Monday, 16 May 2011

naomi's question of the day - #8

"naomi's question of the day" is a new feature of the Nishmablog featuring a question for you to ponder, extend and/or respond to through your comments.


May 16, 2011

We are told to ivdu et Hashem b'simcha but also we are informed to remember daily the destruction of the Temple and that it is more advised to attend a shiva than a wedding -- is there a happiness that requires sadness to be the true happiness with which we are to serve God? How is it understood?


Garnel Ironheart said...

The answer to this question is "Prozac"

Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

The real issue is the meaning of the Hebrew word simcha and how its true meaning relates to the English word happiness. I would venture to say that there is a significant difference. Happiness reflects an external joy; a person is happy with his/her situation. While one's situation includes the person himself/herself, the focus is the external. I am happy in a specific situation.

While it would be incorrect to present simcha as not related to the external, its focus is the internal state of the individual. One is b'simcha if one is content with one's being and one's being in Existence. When we say that one who is alone is without simcha, it is because a person alone is absent a whole part of self, of being, because the other completes the totality of the coupled unit that includes the first self.

Now, of course, the external can play a role in simcha. We do undertake activities to foster the simcha that one should experience on a yom tov, for example. The creation of simcha does not emerge, though, solely from the external but from the external's effect on the self or, more to the point, by the external's highlighting of significant aspects of the self reflecting its true, inner essence. A yom tov is a day that we are to connect to who we truly are -- and that is its mark of simcha.

In this vein, you can see the answer to your questions. Clearly, one can be in a certain state of simcha even in mourning for the former speaks to the internal state of the person while the latter reflects his/her response to the circumstances that surround the person. On a certain plane, when the correct response to the situation is sadness, the very sadness may even reflect the propriety of the self and thus a certain aspect of simcha. Now, of course, simcha in a full sense is somewhat curtailed by the mourning for there is a part of the greater aspect of self that is lost in that which causes mourning -- this is shown in the conflict between simchat yom tov and aveilut. But the basic level of simcha that is expected in our basic approach to God is maintained with this reflection of the self.


Nishma said...

Here is an answer to Naomi's dilemma from a Leading Breslover R Chaim Kramer

I hope this helps

Shalom, RRW


From R. Chaim Kramer


A) see Tannit 30b: "Whoever mourns Jerusalem will merit to see it's joy!" Because one cannot understand joy unless one experiences (and thus understands) mourning.

B) to experience joy even while mourning or suffering one must work on maintaining a level of joy, DESPITE his suffering. Not easy but doable. To remember joy and good even while bereft.