Ya'akoVs unusual circumstances were orchestrated by Hashem because He wanted to give us insight into the great power of happiness and joy. Evil forces thrive on the dead-end pleasures of this world. Worldly pleasure, after the initial excitement and novelty passes, ultimately leaves a person feeling empty and unfulfilled, leading even to depression, whereas spiritual pleasure from the pursuit of closeness to Hashem and fulfilling His will leads to true happiness for Hashem is the source of all true joy. Therefore connection with Him is the ultimate pleasure and bliss.
Hashem created this world devoid of true happiness because he wanted people to earn their places in the hereafter. The world to come is a place where only holy and truly happy souls can exist. Therefore, everyone must prepare themselves for the eternal existence by sanctifying themselves and the world around them with joy. True joy can only be attained by doing Hashem's will, thereby connecting oneself with Him, the Source of all joy. Happiness is not defined as being cheerful when times are good. Anyone can accomplish this. It is the person who is cheerful even in the face of "bad" times that is called a truly happy person. We see many holy people who suffer throughout their lifetimes and yet, despite the adversity, take shelter in Hashem and remain cheerful. Hashem actually brings affliction upon certain holy people so that, by remaining in the bliss of closeness to Him despite their suffering, they can bring joy and sanctity to all aspects of this world. They bring joy even to those situations that would normally distance a person from Hashem. Cheerfulness in the face of adversity destroys the forces of evil.
Man's purpose on earth is to use his free choice amidst the confusion, ambiguity and temptation of physicality to discover Hashem behind the veils of nature. Learning more about Hashem in order to better fulfill His will is an ongoing and eternal process and is the foundation for true joy as is alluded to in Deuteronomy 30:19,20. "Choose life, that you may live [in eternal bliss in the hereafter]; both you and your seed. To love the L-rd your G-d, to listen to His voice and cleave unto Him, for He is your [only and eternal] life..." Cleaving to Hashem and following in His ways, however, can be very difficult at times. Our physical bodies inhibit us. Therefore, we must gradually condition our bodies to experience Hashem. Attempting to sanctify the body by going to extremes or by attempting too much, too soon can have devastating results. One cannot achieve connection to Hashem by destroying his body. Hashem will not be found in the extremes. Extremes are the realm of evil. The Raniba"m (Maimonides) taught that one must approach Hashem through the path of moderation. Rabbi Nachman acknowledged that he reached awesome levels of spirituality only by being an expert in moderation, never going to extremes, as the verse says, "Do not turn aside from the thing [the central path] which they [the rabbis who instruct us on the proper observance of Hashem's conunandments] tell you, to the right or left [doing too much or too little at your current level of spiritual sensitivity]." (Deut. 17:11)
The patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and all the other great tzaddikim (saints) worked very hard to spread joy to the hearts of each and every Jew. They tried to turn the unhappiness found in the world to joy, as the verse says, "Tzaddik ka'tamar yifrach - The righteous will blossom like a date palm." (Psalms 92:13) The word, tamar - date palm, is similar to the word, t'murah, meaning "to exchange". So, the verse could be read, "The righteous have the power to exchange [unhappiness for joy].
Even the worst sinners have points of godliness in their hearts. Tzaddikim try to cultivate, develop and build upon these points found within each person. By so doing they connect sinners to Hashem, influencing them to observe at least some of Hashem's mitvos (commandments) by which the sinners merit some of the eternal joys of the hereafter. Someone who performs even one mitzvah becomes eternally connected to Hashem and true joy as Psalms 16:11 teaches, "You [Hashem] will make known to me the path of life; fullness of joy is in Your presence [through the fulfillment of even one mitvah].
Hashem caused Yosef (Joseph) to be sold as a slave in Egypt so that he could, at least in part, transform sadness to joy, as the verse says, "In order to preserve [true eternal] life did Hashem send me [Yosef] before you [the Jewish people]." (Genesis 45:5) Yosef's father, Ya'akov and Yosef's eleven holy brothers eventually followed him to Egypt with their entire households. Hashem created circumstances which forced them to live there because He wanted them to descend into the depths of the imnioral, and thus very unhappy, Egyptian society. Egypt was the most powerful country in the world at the time. So, by living in decadent Egypt yet following in Hashem's ways, thereby converting sadness to joy, the Jews were able to have a global affect, planting the seeds of spiritual ecstacy in every aspect of the physical universe. Due to their success in finding and experiencing Hashem within and through the harsh realities of the Egyptian slavery, the Jews were entitled to experience the unprecedented revelation of Hashem on Har Sinai (Mount Sinai) and receive the Torah, the guidebook on finding Hashem.
Ya'akov's life experiences enabled him to ultimately discover the secret of how to bring about the final redemption; that redemption is dependent upon transforming harshness, sadness and hopelessness into joyous living. Thus the verse, "Vayechi - [Ya'akov] lived." Ya'akov made a concentrated effort to remain happy and cheerful, even while being forced to live in the spiritually harmful environment of Egypt. The lesson of our verse and of the holy Zohar is that we must remain in a state of joy, even in the face of tremendous suffering.
Living, in a state of joy does not mean that we ignore emotional and physical pain or bad situations. Quite the contrary. We must acknowledge the experience of all of our emotions and situations. Many people try to avoid feeling so-called "negative" emotions such as anger, sadness and the like. In truth, by acknowledging and allowing ourselves to feel these emotions, channeling them proplerly as guided by our Torah and holy sides, we access the wide spectrum of feelings that Hashem has given us in order that we learn about and experience the world from many different perspectives and states of being. Thus we come to understand more and more about Hashem, leading to greater and greater levels of ecstacy and bliss through knowing Him.
Suffering, therefore is an important part of the life process. Suffering has the ability to unmask all of the illusions of this world, ultimately empowering a person to know that there is a G-d Who is close at hand, Who can be found everywhere and anywhere, even in the hell of an Egypt. When suffering does not lead to a greater awareness of Hashem, it is only because the sufferer has used his power of free choice incorrectly. Such a person must seek guidance from a spiritual expert who can help him unravel the difficulties and challenges to his faith that he is facing.
Moshiach (the messiah) will come when the world recognizes and, through free will, joyfully accepts Hashem's omnipotence and personal involvement in directing every aspect of the universe. The Jewish nation plays an integral role in facilitating this awareness in the world and it is for this reason that, in every generation since biblical times, the Jews have experienced the hardships of exile. The exile not only caused the Jews to live among the nations, but by underging, tremendous suffering, they have been able to convert the unhappy experiences into joy. This situation will persist until every possible bleak and cheerless experience is turned into true joy. At that time, moshiach will complete the job, ushering in the eternal era of boundless joy and closeness to Hashem.
When Adam sinned, he unleashed forces of evil and sadness into every aspect of creation. As a rectification for this, every person would experience death. Death is the most unhappy and painful experience of life. Nevertheless, the fact that people die will cause the eventual destruction of evil for all time and undo the damage of Adam's sin. Death causes the mourner to descend to the depths of sadness and into the grip of the forces of evil. Evil can only be broken at its source, so Hashem brings "bad" and painful situations such as death into our lives for the ultimate purpose that we experience the tremendous loss and grief so that by accessing these aspects of sadness, they can be transformed into utter, everlastingjoy at the time of the resurrection of the dead in the end of days. The great rejoicing at that time will have converted the deepest and most powerful evil extant in the world to joy, eliminating it forever, as proclaimed in the verse, "Then [at the time of the revival of the dead] our mouths will be full of [true and everlasting] laughter." (Psalms 126:2) When the evil associated with mourning has been eliminated, all other, lesser forms of evil will consequently disintegrate as well.
Evil can exist in the world only when there is a lack of joy which is a lack of Hashem's light reaching the world. Hashem's light is physically manifested mainly as moonlight. During creation, Hashem diminished the size of the moon and thus His light, allowing evil to proliferate [which is the basis for man's free choice]. The mission of reversing the evil by bringing joy into the world went to the twelve holy tribes, descendants of the twelve sons of Ya!akov. Ya'akov's sons embodied all of the holiness, and thus all of the happiness that exists. Therefore, their task was to restore the diminished Divine light which emanated from the moon by creating their own Divine light through acts of joy. Being twelve in number, each of the tribes could bring their own unique aspects of joy to all of the twelve different spiritual cycles of the moon, which are manifested by lunar months. Each month resonates with a different emanation of Hashem's light, corresponding to each of the twelve tribes. The process of restoring Diving light to the moon will eventually cause Ha-shem to restore the moon to its original size and eliminate evil. This is the reason for the custom of singing and dancing when the new moon is sanctified each month.
Due to space limitations, we are unfortunately forced to condense our description of how each of the twelve tribes contributed to spreading happiness and holiness to the world.
Re'uven (Reuben) comes from the Hebrew ri'oo, to see or perceive. Because he was the firstborn, Re'uven was entitled to all the rights and priveleges associated with the birthright, but it was given over to Yosef. Re'uven's uncle Aisav (Esau) had willingly sold his birthright to his younger brother, Ya'akov, but claimed that Ya'akov had stolen the birthright and wanted revenge. Conversely, Re'uven's birthright was taken against his will. Nevertheless, he tried to save his rival, Yosef from death. For Re'uven had used his superior power of sight/perception to seek the truth and was willing to accept truth, no matter how painful it might be. He saw that his younger brother, Yosef, was spiritually superior to the brothers, including himself and that Yosef merited the birthright. Through seeking the truth, Re'uven attained a very high level of humility, fulfilling the Talmudic teaching "Ben Zoma says, 'Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot.'" (Avoth 4:1) Re'ueven was not concerned with attaining false prestige, but only in fulfilling Hashem's will. His contentment with his lot in life brought true happiness into the world. And by his ability to analyze a person's situation and reveal the truth about it, he could help any person come closer to Hashem.
Shimon (Simeon) developed the power of the ears. When he was born, his mother Leah had said about him, "Hashem heard (shma - to hear, the root of the name Shimon) that I was hated, [and so] He has also given me this son." (Genesis 29:33) The verse implies that Shimon played the role of rebuker. Certainly, no one likes someone who rebukes, but Shimon was able to relate to a person on his own level and rebuke him in such a way that the person would feel good about himself and desire to change his evil ways and return to Hashem. This is the result of rebuke which comes from the heart and is for the sake of heaven. Rabbi Nachman discusses this subject in great depth.
Levi was given the power to bring blessing into the world. Rashi explains that blessings cannot be effective unless an environment of peace and contentment prevails. Therefore, Levi and his descendants worked hard to make people happy so that they could live peacefully with one another and receive Hashem's blessings, bringing, them to ever higher levels of happiness. Levi's power is associated with the hands, as the verse says, "And Aharon [a descendant of Levi] lifted his hands towards the people and blessed them." (Levitticus 9:22)
When Yehudah (Judah) was born, his mother said of him, "This time I will praise Hashem." (Genesis 29:35) This refers to the power of prayer - the power of the mouth. If one is to be able to pray and sing, to Hashem, one must be in a state ofjoy. Yehudah would teach about the joy one can attain through talking, to Hashem. For prayer brings a person closer to Hashem than any other action.
Leah said of Dan upon his birth, "Hashem has judged me, and has also heard my voice." (Genesis 30:6) Judgement is associated with the forces of evil and harshness. Dan means "to judge". Dan had the unique ability to neutralize harsh judgements caused by the forces of evil. He could descend to the depths of the forces of evil, into the filthy and impure places and pull out individuals who had become trapped there. He was able to rescue people who had fallen to the lowest levels of sin and depression, bring them back to Hashem, and thus restore their happiness.
Naphtali, known for being swift, served Hashem with his feet. He would take the initiative to seek out people who were far from Hashem and bring them back. He was always running, to fulfill Hashem's commandments, thus making himself and others happy. He would break the forces of evil and sadness by dancing. [The Baal Sheim Tov and Rabbi Nachman emphasized the importance of dancing.]
Gad possessed an aspect of power of the hands different than that of Levi. The verse states, "[Gad] tears off the arm with the head [of the forces of evil]." (Deut. 33:20) Through the power of the hands, one is able to draw the light of Hashem into the brain, endowing the brain with superior intellect. Rashi explains that the word Gad comes from the Hebrew "bogad", meaning traitor. Gad befriended people who were not only far from Hashem, but even people who actively fought against Hashem through intellectual arguments. In associating with these types of people, Gad seemed to be a traitor to Hashem. However, by using his superior powers of logic and reason which he had developed through purifying his hands, Gad was able to bring back even those people to Hashem and to happiness, bringing them good fortune (another meaning of the word Gad). Rabbi Nachman conducted hiniself similarly, befriending several highly intelligent leaders of the anti-religious Enlightenment movement, influencing them to return.
Asher, from the Hebrew "ashrei" - fortunate - was connected to the spiritual fountain of blessing. He was able to uplift a person's spirit and show him that there is no reason for despair, no matter how bad the situation appears. Asher would help people realize that, despite one's sins, he is always loved by and close to Hashem, as the verse says, "If I were to make my bed in hell [through my evil deeds], You [Hashem] are [even] there [close to me]." (Psalms 139:8)
Yissachar brought happiness to the world through his great diligence in Torah study, as the verse says, "The commands of Hashem [referring to the Torah] are upright, causing the heart to rejoice." (Psalms 19:9) The men of the tribe of Yissachar were able to make people happy by providing them with good advice, through their exceptional and very clear understanding of Torah. Through their wisdom and expertise in calculating the exact moment of the appearance of the new moon, the moon was sanctified each month, which also causes happiness to be spread throughout the world.
Zevulun brought happiness to people in financial straits, spending his time in the business world, supporting Torah study and the poor, as the verse states, "Rejoice, Zevulun, in your going out [to your business], [enabling] Yissachar [to bring joy by being] in your tents [teaching the word of Hashem]." (Deut. 33: 18)
Through increasing joy in the world, each of the above mentioned ten sons revealed Hashem's presence within the creation. Yet there was something lacking - they needed a leader to channel all of their great talents and to direct them in the proper paths; someone who would be able to detect and purify any blenlish in the nation of Israel which might be acquired through their struggles with the evil forces of the world. This was the job of Yosef and is the job of all leading tzaddikim of each generation. For the verse states, "[Yosef is] a man in whom the spirit of Hashem [rests]. (Genesis 41:38) Using his Divine powers, Yosef could purify any Jew from any filth which lie might have contacted.
With the establishment of the ten tribes and Yosef as leader, all the mechanisms for disseminating joy were in place, except for one thing. There needed to be a place upon which all the joy and ecstacy could be focused, and thus given permanence. Benyamin was the last-born of the brothers, so his birth brought into reality the final aspect of joy needed in the world. Benyamin was the only son of Ya'akov born in the Holy Land [the others were born in Padan-Aram while Ya'akov was living with his uncle Lavan], and became the conduit for all joy and happiness to be firmly implanted there. Thus, the holy Temple was built in Benyamin's territory and is the place from where all joy emanates into the world, as the verse says, "Even these [strangers who are very far from Hashem], I [Hashem] will bring to my holy mountain [Yerushalayim] and make them joyful in my house of prayer [the Temple]." (Isaiah 56:7) Amen! (Lekutai Halachoth: Orach Chaim, Hilchoth Hoda'ah)
Volume: 3, Issue: 12