The Jewish Spirit Journal
A Journal of Jewish Mysticism and Spirituality
Vol. 1, No. 6 January 2003


1. The World is Waves of Joy

The Torah says that "strength and gladness are in His place." The Talmud teaches that God is the Place of the world. The Baal Shem Tov said: The world is a part of God, like a snail whose shell-garment is part of its very self. God is absolute joy and since the world emanates from God, the world too is nothing but waves of bliss and joy. Everything that happens in the world, everything that happens to us, is a source of joy, if we only tune in to the deeper divine reality. All our temporary pleasures and pains are ripples on the ocean of infinite joy. If we only have the faith to believe.

2. Not to Be Happy Over Revealed Good

The Rabbis teach that one is supposed to thank and bless God for the bad as well as the good. Someone who attains this exalted spiritual level lives in the Garden of Eden, the world of divine delight where everything is good. But it is essential to understand that the divine good is different from worldly good. The divine good includes even what seems to be bad. When one experiences bad, a pious person prays, "God, let me tune in to the deeper reality. Let me realize that this too is good." Pious people understand this, although it is not always easy to fulfill and manifest it. But what is less commonly understood is that a truly pious person also rejects any satisfaction and delight in worldy benefits and in worldly good. When something good happens to a pious person, he prays, "God, I don't want to be happy over the external good. I want the inner joy and bliss that rests underneath both good and 'bad'!" If you get the job, for example, when a feeling of happiness arises, one prays, "God, I don't want to be happy over getting the job, I want the happiness that doesn't depend on being the beneficiary of revealed good. I want to be happy whether I get the job or not." Most pious people understand that one must look beneath bad; but the truth is that one must also, to be consistent, look beneath "good" too. Then one reaches, in this life, the world that is wholly good, the divine good of the Tree of Life.

3. Three Pillars

The Rabbis say that Judaism rests on three pillars: Torah (study); Avodah (worship, prayer), and Gemilut Hasadim (acts of kindness). Now, yeshivah of course means literally "to sit." We sit and study Torah-- to learn how to stand in the Amidah (which means "standing", the central prayer of the worship)-- to pray and be in God's presence. And we stand in the Amida in order to derive the awareness and strength to do Halacha (which means "walking") to "walk in His ways." What are God's ways? The Rabbis say they are His attributes of mercy; the main aspect of "walking" with God is to love our neighbor as ourself. So we sit to learn how to stand to know how to walk.

One of God's names is Hai haHayyim, "Life of all living." So if one loves life, one loves God.

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Copyright 2004-2005, Yitzhak Buxbaum. All rights reserved.