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Whistle While You Work
Two enemies face each other on the battlefield. One hums a merry tune as he takes a few practice sweeps with his sword. The other is clearly down, barely placing one foot before the other as he approaches the first combatant. Who will win? One does not need to know the record or the weight of each participant. The one whose spirit is high will carry the day.

What is true in battle is true in sport and is true in our spiritual lives as well. One of the major teachings of the Chasidic tradition is joy. Based on the biblical verse "Since you did not serve the L-rd your G-d with joy and gladness of heart... you shall serve your enemies," it is explained that depression and sadness are the root of all evil.

Often "serving G-d with joy" is merely a question of counting our blessings, of acknowledging the benevolence of our Creator in providing for all His creations. Other times, however, happiness does not come easily. The secret to joy, when things are not going so well, is faith. Faith means the conviction that "the source of all good can only do good," that everything which happens is part of a Divine plan.

The Talmud describes several personalities throughout history who saw the good in everything. Rabbi Akiva, for example, saw a fox run across the Temple Mount after the destruction and laughed while his companions cried. He was able to comfort the other sages by explaining that once the prophecy of destruction had been completely fulfilled, the prophecy of the rebuilding of the third Temple would certainly also come to pass.

A famous Chasidic adage is "Think good and it will be good." Far from a guidebook for ostriches on how to bury their heads in the sand. This phrase exemplifies the belief that a trusting and positive approach actually creates a brighter future.

A doctor tells the family of a patient, "only two months left." If the family (and the patient) believe, hope and pray that things will get better, they can actually add years to their loved one's life.

Not only in the specifics of one individual's life, but in the life span of the world itself, this forward looking and optimistic sense prevails. Judaism teaches that in the end all will be well. Death and evil will be eliminated, war, jealousy, and hatred will cease, and the knowledge of G-d will fill the entire world. Ironically enough, one of the major pointers to the closeness of redemption is the fulfillment of the depressing descriptions of the pre-Messianic times in the end of the Talmudic tractate Sota. Even more remarkably, there is a wealth of references in Midrash to a return to Israel by the Jews before the coming of Moshiach, followed by an attempt by Jews to return Israel to non-Jewish hands.

However, rather than evoking apprehension as to what the immediate future might bring, our knowledge should inspire joy. After all, our joy is an expression of our faith. Our excitement demonstrates that Moshiach is more than a vague abstract idea for some time in the distant future. Rather, we are demonstrating that we see the coming of Moshiach as an immediate and long-awaited reality.

Many sources teach us that the last requirement for the redemption is faith in the redemption itself.

Knowing that, in the Rebbe's words, we are the last generation of exile and the first generation of the redemption, should certainly lift us to great joy. But more so, the faith that this joy represents will make that reality even closer.

 

 


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