"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
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
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
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
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
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
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 . . . "