Thursday, September 12, 2013

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“And You Shall Rejoice Before Hashem” [i]

by Reb Gutman Locks

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The rejoicing commanded here refers to taking the luluv (four species that we wave on Succos) but there are many other places that also teach us about the joy of G-d. Here are just a few of them:

“Serve G-d with joy, come before Him with song”[ii]

“Serve G-d with fear and rejoice in trembling”[iii]

“Be joyous in Hashem, and rejoice righteous ones, and sing out all those who are upright of heart.”[iv]

“Prayer should be exceedingly great joy as a servant serving his master out of great joy.”[v]

“The Divine Presence does not rest on a person through sadness nor thorough laughing or lightheadedness or conversation or idle talk only thorough joy of a mitzvah.”[vi]

     But, in all honesty, it seems that even though we are commanded in so many places to experience spiritual joy, for an awful lot of religious Jews, this joy is not such a simple thing to attain. In fact, they do not even seem to care about the subject!

     How can this be? These same Jews would be willing to give up their very lives if (G-d forbid) they were required to, in order to prevent the desecration of Hashem’s name. Then, how is it that they are not even aware of, let alone concerned with, spiritual joy on a daily bases while serving Hashem? Sadly, the majority of religious Jews do not even seem to be happy!

     My guess is that this lack of joy has come about because the Torah’s spiritual perspective has been buried. Why has it been buried? Maybe it was buried on purpose, because the rabbis were afraid that the spiritual Torah would lead Jews away from the physical Torah. It could be that they might run off into the woods to meditate on G-d’s Presence all day? Or, maybe it has been lost because the spiritual is just so very hard to grasp. In fact, it cannot be grasped at all. It is too subtle. It has to been leaned on, looked towards, breathed in, but it is not like a pair of tefillin that you can pick up and hold in your hand.

     Attaining spiritual elevation can seem to be a little like trying to pick yourself off the ground by pulling on your socks. But still, even though it is hidden, it is the essence of life. It is G-d’s very Presence that fills and surrounds all. And it is our job is to reveal It.

     This revelation does not come automatically as do the physical benefits of a mitzvah. Doing the physical mitzvahs, even with only physical intentions will still bring many rewards into your life. For instance, you will have a Jewish family. There will be Jewish education. Most likely your children will marry Jews….     But for spiritual awareness to come there must be spiritual seeking.

     The soul cannot come without the body, not in this world, and the body cannot come without the soul, not in any world. But the physical is evident, and the spiritual is not. Because of this, the vast majority of living beings live out their years entirely in the physical world, i.e. with only physical awareness.

     What can we do to prevent such an astonishing loss in our lives? Oh, would it be so easy, that the answer could just be given over and the instructions followed. Number one; the spiritual perspective has to be sought, over, above, and within the physical mitzvah.

     When doing a mitzvah look for the spiritual reason we are commanded to do that physical act. What happens physically is a sign or reflection of what is happening spiritually. For instance, lighting a candle for a mitzvah removes both physical and spiritual darkness. Giving charity removes physical hunger, and spiritual hunger, as generosity spreads out in the spiritual world. See how this eases earthly judgments. Now, we can see that the joy of giving is a greater joy than the joy of receiving.

    The joy of removing darkness comes when we see that not only does the physical light from our mitzvah candles prevent people from stumbling physically, but that the spiritual light from those candles helps people not to stumble spiritually. As we increase the physical mitzvah light in the physical world, the spiritual world pours out more spiritual light into the lower world making it easier for the world to recognize the goodness of the mitzvahs.

     You have to look for it, or you will not even see the light that your own mitzvahs are making. The more you look for it, the more you will see, and the more you see, the more will the spiritual perspective fill your daily awareness, and the more spiritually happy you will become. Then, you will begin to dream of actually seeing the One who is hiding so well.


[i] Leviticus 23:40

[ii]Psalms 100:2

[iii] Psalms 2:11

[iv] Psalms 32:11

[v] Ari - Shaar Hakavanot

[vi] Rambam

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