To find a topic for tonightís
show, as usual, I look to Divine Providence in my own life,
different things that happen during the day, or calls and
emails that I get during the week to inspire me with a topic
to discuss rather than coming up with something of my own.
the topic that Iíd like to discuss is ďJoy.Ē And the reason
for it is that we are now in the Hebrew month of Adar on the
Jewish calendar. The month of Adar is considered to be the
happiest month in the Jewish calendar as it contains Purim,
the happiest day of the year. Purim is essentially a day of
joy, which in Hebrew the word is ďsimcha.Ē I was looking around for different
words with which to translate the word ďsimchaĒóexuberance, happiness, gladnessóbut I think joy is the right
of mine asked me the question this past week, ďHow do you
bring joy into your life if youíre not in the mood for it?
Can you just package it? Can you have joy on demand?Ē
of us have many very legitimate reasons for being somewhat
despondent, and when youíre in that state of mind, weíre dealing
with emotions here, how can one elicit joy? I thought it was
a very good topic to discuss, because people often take for
granted the issue of joy. You find people who are very joyous
just naturally and others that seemingly are much more somber
Iíll pose several questions on the air and Iíll address some
of them. Iíd love to hear from all of you out there so I invite
you to call in with your questions and ideas.
joy genetic? If someone is a joyous person, or the antithesis
of being sad, is it genetic or is it acquired? Can you do
something in your life, any methods or exercises, that can
bring joy and happiness into your life?
I said, the antithesis of joy is sadness, and these emotions
are forces in our lives that have a very strong impact. I
believe that some of these emotions are critical in our own
growth and healing process. Thereís the Patch Adams story
of how laughter can aid healing. I think joy is one of those
underused tools that, by learning how to access it, can really
help us in our lives.
of us feel that we are victims of circumstances. If something
in our daily life brings some joy in our lives, great, we
thank G-d for it, but is there something that we can actually
do, that we can actually initiate, that can help us bring
question number one is, is joy genetic? You do find people
who are just naturally joyous, who have a kind of laid-back
attitude where itís just good to be in their presence, and
then there are others who may be very serious, but at the
same time, they always bring us down.
the outset, let me give an overview from a Torah perspective
about what this concept called joy, simcha, is, and whether it is considered
geneticó nature vs. nurture.
can learn a lot by observing children at their quintessential
selves, because before children have been affected by society,
parents, and community, they can sometimes give us a specimen
of what our lives would be like before we were abused or hurt
have natural cheer. They have a natural, enchanted air about
them; some would call it naivete because they havenít yet
tasted of the pains of life, but you can also say that it
does definitely reflect on a certain natural state that we
all have within us.
does a child cease to be consistently cheerful? When a child
first gets disappointed: the first grief or the first loss
or the first disappointment. I would say, to put it in more
cosmic terms, that you experience sadness the first time thereís
some deception, some type of split in a personís life. Sadness
for the loss, sadness for what could have been, sadness for
not getting what you want. But naturally speaking on a cosmic
level, a soul, a spiritual entity or spiritual state, where
youíre in complete touch with who you are and what youíre
supposed to be doing, should be literally a seamless flow
other words, from that perspective, joy is a completely natural
state. Itís not even an expression of a spiritual
type of existence, itís equated with life itself. Like a fish
swimming in its own waters has that type of natural cheer.
living in a world of so much grief and pain, when we see someone
joyous, itís like a novelty for us, an exotic experience.
But for someone who has that flow, that seamlessness, where
there isnít a dichotomy in life of what you want and what
you expect or a deception of different forms, then joy comes
very naturally, and thatís why children are joyous.
their naivete in a sense serves them well because they havenít
yet tasted from what it means to live in a world of deception.
Once they get those disappointments, the joy begins to bottle
up to the point where it becomes so locked up for some, that
it canít even be accessed again.
Itís critical to see joy from this perspective, because if joy is an acquired state, something that you
develop at some point (later) in your life, then a very strong
argument can be made that once youíve lost a reason to be
happy, or youíve suffered grief, thereís no way of reconnecting.
if joy is a natural state of feeling a certain sense of belonging,
a feeling within that you are important and you have a value,
then itís just a question of reclaiming that right, not creating
the argument that Iím submitting to all of you is, that joy
is something that each of us has in our hearts. Even if you
are the saddest person and you havenít smiled in years, you
have a joy, a gladness in your heart, that may in some way
be blocked or sealed away because you may not feel that thereís
any reason to access it, but itís there, and the key is learning
how to dig into those reservoirs and draw from those wells
course Iíll try to discuss some of the methods of how one
does that, but I wanted first to establish a psychological
basis for the concept that joy is within us. Psychology uses
the words today, ďinner child.Ē From a Torah point of view
thatís nothing new. The inner child has always been a reality
and the concept is essentially that the natural cheer, the
natural spirituality, the enchantment and magic of child life
is maintained throughout our lives.
once we mature into adults, the casings and personalities
of our lives harden, and within them lies locked that child,
that cheer, the natural exuberance of childhood. To truly
live a meaningful life, a life of purpose and fulfillment,
we must learn how to bridge the two.
Iím not suggesting that we turn the clocks back and turn into children playing in sandlots, but if we can find some way
of bridging that free abandon, that natural flow of a child
with the seasoning and experience of an adult, then youíve
got yourself a winning package.
would even say that our search for happiness, in different
words, is trying to bridge those two elements.
when we talk about joy in general, and reconnecting with that
child or the joy within, I have to explain why it is that
a soul, or spirit, is naturally upbeat or optimistic. In other
words, what Iím saying is that this optimism, this sense of
belonging is a natural state.
you look around at any kind of particular given situation
and you see when people are happyó take a mundane example,
letís say at workósome people at work are just happy with
their job, theyíre happy. Usually, there are a few ingredients
that contribute to that happiness. Ingredient number one is
that they feel needed. They feel appreciated that theyíre
doing their job, they donít feel negligible, they donít feel
taken advantage of, they feel that they belong, they feel
that their particular talents or strengths are being utilized
and appreciated. Thatís an extremely important ingredient
and Iím speaking here purely on an ostensible level without
even getting to anything deeper than that.
what is the significance of this feeling wanted, of this sense
of belonging? It means that thereís something thatís touching
you that allows you to be yourself. You donít have to accommodate
donít have to tailor your behavior or your actions toward
unnatural or unrealistic expectations.
can come in and do your job, and youíll be appreciated for
that. That sense of belonging, using spiritual terms, is essentially
a sense that G-d put you here for a purpose and you are wanted
and needed. When you have that type of inner security, its
leads to natural joy. Indeed, that inner security is essentially
one and the same with inner joy.
joy doesnít mean that you get up to dance and celebrate at
every moment, but itís just a certain feeling that you are
wanted and needed. And when you have that, you have no reason
to be sad.
we have Allen on the air.
Caller: Hi, good afternoon. I want to share a story on what I finally
learned at age 42 and this works for me to gain control if
I do feel sad over lifeís events. Itís kind of summed up by
saying the older I get, the smarter my father becomes. He
passed away 17 years ago. I just think back to things he taught
me. What I didnít believe at age 21 I now see is so true at
age 42. That makes me smile and it makes me able to go back
into my memory, remember conversations weíve had, and apply
the knowledge today that I wasnít able to apply 21 years ago.
Jacobson: So what do you do if youíre in a real saddened state? Do
you just bring up memories?
Caller: I pick up a couple of books. I look at the situation, and
if I can affect my surroundings and change the situation,
then I devise a plan and go for it. If I canít affect the
situation, like the weather or the traffic, then I tell myself
thereís nothing to worry about because worrying wonít change
Jacobson: Well, Allen, I must give you credit, because thatís exactly
whatís expected of us. However, what do you tell people who
just canít accomplish the same thing that you do?
Caller: Well, I just give them perspective. Iím in medical sales and
when my feet hurt when I wake up in the morning, I have two
choices and I try to pass this along to them. I can either
say, ďOh gosh, my feet hurt, Iím not happy,Ē or I can say,
ďThank the L-rd that I have feet, because how many medical
facilities do I go into where there are patients in nursing
homes with amputated feet.Ē
just try to keep it in perspective and I try to point that
it out to people. Even my daughter, whoís nine years old,
knows that a third of her allowance goes in the tzedakah (charity) box, because no matter
how tough life is for her, she knows a lot of people have
it much worse off.
Jacobson: Well, I commend you for that, and your call is very meaningful
to me because I can affirm what youíre saying, because from
the perspective of looking at the texts, when they discuss
how one accesses joy, the idea of recognizing that Iíve done
everything I can do in a given circumstance, and then letting
go, is a very fundamental one.
Caller: Thereís a saying that I donít like to quote, because I usually
only like to quote sayings I know from my Jewish background,
but in Alcoholics Anonymous, one of their biggest sayings
is ďLet go, let G-d.Ē And you just summed it up. Look at a
situation, if you can change it, attempt to, and if you canít,
accept it and know that itís in a state higher than you can
Jacobson: Well, I appreciate your call Allen. Is there anything else
youíd like to say?
Caller: No. But thank you for listening so attentively and you know,
itís a lot easier to say than to do, but Iíve learned if you
talk about things, your philosophies to people, and you share
them with your family and friends, youíre more likely to integrate
them into your own life.
Jacobson: Exactly Allen, and I hope that your call inspires others
as well, because hearing it from a person whoís there is always
best because itís not just theoretical, but from a real live
person of flesh and blood. So thanks for the call.
like to embellish somewhat on what Allen just said. We
see that joy consists of having a sense of purpose,
coupled with what Allen just said, which is the second ingredientórecognizing
that you do what you can do in certain circumstances, and
after that you have to have what is called in Hebrew, bitachon,
which means trust. You have to let go, not from a vulnerable
place or out of weakness, but recognize that you have exhausted
every option possible. Those of us who continue to obsess
in a situationófeeling that it could have been differentócuts
into a deeper issue of our own insecurity, and thatís why
I go back to my initial point of having a sense of belonging,
a sense of purpose.
canít ignore, of course, when youíre dealing with a topic
like this, that as legitimate as Allenís comments are, there
are many of us who grew up in homes where that sense of self
was seriously abused and oneís self-esteem was eroded.
when I hear people talking about the difficulty of being happy,
when you really cut through the layers, what youíre really
hearing is a sense of foreboding, of expecting things not
when you think about it, why would a soul sent by G-d to earth,
with a very clear mission and a sense of purpose (i.e., this
is what youíre needed for), ever feel that they are hated
or that they canít get it done or that they have no purpose
in this world?
answer is that that child who had natural joy, natural exuberance,
and was ready to take on the world, all that was stamped out,
at least on a conscious level, by parents who either projected
their own insecurities or just projected their own inadequacy,
their own lack of joy, onto this child.
this outer layer doesnít let that person access his own soul
and his own joy.
this is, of course, the most difficult situation, because
what do you do to turn the clock back to return to the innocent child before it was
letís go to Joe, on the air.
Caller: You know, you said to make yourself feel happy you should
take care of your insides. What do you do about the Holocaust?
Jacobson: Well, what do you do?
Caller: I asked you the question. I tell you why I asked. During the
War, I was in France. You know in 1944, the French were ambivalent,
they werenít like the other people. Some were turning the
Jews in and some were hiding them. They hid a bunch of Jews,
and there was a German battalion in the area. We were in the
area and I happened to be investigating, doing ďpoint,Ē and
I heard noises. I thought they were Nazis so I slammed open
the door and I was ready to shoot, and I found about 20 people
the captain said to me, ďLeave them there.Ē
said, ďNo, I have to take them. Give me a break. Let me take
them to the rear.
didnít want to let me take them to the rear. And this bothers
me to this day.
Jacobson: So you did leave them there?
Caller: No. The captain walked away and there was a back road thereóthere
were a lot of roads thereóand I took them about 2-3 miles
away from the front and told them which way to go and they
would find either a Jewish organization or the French underground,
they would find somebody who would save them. I wouldnít leave
them there. I was fighting for America but I certainly wasnít
going to turn my back on Jews.
Jacobson: Well, Joe, youíre a hero.
Caller: Iím not a hero. Any Jewish guy would have done that. And I
think the captain knew I did it. He had to give me orders
to stay because we were in line, we were very close to the
Germans, we were exchanging fire, we were having gunfights.
He had to do what he had to do, and I had to do what I had
you still didnít answer my question.
Jacobson: I appreciate your telling me the details. First of all,
your call brings me joy. Because anyone like you whoís alive
and thank G-d whoís healthy and who behaved in that fashion
as you just described, has to lift our spirits. Because despite
the entire darkness of the Holocaust Ö you know, I remember
once hearing from an atheist who was debating a Holocaust
survivor, and he was saying, ďHow could you still have faith
after the Holocaust?Ē Can you imagine, this guy had the nerveóhe
didnít even live through the Holocaustóand in his own philosophical
mind he was challenging a Holocaust survivor?
the Holocaust survivor turned to him and looked him straight
in the eye and said, ďYou know, Iíll tell you what the Holocaust
taught me. I lost my faith in man and I regained my faith
in G-d. I realized I cannot depend on men and human beings.Ē
what you just described, yes itís true, the Holocaust is a
source of sadness that is a bottomless pit, and as much as
we could talk about it, thereís no way that Iím going to explain
the Holocaust here, and Iím not even interested in justifying
it. Itís a source of deep sadness, not just for Jews but for
the entire human race that allowed such a blemish and allowed
such an atrocity to occuróitís human beings at their worst.
when you hear a story like your own, Joe, and how you behaved,
and Iím sure itís consistent with your life following the
war as well, thatís a source of joy that means that there
is hopeóeven in a jungle, there is hope. I have no other words
to say. The only other thing that I can say about the Holocaust
in general is, we do not understand the mysterious ways of
life and death. I have no answer for the Holocaust, yet we
have two options, as I once heard a person who really suffered
serious trauma (he lost his wife and was left with many little
children), say, ďI could either sink, go under, or dig deeper,
and I decided to dig deeper.Ē So we have two options.
Holocaust can be a source of an unbelievable pain if we dwell
on it. That such a thing could have happened is simply unbelievable.
It canít get worse than that.
to dwell on it in that way is actually bringing upon ourselves
a second Holocaust, creating an unproductive life where weíre
only dwelling upon the negative.Ē
love to be able to share with my children, and share on the
air here, a story like yours, Joe. A story of thousands of
others who came out of the Holocaust with renewed faith and
who rebuilt their lives. Even though the scar will always
remain a prominent oneóparticularly for Jews, but for all
peopleóat the same, itís not a contradiction.
know, Rashi, a commentator on the Torah, says an interesting
thing: you can mourn and grieve, and at the same time, as
time passes, you celebrate. That doesnít mean that you forget
the loss, it just means that thereís a certain resilience,
a certain power, that faith has that allows us to grow, and
in a way, pain and grief can be transformed into a catalyst
we in any way can sanctify the memory of the Holocaust victims,
the way to do it is not to bring upon ourselves a Holocaust
and say, ďLook how terrible life is.Ē If we can, in their
memory and in their spirit, we should be inspired to be a
better people and inspired to never allow such a thing to
ever happen again. To cry out at injustices as they happen
today, as you, Joe, did. To save people who are in situations
of a mini-Holocaust. (There are children living today whose
homes are almost a Holocaust environment.)
that memory inspires us, then what weíve done is transformed
tears and sadness into joy. So joy isnít a type of naÔve,
glassy-eyed blindness to the realities of life. There are
many causes and reasons for being in pain and sadness. At
the same time, thereís a firm belief and faith that thereís
a G-d, and a human being has a soul, and the spirit will rise.
stories like yours, Joe, will inspire us that way. I donít
know if itís a complete answer to your question; however,
itís as much as I can say without getting into the whole discussion
of why a good G-d would allow bad things to happen. So again,
I thank you for your call.
go to Norman. Youíre on the air.
Caller: Good evening. The holiday which is the memorial for the destruction
of the Temple, is that Tisha BíAv?
Jacobson: Yes, itís called Tisha BíAv, which is the ninth day of the
Hebrew month of Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar.
The antithesis of Purim.
Caller: You see, this holiday in which the Jews are supposed to be
sad over a long period, hours and hoursóI feel bad about that
and I donít do that. I think it should be acknowledged, but
I definitely omit myself from this type of activity because
to me itís just dwelling in a morass of negativity and I donít
do it. I thought this might add something; Iím not asking
for your justification.
Jacobson: But you do celebrate the holidays that are joyous?
Caller: More so thanÖ yes. And in addition to that, I find that Iím
evolving into acknowledging and feeling and vibrating to those
holidays. Even though I may not do them now, I learn every
day what vibrates within me and I pick up on that. Even though
I may not do it actively, ever year I do less the sadness
and more the joyous.
Jacobson: Okay, Norman. Thanks for that. My comment would be that
I think the issue is really two sides of one coin. Jewish
philosophy teaches us that there are two types of sadness:
thereís a sadness that is destructiveóa sadness of depression
that is demoralizing and that weakens you.
then thereís a healthy sadness, for example, where you are
sensitive to a loss. Itís not one thatís demoralizing. Or
you regret a mistake youíve made. To be insensitive to that
and just say, ďHey, nothing happened,Ē is a form of denial.
And interestingly, when youíre in touch with healthy emotions,
sadness and joy become very similar in a way. I know people
who are very happy but itís simply because theyíre oblivious
or completely in denial of whatís going on around them.
not the happiness weíre discussing here. Thatís not mature
joy, thatís blindness. Iím not denying that it may be useful
for the time being for certain individuals. Not everyone has
to be exposed to all the traumas of life in order to test
their mettle, but in a way, a person whoís able to be sad
in a healthy way, out of strength, that same person will be
able to be happy in a healthy way.
see the other extreme as well: people who are so self-absorbed
with their own depression, they also canít get out of it.
It has a lot to do with how you see yourself.
often make the point in the classes I give that arrogance
takes on different shapes. Arrogance can take on a shape of
pompousness expressed as ecstatic joy, oblivious of the realities
around you, even when people are in pain around you, but arrogance
can also take on the shape of complete depression.
line, arrogance means: ďI figured out that Iím the only one
who can determine what mood I should be in.Ē So sometimes
I meet someone and I say, ďWhat do you mean you have a low
self-esteem and youíre not valuable? G-d said youíre needed
here on this earth.Ē And the person answers, ďNo, I know better.ÖĒ
Thatís arrogance. Itís just an arrogance that takes on the
shape of complete self-annihilation, self-obliteration.
self-hatred and depression is really just another form of the same
arrogance of a person whoís completely arrogant at the expense
of everyone around him.
an interesting custom in Jewish tradition under the chuppah,
the wedding canopy, to break the glass at the end of the ceremony.
One of the reasons they do this is that itís a reminder of
the destruction of the Temple. So I always wondered, of all
times to choose a reminder of the destruction of the Temple,
itís at the high point in two peopleís lives, their wedding,
the highest simcha,
the highest joy? Couldnít it have been done seemingly at the
end of the wedding,
or on another day? Why at that high point?
the point is this. Those who know how to remember othersí
pain at the height of their joy will also know how to remember
to have joy at their height of pain. Itís people who live
in extremes, who cannot find balance, where their joy is complete
and they donít have that one percent opening that there may
be people out there who are not married, or who are unable
to, or who have difficulties in relationships, or people in
pain in some other way.
you remember those people, or youíre just sensitive because
youíre not so consumed with your own feelings, no matter how
justified they are (a marriage is a marriage), but you leave
that little opening, then one day, if G-d forbid you should
be challenged where youíre faced with a trauma or some loss,
it also wonít be all consuming. Youíll have that one percent
opening of joy and happiness. And I think thatís the balance.
So Norman, I canít tell you how to live your life, but I could
say to you that itís important to know that thereís a time
to cry and a time to celebrate, as King Solomon writes in
Ecclesiastes. But I thank you for your call.
Iíd like to take a break to invite you to my Wednesday night
class in New York City, at 8pm every Wednesday night at 346
W. 89th St., corner of Riverside Drive. All are
welcome no matter what background or what gender, no matter
what affiliation or non-affiliation. And just as this show
has been coined ďA Show for Skeptics and Seekers,Ē so too
is the class.
been talking about joy, a human emotion that is sorely needed.
We see how productive we are when we are happy people, and
we see how unproductive we are when we are saddened.
have Rikki on the line.
Caller: I have a question about Purim. You say itís a joyous holiday,
but thereís something about it that makes me a little uncomfortable.
When Iím in the synagogue, at the mention of Hamanís name,
everyone starts yelling and screaming. I understand that originally
it was intended to obliterate the name, but it seems to me
more and more that it is a hateful expressionósomething that
seems incongruous with Jewish thought because I donít think
that Judaism is about summoning up those kind of feelings.
I would always think that Judaism tries to promote love. Could
you explain that a little more?
Jacobson: Good question, Rikki. Just for those listeners who may not
understand what Rikki is referring to, traditionally on Purim
day, which is the 14th day of Adar, the Megillah
scroll (of the story of Purim, the story of Haman and the
plot against the Jews, and how they were saved by Mordechai
and Esther), is read publicly in the synagogue, both on Purim
evening and Purim day. The tradition goes that when Hamanís
name is mentioned in the reading, some people stomp their
feet, some people shoot off little ďshotgunsĒ (I donít think
thereís any TNT or any major fireworks going on) but a lot
of noise and racket goes on in the synagogue.
Rikkiís asking, which is a very legitimate question, is that
itís slowly taken on its own culture, a life of its own, which
seemingly is not the emphasis in Judaism. But the tradition
begins, simply on the mildest level, with the awareness in
the context of what I said earlier: Even when weíre celebrating
on Purim, where we have very good reason to celebrate, (and
letís speak on a psychological level, when a person is happy
with their lives and they find many reasons to be joyous),
you still have to remember that there was a Hitler out there,
and in the time of Purim, Haman was no different from a Hitler.
There are people who are either cruel or wicked, and they
continuously hurt people. So the awareness of that, even when
youíre at the height of joy, is one of the most beautiful
elements of Judaism: that itís never unrealistic joy, itís
never an escape.
long as this world is imperfect, we still remember those in
pain. And one of the ways we remember is that when Hamanís
name is mentioned, we stomp with our foot, which essentially
is a symbol of remembering that there
are still people out there who are that way and we
have to eradicate evil.
in Judaism the concept of evil is looked at that the sin should
be erased but not the sinners. So even in the worst scenario,
when weíre talking about evil, weíre not talking about the
destruction of an individual unless that individual has become
completely corrupt, like a Hitler, or like a Stalin, or others
in history, where simply their existence is a threat to others.
I do agree that when negativity is overdone to excess,
it almost becomes a spectacle of its own. But if you think
about the original tradition, it has beauty to it, that thereís
the height of celebration on Purim for the victory against
the enemies of the Jews, yet we still remember that
there is a Haman and we have to protect those who are vulnerable
and can be hurt.
interestingly, when the Jews came out of Egypt (the Egyptians
had oppressed the Jewish people for many years, and they were
enslaved by them, and after the Jews left Egypt, the Egyptians
still didnít give up but pursued the Jews), and the Egyptians
were drowning in the parted sea and the Jews began singing
praise to G-d, the Talmud says that G-d said to the Jewish
people, ďMy children are drowning and youíre singing praise?Ē
And remember, weíre dealing here with Egyptians, who were
the equivalent of Nazis at that time. They had enslaved the
Jewish people for 210 years and wouldnít give up. They wouldnít
let them go. And they deserved to be killed; G-d had killed
them. Yet we always need to be sensitive.
even when weíre stomping on a Haman, weíre not talking about
some type of vengeance, itís more of a sensitivity that thereís
evil in this world. At the same time, itís not gloating but
a form of recognition and a sensitivity to be joyous when
you need to be joyous, and saddened by that which saddens
weíll go to AJ.
Caller: Good evening. I like your program. Youíre very articulate
and very interesting to listen to. I think a sense of hatred
and guilt and also sometimes the guilt is conscious or subconscious,
I think that as a strong way of pushing out joy, that people
really canít get joyous once they pick up this entrenchment
of sorts, which is a killer of joy.
instance, I donít think that Hitler and these guys were really
joyful, except for maybe a temporary period when he took Paris
or something, but throughout their lives, I think it was just
eating away at themselves with a concern about what they didnít
do or what they did do, or how they hadnít accomplished as
much as they wanted, and they really were not all that pleasant
to be around.
joy was very temporary and their hate and guilt ate away at
them. And sometimes itís even subconscious.
by the way, for people in the Catholic church, the Saintís
Day is relevant to the day they die, not their birthday. And
they feel that as they die they may go to heaven, or will
go, and itís a joyful day in a sense that they are delivered
from this life to a perpetual joy in the next. Thatís it.
Jacobson: Thank you for your comments, AJ. I totally agree with you,
AJ, that the worst thing that a person can do when theyíve
been hurt and have legitimate grievances (as I was referring
earlier to bringing on your own personal Holocaust in your
life), is to perpetuate it by becoming hating or hateful,
because then you become a greater victim of the person whoís
hurt you, the perpetrator.
a way, our own pride should say to ourselves, ďYes, that person
has wronged me, but I donít want to remain their victim by
continuing to carry that type of demoralizing hatred or sadness
around with me. That doesnít mean Ďturning the other cheek.í
It means an awareness that something wrong was done, that
there was a wrong perpetrated, but I will convert my motivation
into something extremely positive that eradicates the evil
to bringing more light into the world.Ē
for those who are in danger and in the line of fire a person
has to do everything possible to protect himself, but what
a person should do is not to run from a burning building,
rather build new
buildings and new structures in which to live.
thatís why I am filled with admiration for people who came
out of the Holocaust or for that matter any trauma, and have
built and rebuilt and have not been brought down and demoralized.
wonder, what is the anatomy? Why are some people so consumed
and so overwhelmed by real tragedies, and others have an inner
joy or an inner reservoir, an arsenal to call upon? Victor
Frankel said it when he writes about the Holocaust in his
book Man in Search
of Meaning, that a human being who finds prior to the
tragedy that he or she has a real purpose in being alive,
then no matter what happens in their lives itís like roots
of a tree. The storm may strike, branches may be broken off,
leaves may be blown away, but the tree remains standing because
itís firmly planted, firmly rooted, firmly grounded, and it
has a sense of belonging that I was referring to earlier.
a sense that G-d put you here on this earth and no human
being can take that away from you. And no human being gives
that to you. Your parents donít give you your reason for being,
your justification for existence. What gives it to you is
an inherent sense of purpose, an inner sense that ďyou matterĒ
because G-d put you here.
since no human being gave it to you, no human being can take
it away from you. People can hurt us and people can take away
opportunities from us, but they cannot take away our inherent
value, which is the real reason why we should celebrate life,
that we are here.
Jewish tradition thereís a prayer thatís said every morning
ďModeh Ani,Ē ďI acknowledge G-d for returning
my soul to me.Ē Itís essentially saying that the greatest
reason for celebration is that I am here, I belong, and that
no person can ever take that away from me, because I have
I do want to make a suggestion or two of how to access that
part of you, but letís go to Bob in New York.
Caller: Yes, Iíd like to contribute another aspect of joy that I believe
that is accurate, that when people had rescued Jews, which
is voluntary of course, they had a pure feeling of joy toward
G-d on a high level. And I believe that if I were a rescuer,
that would drive me also if I was feeling that high. Not everybody
feeling that close to G-d would do it, but it has to be from
†I want to add another pointÖ I heard criticism when I was a grade
school student that some of the Germans didnít help the Jews
when they knew what was happening. Well, on the reverse side,
how could you help somebody when the Germans had all the armaments
and the machines and the equipment? This is the normal fear
of a human being. But the gentiles and others who rescued
Jews, in my opinion, were close to G-d and had joy for G-d.
Jacobson: I appreciate that. I hope, Bob, you have some of that joy
yourself, but you shouldnít have to use it to save people
who are in danger. We should be able to use our joy in situations
that are healthy. Unfortunately was see that the strength
of human beings is mostly expressed only in darkest times, like they say,
it takes the eclipse of the sun to see the power of sunlight.
Sometimes in the darkest of times (and I see from the calls
coming in this evening) you see the greatest joy and the power
we were all joyous people and there was no reason to be sad,
we would never appreciate what joy is all about. But because
we live in a world that is cruel and a world in which people
have been hurt, children particularly, joy is that powerful,
elusive goal that so many of us aspire to.
go to Steve on the line.
Caller: Hello Rabbi. I was thinking that one way to draw on the joy
that is found in the wellsprings of the heart, as you say,
comes from a teaching of Rabbi Nachman who says that when
thereís nothing in the world to smile about, the thing you
should do is smile, and G-d gives you everything to smile
Jacobson: Well said. I like that. And as a matter of fact, thatís
a good segue, Steve, because I was going to address that one
of the traditions on Purim, for instance, one of the exercises,
is to join a festive meal. And I always wondered, if youíre
not in a happy mood, who wants to go to a party? So it becomes
a Catch-22 situation. How do you force yourself to go to a
party when youíre not joyous?
the same time you do see that when youíre with others who
are happy, thereís a contagious element to joy. It may be
distracting and it may not necessarily have a profound effect,
but Iím a firm believer that behavioral change, sometimes
acting a certain way, definitely can affect you in a way where
you begin to assume that personality.
if we werenít joyous at the heart of it all, if we werenít
inherently joyous people and the inner child was not a joyous
one, then you could say that itís a superimposed state to
just party. But if we really believe that deep in our reservoirs
there is joy, then the question is, how do we unclog the pipes
to get there?
with unclogged pipes, just to use that analogy, we usually
do two things. If you can get to the root of it, from the
bottom, then you unclog it from the bottom, but if you canít
reach it from the bottom, then you go to the top and you try
to unclog whatever is blocking itólike Roto-Rooter.
to access in a personís soul those reservoirs of strengths,
sometimes you need that behavioral change, you have to go
to a party, you have to participate. And if you have a friend
who is sad and doesnít want to go (I mean obviously you donít
have to force anyone), you do everything possible, because
sometimes a person needs a type of shock treatment to just
shake up the clogs in our arteries. When you begin unclogging
it from one end, sometimes it dislodges it and something can
flow from within, in other words, from the reservoirs of joy
on a practical level, one of the suggestions that the Torah
does give for a person who just canít pull themselves out
of their own despondent state, is not to sit and dwell on
it. Go find yourself someone whoís happy. The fact is that
in the presence of someone whoís naturally joyous and happy,
it always has an effect on us. It may not change you overnight
and it may not have a dramatic impact, but being in that type
of presence does have a certain warming effect and, letís
put it this way, you have nothing to lose.
the other hand, hanging around with people like yourself when
youíre despondent doesnít usually help, because what happens
is despondency and demoralization breeds demoralization. It
all comes down to that you have to have belief and faith that
there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Of course there
are situations in life where weíre so overwhelmed that we
canít see anything. Thatís why we have to prepare in the years
of plenty for those years of famine. In the times that we
do have an opening, and everyone has a moment in their lives
where thereís a little opening, where they feel a little joy,
they have to grab that moment, and get themselves some friends
and say to them, listen, when I go under and I canít see the
difference, and Iím in such darkness that I donít want to
hear anything, remember to shlep me to some party. And thatís a window of opportunity that we have to use that allows us
this and particularly in months that are opportune
times in the Hebrew calendar, because time has an energy that
allows us an opportunity that we have to access. Perhaps the
clogs are a little less clogged up in these months.
thank you for your call, Steve.
no question that thatís one of the things that none of us
would reject if someone came to us and said, ďI have a gift
for you called joy.Ē Because when a person is optimistic and
happy with themselves, theyíre more productive. You can accomplish
more in one hour in a happy state than a person who has ten
hours and is in a saddened state, because when youíre happy
your faculties are sharper and youíre more in tune.
the way, a topic like this cannot possibly be exhausted in
such a short time, so we want to invite all of you to share
your thoughts and questions and we will post them on our website.
You can reach us at email@example.com
or www. meaningfullife.com and we welcome all comments and
questions, from skeptics to seekers.
go to Larry.
Caller: Hi Rabbi. I have one quick thought that I want to share with
you and your listeners. My wife and I find a good way to create
happiness in our lives is simply by celebrating a few simple
elements of Shabbat. On Friday night especially, we light
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