a feeling of depression and gloom, is, in itself, one of the strategic weapons used by the yetzer hara in an effort to discourage a person from serving G‑d with joy and alacrity.

And when the yetzer hara succeeds in one thing, such as in discouraging you from studying, as you write, he goes on to further things.

The way to combat the yetzer hara is, as explained in Tanya, to call forth a redoubled effort on your part to overcome the feeling of depression, replacing it with a feeling of joy. You can accomplish this by recognizing that whatever one’s past has been, it is still always possible to attach oneself to G‑d through the study of the Torah and the observance of the mitzvos.

In the case of persistent distraction, the well-known illustration used in the Tanya is to imagine that a heathen is standing nearby while one is in the midst of prayer and trying to distract one from concentrating on prayer and study.

In such a case, one would certainly not blame himself [for becoming distracted]. Rather, one would redouble his efforts to concentrate on his prayer or study, completely ignoring the outside distractions.

Thus, in the final analysis, it is up to a person to overcome his difficulties by his own efforts and determination, and we have already been assured that where there is a determined effort, success is certain.

Moreover, it is quite possible in your case that you have truly underestimated your success, and your belief to the contrary, [i.e., that you have not succeeded,] is merely a result of a thought implanted in your mind by the yetzer hara [in order to succeed in making you feel glum and downhearted]. ...

(From a letter of the Rebbe, dated 25 Menachem Av, 5718)

Traditional and Observable View of
Melancholy and Depression

In reply to your letter of Motzaei Shabbos: There is surely no need to alert you to the fact that the sages and luminaries of Israel held melancholy and gloominess in extreme disfavor. This is also discussed in Tanya, ch. 26, and in many other places.

In addition, one can plainly observe that not only does such an attitude fail to correct any situation, but in fact it does quite the opposite.

This is also true regarding the matters with which you are occupied. It is especially true in this country where a happy approach strikes a responsive chord in people’s hearts, whereas its opposite does not.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. X, p. 258)

Feelings of Dissatisfaction and Despondency

.. Leaving the details of your complaints aside, I wish to make several observations:

1. Feeling dissatisfied with oneself is a good sign, for it indicates vitality and an urge to rise and improve oneself, which is accomplished via a two-way method: withdrawal from the present state, and turning to a higher level (see sichah of my father-in-law, the Rebbe, of sainted memory, Pesach 5694).

2. If the urge to improve oneself leads to downheartedness and inertia, then it is the work of the yetzer hara, whose job it is to use every means at its disposal to prevent a Jew from carrying out good intentions connected with Torah and mitzvos.

The false and misleading voice of the yetzer hara should be stifled and ignored. Besides, as the Alter Rebbe states (Tanya, ch. 25), even one single good deed creates an everlasting bond and communion with G‑d (ibid.,at length).

Thus a feeling of despondency is not only out of place, it is a stumbling block to the worship of G‑d, as is more fully explained in the above and subsequent chapters of Tanya. ...

(From a letter of the Rebbe, dated 16 Adar, 5712)

Bitterness and Melancholy Stemming From the “Other Side”

Your letter of 25 Iyar just reached me. No doubt you have long since received the booklet and the sichah together with my letter, and at auspicious times I mention your name and your wife’s name at the holy resting place of my revered father-in-law with reference to your needs.

As I wrote you long ago, I have one thing to say: I do not understand your bitterness and melancholy at all. Since1 “even the caretaker of a well is appointed in Heaven,” it is certainly obvious that the rabbi of a Jewish community should be aware of the responsibility that rests upon him. It is even more obvious that if notions such as those [of which you write] bring you to bitterness and melancholy, they certainly stem from “the Other Side”2 — or, to borrow the phrase of my revered father-in-law, “that smart little guy.”3 Accordingly, every time and every moment that you think such thoughts, these thoughts emanate from the chambers of “the Other Side” — and concerning a thought of this kind it is written4 that “as soon as it rises there (i.e., to one’s mind), one thrusts it aside with both hands and averts his mind from it [...], and refuses to accept it.”

Now, this is speaking of every man, for5 “the rank of Beinoni is one that is attainable by every man, and every man should strive after it.” (This is not contradicted by the statement in Tanya6 that the Beinoni “has never committed any transgression,” whereas chapter 14 states that “every person can, at any time or hour, be a Beinoni.” The meaning [of the former statement] is that the Beinoni’s present spiritual state is such that transgressing has no place in his life, neither in the future nor in the past.7 This will suffice for now.)

From all the above, it will be clear that I am not at all comfortable to read in your letter that you are seeking a different position. You should remain in your present post and trust firmly that G‑d will lead you in the path of truth8 and bless your holy work with success. If doubts about this enter your mind, this does not indicate a doubt in your ability, but a weakness in your trust. The remedy for this is to study Shaar HaBitachon in Chovos HaLevavos,9 and, more broadly, to be bound to the Tree of Life, i.e., the study of Chassidus, and to participate frequently in chassidicfarbrengens with genuine chassidic joy — to be happy and to make others happy.

Now, since you have moved into your new apartment, the thing to do would be to organize a chassidic farbrengen there, truly and properly, as in the good old days, when a chassid at a farbrengen would speak [candidly], without hesitating to consider what this one or that one would say, or what his own left side or right side10 would say. A chassid only knew that a chassidic farbrengen — listening to a discourse of Chassidus, a chassidic vort,11 or an anecdote about one of our Rebbeim — lights a man up, and12 “a little light dispels a great deal of darkness.”

Furthermore: Why should one think about darkness? Let’s think more about light — especially now, when we are at the time at which the First Tablets of the law were given.13 And, [interpreting] the phrase14 “engraved (charus) on the Tablets” [on the non-literal level called derush], the Sages taught:15 “Do not read charus (‘engraved’); read cheirus (‘freedom’).”16

May it be G‑d’s will that your new apartment exemplify the adage17 that “he who changes his place changes his fortune” — in a good direction. May your home be a warm home and a happy home, filled with18 “a commandment, [which] is a lamp, and the Torah, [which] is light.” May it be filled with the luminary within the Torah, i.e., the teachings of Chassidus, and the spiritual lifestyle of Chassidus, and the customs of chassidim. And you should hold a chassidic farbrengen there from time to time.

I look forward to hearing glad tidings regarding an improvement in your frame of mind, and to hearing that at long last — even if only as an [unenthused] assumption of responsibility19 — you have undertaken that henceforth you will fulfill the Torah’s command that one should serve G‑d “with joy and with gladness of heart.”20

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. IV, p. 318)

Combating Despondency Through Thinking Positively

I am astounded by the fact that time and again a theme is accentuated, but when it comes to actualizing it — each and every individual tends to think that the point was made regarding someone else; not himself!

The aphorism and directive of our Rebbeim and Nesi’im, “Think positively, and you will see positive results” (the intent of which is that such positive thoughts will actually bring about good results), has been cited in numerous places.

Yet, contrary to this, you concoct entirely opposite types of thoughts, and notwithstanding the fact that we find ourselves in the month of Adar, at which time we are commanded to increase our joy, you wallow in despondency (see Tanya regarding [the inappropriateness of] this matter; [i.e., the state of despondency]).

I conclude with “words of, [i.e., uttered by,] royalty,” [i.e., the Rebbeim, the Nesi’im]: “Think positively, and you will see positive results” — clearly and conspicuously.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XX, p. 195)

Negative Aspects of Sadness, Depression and Despondency

The negative aspects of all forms of sadness, depression, despondency, etc., are explained in many places in Chassidus, beginning with the Tanya.

It is also clear from experience that these attitudes belong to the bag of tricks used by the yetzer hara in order to distract a Jew from serving G‑d. To achieve this end, the yetzer hara sometimes even clothes itself in a mantle of piety.

On the other hand, we have been assured that “He who is determined to purify himself receives Divine help.”21 The road to purity and holiness, however, is one that should be trodden step by step, and by gradual and steady advancement.

(From a letter of the Rebbe, dated 27 Teves, 5721)

Most Definitely Do Not Be Heartbroken

I received your telegram and letter about your safe return, and I was happy that — thank G‑d — your journey went well and upon your return you found everything in order. However, it pained me how evident it was to see from your letter that you are brokenhearted [about the state of your husband’s health as well as your own] — a heartbrokenness that is entirely out of place.

Surely I need not explain at length that the phrase22 “the offering [desirable] to G‑d is a broken spirit” does not refer to being brokenspirited and surely not brokenhearted — something that is detrimental, G‑d forbid, to one’s health and has a deleterious effect on one’s nerves. Moreover, brokenheartedness leads to viewing matters in a much more pessimistic and grim light than the way the matters truly are. ...

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. IV, p. 340)

A “Shot in the Arm” Against Despondency

A hypodermic needle draws blood for the purpose of diagnosis and treatment. However, it is not the needle that draws the blood from the veins. Rather it is the vacuum in the syringe.

The lesson of the value of a vacuum can be extremely relevant to a person who considers himself “vacant” — unworthy — to be successful in his G‑dly service.

An empty vessel can absorb with greater intensity than one that is full. So too can the person who is aware of his own inadequacy be more strongly motivated to study and do positive things.

Similarly, when we find ourselves in a situation where an absence or loss is deeply felt, one need not be despondent. We can rather use the emptiness itself as an impetus for even greater achievement.

(Adapted from a sichah of the Rebbe, Simchas Torah,5738)

Negation of Dejection and Despair

Regarding the content of your letter, a letter filled with dejection and despair:

This [negative attitude] is not at all in keeping with the path formulated by the Baal Shem Tov, his disciples, and his disciples’ disciples, the luminaries of Chassidus, who stressed time and time again the Divine command to “Serve G‑d with joy.”

I have already written to many of Anash, our chassidic brotherhood, and if memory serves me, to you as well, that conducting oneself in this [joyous] manner is an actual law and not just a meritorious manner of conduct (middas Chassidus). Moreover, this is a fundamental and crucial [all-embracing] commandment — not merely a limited individual specific command.

This ruling [of serving G‑d with joy] is stated in the Rambam at the conclusion of Hilchos Lulav; see his [exact] wording there, [where he states:] “It is a great form of service.”

In conjunction with the above, there is also Rambam’s ruling at the conclusion of the third chapter in Hilchos Deos — quoted as well in the Tur, Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim, chapter 231 — [where he states, that when one serves G‑d with joy] “... it thus results in the person constantly serving G‑d ... ‘knowing Him in all your ways’”; [i.e., all the person’s activities become part of his Divine service].

Even if contemplating your situation leads you to wonder as to where there is room for joy in your life, the answer to this [question of what there is to be joyful about] is already offered by the Alter Rebbe in his sacred work of Tanya, [where he describes] the joy of the soul and reasons for this joy, and how, [notwithstanding bodily tribulations,] the body and its bodily affairs cannot impede on this joy — see there.23

May G‑d will it that by return mail you convey to me glad tidings with regard to the above, and also that you are increasing your studies in [Chassidus,] the portion of Torah known as the “Tree of Life,” where life and joy unite with each other until they become wholly integrated and truly one.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XV, p. 232)

Empowered by the Rebbe’s Blessings

In reply to your express letter:

I have already advised — and even warned — you a number of times not to be sad and depressed, [but to be happy and joyful]. I offered you further reasoning [that you be joyful and not sad], by reminding you that my father-in-law, the Rebbe, of blessed memory הכ"מ blessed you many times — and, as the ruling in the Talmud states: “A tzaddik decrees and G‑d fulfills [the tzaddik’s decree].”

Heaven forbid that you should cast even a shadow of a doubt on [the magnitude and power of these blessings,] or that you weaken your sense of faith and trust in G‑d [by placing yourself in a sad and depressed frame of mind. Such behavior] is contrary to the many sayings and aphorisms of our Sages, of blessed memory, who decried such a [self-generated] state [of sadness and depression].

Aside from the above, such behavior also damages the [spiritual] channels [through which the Divine blessings flow from Above. Proof can be adduced from the following] text of the Zohar, Parshas Tetzaveh, p. 184b:

“Behold, the lower world, [i.e., this physical world,] exists in a state of constant readiness to receive [the Divine flow from Above]. It is called a “precious stone.” The upper world will only bestowto the lower world in accordance with [the lower world’s] state and condition.

“If the lower world is in a [positive] state of luster and radiance, it will accordingly receive kindnesses from Above; if it is in a state of gloominess, then it receives ‘severities’ from Above.

“Therefore the verse (Tehillim 100:2) exhorts us: ‘Serve G‑d with joy.’ For man’s joy [in the lower world] draws down for him an even greater and more enhanced measure of joy from Above.”

It is already high time that you begin complying with the above.

With blessings for goodness in all matters, especially a speedy recovery.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. IV, p. 34)

Despondency — A Device of the Evil Inclination

.. You write to me that you find yourself in a state of despondency:

It is patently obvious that your despondent state is a device of, and results from, the machinations of the evil inclination, which seeks to obstruct man from fulfilling his purpose and task in this world — this task being, in the words of the Mishnah:24 “I was created to serve my Master,” a task that can only be accomplished with joy.

This is in keeping with the explanation of the “Great Teacher,” the Rambam, (conclusion of Hilchos Lulav) who expresses this thought in wondrous and astonishing terminology — see his words there and take them to heart.

Having done so, you will then rejoice and exult in true joy, in keeping with the verse: “Know Him in all your ways.” This degree of joy and the means of obtaining it is explained in Tanya, chapter 31 and onward — see there.

This [joyful manner of] service also leads to an increase in one’s physical health, as we verily observe.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XIII, p. 104)

Becoming Aware of Faults
Should Lead to Joy, Not Despondency

In reply to your letter ... in which you write about your general [dejected] state of mind, particularly of late, and you conclude by stating that you are under the impression that you are currently undergoing some form of spiritual decline:

It is important for you to know that such imaginations in general, and particularly when they lead to despondency — as you write in your letter — come from the evil inclination and from the “other side” [of holiness], as explained in Tanya regarding the condition of melancholy (atzvus) and the utter necessity of banishing it.

This is particularly so, since you merited that G‑d saw fit to place you in a resplendent environment, that being “the light of a mitzvah and the luminosity of Torah” — [moreover, in the shining environment] of the “luminary of Torah,” which is the “inner portion of Torah,” [i.e., Chassidus]. Surely then, you should be suffused with great joy at having merited this good fortune.

As to your feelings that you are deficient and flawed in a number of areas:

First of all, as stated above, it is possible that this is merely your imagination. Secondly, even if your opinion is based on fact, [then consider the following]:

It is similar to a person who was unwell and was oblivious to his ill health. Consequently, he did not safeguard himself from things that would be harmful to himand did not engage in things that would heal him, since he was under the impression that he was entirely healthy.

G‑d then made it known to that person that he was unwell. It follows that this [newfound knowledge of his true condition] offers hope that the person will begin occupying himself in matters that will heal him, and [that from now on he will] distance himself from matters that are harmful.

Surely, the fact that the true state of affairs was revealed to this individual, [with the consequent benefit of the person being able to restore himself to good health,] should not lead him to a state of despondency. On the contrary, this knowledge informs the individual and serves as a preparation for his restoration to good health.

Undoubtedly, similar to the overwhelming majority of people, you also possess both elements: To some degree your thoughts about your deficiencies are based on fact, and to some degree they are exaggerated by the “other side.”

To state it more accurately, [the evil inclination] presents the fault in an improper context; [not in the correct area, but] in another area.

(The [evil inclination’s] intent in doing so is twofold:

When the person will make an effort to improve in an area that does not need improvement, it will actually have a negative effect on that area that is not in need of improvement. Moreover, [making an effort in the wrong area] will damage his efforts in improving himself in the area that truly is in need of improvement. This matter is explained at length in many places in Chassidus as well as in books of Mussar.)

In a more general sense: It is known [regarding] the verse, “Serve G‑d with joy,” that when one serves with joy then his service is performed with greater alacrity and is blessed with greater success. And although the person is aware of his [spiritually deficient] spiritual state, the [flawed] state of his animal soul should not inhibit the joy of his Divine soul, as explained in Tanya.25

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. VI, p. 246)

Banishing Sadness Through
Contemplating Love of a Fellow Jew

I am in receipt of your letter...:

Meditating on the theme of ahavas Yisrael will help banish your despondency.

You have surely studied in depth chapter 32 of the sacred work of Tanya as well as Mitzvas Ahavas Yisrael in Sefer HaMitzvos, [i.e., Derech Mitzvosecha,]of the Tzemach Tzedek.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. X, p. 42)

Combating Melancholy and Hopelessness
Through Torah, Prayer and Lovingkindness

In reply to your letter of Motzaei Shabbos Kodesh,[Parshas]Bereishis, in which you write that you feel a sense of melancholy (atzvus) and hopelessness ... :

It is well known that many, many chassidic discourses instruct us to recoil from a state and sense of atzvus, [and also discuss] how such a [negative] state of mind tremendously hinders one’s efforts in combating the evil inclination. Accordingly, one must rid himself of this feeling at the earliest possible opportunity, as it does not stem from [the side of] goodness [and holiness, but from the opposite side].

[The manner of combating atzvus is] similar to combating all other negative manifestations: by increasing one’s efforts in the direction of goodness [and holiness]. Even a small amount of light banishes much darkness, and how much more so when there is a great amount of light.

When you will study our sacred Torah assiduously and diligently, establishing fixed times for Torah study and infusing the Torah in a lasting manner within your soul, then your feelings of hopelessness and even melancholy will cease. For our holy Torah gladdens the heart and soul, as the verse states,26 “G‑d’s commands are upstanding, gladdening the heart.”

This is particularly so when you ponder the concept of individual Divine providence — that G‑d, the Essence of Goodness, watches over each and every individual throughout that person’s daily life, and moreover, watches over every aspect and detail of his life.

On his part, man need only see to it that he stand firmly attached to G‑d and ensure that he is an open vessel [for G‑d’s Divine blessings]. Man does so by following that which was written above, which in general terms consists of strengthening oneself in the three areas of Torah study, prayer, and performing acts of lovingkindness.

May G‑d grant you success in all the above, so that you will be able to convey to me the glad tidings that you are serving G‑d with joy.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. X, p. 33)

Overcoming a Sense of Spiritual Angst,
Hopelessness and Despair

I received your two letters — the first one undated and the second from Adar 22 — in a timely manner; however, the pressure of [my]activities did not enable me to respond until now.

I was very satisfied to read that you are making use of your artistic talent and are preparing an art exhibition, and that the media has given you good reviews.

Regarding the main part of your letter, where you bemoan your situation, feel brokenhearted, from time to time fall into despair, can find no place for yourself and so on, and you would like to meet with me in order to discuss the matter in person:

The meeting of two good friends always has positive value and brings spiritual satisfaction to both parties, but to delay tackling your problem until we are able to meet, and for you to continue meanwhile in the same mood of despair (G‑d forbid) — this cannot be. Whom among us can afford such a thing?

You do not write exactly what leads you to such a frame of mind, which is why it is impossible for me to go into the details of it and demonstrate to you that these details are imagined and that your despondent disposition is merely a result of the enticements of the evil inclination.

By this I mean: Even if this matter, [i.e., the cause of your angst,] does have some basis in reality, the fact that it is being utilized to stir up within you a sense of hopelessness and despair is surely a machination of the evil inclination and lacks basis in reality. My father-in-law, the Rebbe, would label the evil inclination “the cunning one,” since it uses the precise phraseology, [i.e., “it presses the precise button,”] that ensnares that particular person into itsnet.

I must interject here a general observation regarding this matter — doing so based on the maxim of the Baal Shem Tov — oft repeated by my father-in-law, the Rebbe — that every Jew can learn a lesson in his spiritual service through all that he sees and hears.

[In light of the above,] I wish to illuminate your situation in particular:

You surely are aware that the primary skill and gift of an artist and painter lies in his ability to detach himself from the superficial appearance of the image with which he is working. He must be able to penetrate the true essence of the object and transform his impression into a picture with physical dimensions.

This artistic representation reveals to the viewer that which he could not recognize on his own, an essence that was obscured by superficial layers. Only an artist has the skill to reveal the inner dimensions of an object, thus enabling the observer to see it with a different perspective and realize the limitations of his previous awareness.

[So, too, in the analogue,] “In a manner corresponding in every detail to the said figure and image,”27 does this apply in man’s service of his Creator:

We know from Torah in general and from Chassidus in particular that all of Creation derives from G‑d’s Divine Utterances, which constantly create and animate everything. It is merely that G‑d’s power of concealment and contraction obscures these Divine Utterances and we see only the external [manifestation; i.e., we only see the end result, the actual creation, and not the Utterances that are the true and inner aspect of all that exists].

Man’s spiritual service — based on the simple belief that there is “nothing aside from Him” — consists of applying this principle in all areas of our life. Consequently, each of us, according to our abilities, is to reveal to the greatest extent possible the G‑dliness within everything, and minimize as much as possible the concealing and obscuring aspect of the external manifestation [of creation] upon the inner dimension of G‑dliness within it.

The same is true in particular regarding every Jew, all of whom are “Children to the L‑rd your G‑d”28 : Concerning this it is stated in Tanya (ch. 2), that “Just as a child is derived from his father’s brain, so too is the soul of every Jew derived from G‑d’s thought and wisdom” and “He and His wisdom are one.”

This, then, is the true essence and being of each and every Jew, including you as well.

Since G‑d desired that the soul not have to receive its nurture from “bread of shame” (i.e., spiritual sustenance given gratuitously, without having been earned by the recipient), He therefore made it possible for man to serve Him; moreover, to serve Him in a manner that involves toil of body and soul. Through these endeavors one earns all manner of good, including the highest levels of spirituality.

The Alter Rebbe forewarns yet another matter in Tanya (conclusion of ch. 39):

We should not think that there are those who will not accomplish their soul’s mission, which, the Alter Rebbe states, simply cannot be, for “even when one engages in Torah and mitzvos not for its own sake (shelo lishmah), he will certainly arrive at [study and observance] lishmah, ... because “no one banished from Him [by his sins] will remain banished.” 29

We must therefore be vigilant in preventing external matters from obscuring man’s essence and the intent and purpose of his being.

The various difficulties, tests and personal challenges of refining oneself and one’s surroundings (birurim) are all means to the ultimate end — that the soul be able to arrive at its former state of purity prior to its descent into creation, as well as attaining even higher levels.

[The soul can accomplish this specifically here, in this physical world,] for “Better one hour of repentance and good deeds in this world than all the life in the World to Come.”30

Consequently, one should not permit the difficulty of withstanding the tests [that are placed before the individual —] or even if from time to time one has not withstood these tests — from overpowering the joy that one is to feel at being “My son, My firstborn son, Yisrael,”31 and from the assurance that we have from G‑d Himself that “your people are all righteous.”32

Therefore, when a Jew appears — particularly one who heard of the light of Chassidus, and more particularly, one who has himself studied Chassidus, and even more particularly, one who has been refined as a result of personal suffering — and writes that he is, G‑d forbid, in a state of hopelessness and despair, and finds no place for himself, etc., then this is not only contrary to the Jewish belief system, but it is also contrary to rational thinking as well!

G‑d offers His absolute and unqualified assurance that “no one banished from Him will remain banished,” nor does He demand that man perform beyond his capacity (for “G‑d does not make unreasonable demands of His creatures”33 ), rather that he performs according to his abilities.

G‑d then tells the person [that not only does he not have to perform to his capacity, but simply] that it will suffice if he, “Open up for Me [but the space] of the head of a pin, and I shall open up for you [a space as broad as] the opening of the Ulam [in the Holy Temple].”34

All the above is what G‑d says [and assures]. A human being then comes along and says that matters are actually quite different — and thus the resultant feelings of hopelessness, throwing up your hands in despair, and deluding yourself into thinking that your spiritual state is in a relentlessstate of decline!

The question then is: “When the words of the disciples contradict the words of the master, whom do we listen to?”35 [i.e., when G‑d says one thing and you say another, who do you think is correct?]

This is the question you must pose to yourself: You imagine things one way and G‑d says that it is not so — is there any question as to who is correct?

.. When you begin doing that which you should be doing, even though you imagine that all you can begin to do is but [the size of] “the head of a pin,” then G‑d will grant you success and “open up for you [a space as broad as] the opening of the Ulam.”...

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. IV, p. 222)