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Tuesday, February 27, 2024 - 18 Adar I 5784
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Pure Joy

To experience true, unbridled joy, untempered by any tinge of sadness, is no simple matter, not just for those who suffer from depression but for ordinary people as well. Pure joy must be felt in the depths of the heart – and under ordinary circumstances, our feelings do not reach that deeply.

True joy is not the same as the thrill or excitement that we get from engaging in one fun activity or another. The biggest proof of this is how we feel after the activity ends. The excitement quickly dissipates, demonstrating that the excitement was only superficial. True joy is an ongoing feeling, a spirit that pervades our lives and doesn’t easily fade.


This Shabbat is the 18th of Elul, a day on which two luminaries were born: Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement, in 5558 (1698), and Rabbi Schneur Zalmen of Liadi, founder of the Chabad Chassidic movement, in 5505 (1745). One of the central pillars of Chassidic teaching is simchah, or joy. Chassidut emphasizes the importance of serving G-d with enthusiasm, and teaches us techniques for achieving this joy, so that it flows from the essence of the heart.

For example, Chassidut teaches us that our soul is “an actual part of G-d above.” We have an inexhaustible supply of inner strength and fortitude, because of that actual part of G-d that dwells within us. With this strength we can achieve far more than angels.

However, we must do some serious work on ourselves in order to access and reveal our inner potential. The evil inclination makes every effort to block us from achieving our goals. It tries to persuade us to substitute true spiritual satisfaction with fleeting physical pleasures, instead of undergoing the grueling work of refining our nature.

It takes wisdom not to follow the external diversions and instead to invest all our effort in attaining the ultimate spiritual wealth. Even if we cannot access it immediately, it is ours and awaits us; it can never be taken away. Once we reach it, this joy will sustain us despite our external circumstances.


True joy is connected with the ultimate Redemption. Then we will reach the fullest manifestation of joy, as the verse in Psalms states, “Then our mouths will be filled with laughter and our tongues with joy.” The soul will be able to express itself and that joy will spill over and permeate every aspect of life. Now, in the final moments of exile, it is time for us to experience a foretaste of that joy – to rejoice over our good fortune that we will live to see the fulfillment of the prophecies for which our ancestors yearned for generations. “Rejoice and be happy with the joy of Redemption – behold, Moshiach is coming.”


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