Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

13 Elul 5759 - August 25, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Serve Hashem With Joy
by L. Jungerman

"And instead of your not having served Hashem your G-d with joy and with goodness of heart from plenty . . . "

Lack of joy in serving Hashem, says the Chofetz Chaim, is not only wrong in and of itself, but it is also a disturbing symptom of a certain internal paralysis, an atrophy of sensation. One who is of sound soul, psyche and emotions, and whose senses are operating properly, should be in a state of joy when serving Him!

"We have lost sensation, the sensitivity that is inherent in our nature," he writes in Shem Olom. The natural instinct is for our emotions to burst forth in joy at every opportunity to perform a mitzva. "For when a person is privileged to speak with the king, and realizes that the king is satisfied with him and even orders that his clever sayings be duly recorded, he is so filled with joy as to reach the bursting point. When he arrives home, he can no longer contain himself and exuberantly tells all of his acquaintances and friends how pleased the king was with him. And even if he had been beset by domestic worries, he forgets them all from sheer joy."

Let us examine this idea further: when a person performs any positive commandment in the Torah, he recites a blessing over it and says, "Boruch Ato Hashem . . . ," addressing Hashem in the second person, like someone talking to a friend.

When he studies Torah, Hashem's Presence is with him, as it is written, "Every place where I shall have My name mentioned, there shall I come to bless you." And the fact that he was privileged to serve before the King of kings shall remain to the person's credit and glory in the World to Come.

What a great cause for joy is this while he is in the process of carrying out that mitzva, and afterwards, too, especially when he remembers that he is nothing but a lump of earth -- and he has merited to speak with the G-d of heaven, like one of the celestial hosts. His eyes should verily flow with tears of joy; he should submit himself wholly to keeping the word of Hashem with his whole body and soul just from the sheer thought of being worthy of doing so.

"Tell me, brothers," concludes the Chofetz Chaim with an incisive question. "Have you contemplated upon this idea at least once a week, once a month, or at least once a year? Have you then felt such overwhelming joy and fulfillment in keeping the mitzvos as was attributed to the man in the above example?"


The fact that stands out in the margin of those devastating curses described in the Tochocho, when we cannot help but ask ourselves what aroused this tremendous heavenly wrath, is that a finger is not pointed accusingly at this sin or that one, but at the general fact that we did not serve Hashem in joy. This particular omission indicates that the sin is not incidental but very integral, and that it constitutes a complete contradiction to everything.

Even with interpersonal relations, the lack of consistent and persistent appreciation is much more insulting than a single outburst of anger, because it is indicative that it is an underlying factor. Any unusual outburst, any isolated sinful event, is a failing. And even if this sin repeats itself, it can be regarded as a chain of failings, and there is still leeway for judging favorably and continuing on in normal fashion. But if the attitude is a general one of abuse, lack of appreciation, coldness, aloofness, superciliousness, then the insult compounds the injury and it becomes irreversible. It precludes any trust and denies all possibility of forgiveness. The injured party feels himself negated. For if I am alive, relate to me, react, take note.

How can it be, asks the Chofetz Chaim, that one has a daily rendezvous with the King of kings, and addresses Him in the familiar second person, and still retains his composure? How can one discharge the personal requests of the King without dissolving into emotional tears of joy at the great privilege?

The answer can only be one of two possibilities: Either the person is addled, witless, with reflexes that are underdeveloped, and devoid of all sentiment -- like a person who does not experience emotions and even at a wedding appears totally apathetic and unaffected by what is going on around him, and upon returning home is asked what he saw and felt, admits nonchalantly that he felt nothing. Such a person is very ill and requires serious help.

The second scenario is even more severe. There is a possibility that everything is in order, but that the person reserves his exuberant reactions for events that he feels warrant their expression. When the scene is one of excitement, he becomes excited. When it is joyful, he reacts accordingly. But when it comes to avodas Hashem -- that, he feels, does not warrant any particular emotion. Oh, that is mere routine, boring and even, perhaps, bothersome and demanding.

Alas for such misguided people! They are the worst off. Their dismissing attitude, their lack of appreciation is the worst sin. "Instead of having served Hashem your G-d with joy."


We sometimes meet up with people of pure heart who, upon performing some mitzva, are truly filled with gladness. Their souls burst forth in song when they pray, and when they study Torah, they become inflamed with fervor. Being in their proximity is like visiting a synagogue for the first time in one's life on Kol Nidrei night. The emotion is palpable, though you cannot identify the feeling.

The arrival hall at the airport is packed with people waiting to be reunited with family and friends. Everyone is poised, excited. Emotions are mounting ever higher, awaiting release. Every once in a while, a person identifies the one he is awaiting and rushes forward to greet him. And then emotions let loose, they overflow their bounds, while the others are still in the waiting stage, poised, coiled and tense, suppressing their emotions until the time comes to give vent to them.

Each one and the one who is dear to him.

One in whom the soul is well preserved in its pure state, and whose emotions wax at the time of rendezvous with prayer or Torah study or the performance of a particular mitzva - - is exhibiting a sensation from a different sphere, a higher plane, a reunion with something from the soul's point of origin. Something binds the soul with that experience; there is a strong affinity, an attraction between them, a common bond. And when they meet and converge, "my soul longs and also swoons . . . "

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