Rebbe Nachman tells us: it’s a huge mitzvah to be happy! And to be happy all the time!
But then he also tells us: Happiness is also the single hardest thing to achieve in life, and you are going to have to work at it ad 120, to really get there.
Which is why when I sometimes have a sad day or two, I don’t get too freaked out about it.
Honestly, there’s a lot of hardships going on in the world. Barely a day goes by without an email bringing its own tale of nasty disease, horrible divorce, or some other massive personal challenge.
We can’t close our eyes to the suffering that’s going on all around us – to do that turns us into unfeeling robots, and that’s not what God wants. At all.
At the same time, we also can’t let other people’s ‘stuff’ take over too much of our headspace, or take out too much of our joy. Because when we’re down, we get distanced from God, we get discouraged and demoralized, and we don’t tend to do very much to build the world.
Main-lining Youtube videos generally does not build the world!
Moping around in bed, or on the couch, instead of washing up or making the supper generally
does not build the world!
Getting in bad moods about how unfair it all seems, somehow, or how pointless, generally does not build the world!
At the same time – we can’t close our eyes to the suffering all around us. And especially not to the suffering that we ourselves still experience deep down inside.
So then, what’s the answer?
How do we walk this narrowest of bridges?
Honestly? I don’t really know.
But what seem to work for me at the moment is to not run away from the occasional sad feelings that still crop up, and to not ignore them, but also to not give them too much encouragement.
“Ok, Rivka, you want to feel sad that the evil pioneers killed a whole bunch of Native American tribes off in such vile, awful ways? You can! But only for half an hour. Then remind yourself that God is running the world, and snap out of it.”
Ditto, when I saw that poor, abused boy on the bench after he’d been kicked out of the house by his folk. My first inclination was just to feel really, really sad. But after a couple of hours of that, I realized it wasn’t really helping. It wasn’t building the world. It wasn’t putting God in the picture.
All it was doing was making me angry, apathetic and overwhelmed with thoughts of how ‘bad’ the world actually is, and how retarded so many parents appear to be.
So first I snapped out of it, with God’s help. And then, I spent a week seeing if there are any opportunities for me to start volunteering with at-risk teens in Jerusalem, and there might be.
We can’t ignore the darkness, we can’t just wish the evil away – we’re not on that level.
But at the same time, Rebbe Nachman tells us: don’t lose your simcha! Hang on to your happiness! Really, that’s the way out of the gloom, it’s the winch that will hoist you – and everyone else - out of all the yuck, and into the geula.
Following this advice is really not easy, especially as so many people are struggling today.
But one thing I do know for sure, and this is it:
Rebbe Nachman is always right.
NOTICE: The blog is only restarting at this address temporarily.
I will be migrating this blog over to a new site at: rivkalevy.com