Dvar Torah for Purim


Based on Likutey MoHaran II, Lesson 23; Likutey Halakhot, Hilkhot P'ru u'Rvu, Halakha 3

Just about any person who has heard of Rebbe Nachman knows of the Rebbe's maxim: It's a great mitzvah to be upbeat - always! (Likutey MoHaran II, Lesson 24)

Just about any person who has heard of Rebbe Nachman also knows that it is often darn hard to live by the aforementioned maxim! But what if one does?

When God is smiling on you and everything is going your way, there's no problem being upbeat. Under ordinary, everyday conditions it is possible to be happy, despite those little ups-and-downs (also called children), frustrations and annoyances that sometimes make us forget that life is pretty good. What happens, though, when life looks dark, menacing and inescapable? That, Rebbe Nachman says, is when one must reach deep within to be upbeat. One has to find the strength and intuition to make all that is mean and bleak and frightening reasons for being cheerful and optimistic.

A word of explanation is in order. Rebbe Nachman was realistic. He never encouraged people to ignore the reality of their situation. Nor did he ever say that putting on a happy face would cure a sick child, or remove the pain of an irreplaceable loss. While it would be nice if such were the case, at present it is just not so.

Another point must be noted. Rebbe Nachman states quite clearly that this world was never meant for the sake of being enjoyed (Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom #308). He says that one must bear up stoically to the travails of this worldly life. Enjoy properly, and in measure, the kosher delights of this world. But don't let their absence undermine the cheer with which you ought to view life.

Now, then, what happens when life looks dark, menacing and inescapable? If one is to accept the travails of this world stoically, what should give him cause to be upbeat? Those very travails themselves, because the level of simcha (cheer, happiness) that we have to strive for is not merely the level of putting our troubles aside and rejoicing with the good in life, but the level of transforming our difficulties into causes of celebration! The Rebbe gives an analogy. People are having a good time and dancing. Along comes a person who is morose and dejected. They grab him into the dance and they force him - despite his protests! - to be happy. Rebbe Nachman says that one should work actively at converting his sullenness into joy.

One way to do this is by considering what this world was created for, and how much you've been privileged to contribute towards that purpose. "How can it be that someone like me, an ex-perpetrator of (fill in your former vices), should be allowed to (fill in any mitzvah)?! How can it be that someone who has all these obstacles to face can still be allowed a moment's grace and peace of mind to (fill in any mitzvah)?!"

When the Jews were threatened by Haman's plan (Esther 3:13) they thought they were doomed. They let go all of their worldly concerns and invested their energies in prayer and Torah study (ibid. 4:16-17; Esther Rabbah 9:4, 10:4, Megillah 16a). When they learned that Esther was inviting Haman to a private cocktail party (Esther 5:5) they saw no earthly reason for hope and re-doubled their efforts (which was Queen Esther's intention; Targum Sheini). When the tables were turned and the Jews were saved, they did not take the physical spoils of their victory. They left the things of this world for Achashverosh (Esther 9:15). On the other hand, "The Jews had light, happiness, joy and honor - they felt the beauty of the mitzvot of Torah study, the Three Festivals, *brit milah* (circumcision) and tefillin" (ibid. 8:16; Megillah 16b).

Reb Noson relates the idea of transforming depression into joy to the institution of marriage. When a Jewish man and woman begin married life, they are embarking on a long, long journey. As individuals, as a couple, as parents and as members of the larger community, they will travel through dry stretches of broken road, as well as through deserts and jungles. In each case they must make music - they must look for the good points: in themselves, each other, the children and others (even in-laws!). This is one of the reasons music is played at a *chatunah* (wedding): to give the newlyweds the strength and intuition to judge favorably. When they do so, they change the entire landscape of their environment for the better. (See Isaiah 35 [it's only 10 verses!]. Rebbe Nachman refers to this chapter as the archetype of transforming depression into joy.)

agutn Shabbos!
Shabbat Shalom!