Is it a mitzvah to be b’simcha, to be happy?
And the answer is, absolutely! It says לך אכול בשמחה לחמך – Go and eat your bread with joy, ושתה בטוב לב את יינך – and drink your wine with a good heart (Koheles 9:7). It means to be happy with your meals. However it says there, כי כבר רצה אלקים את מעשך – because Hashem accepted your deeds. It means that when a person is accomplishing something in life – he’s serving Hashem, he’s living a frum Jewish life – then that person is entitled to happiness. Not only entitled but he needs the happiness because it’s a source of energy to help him serve Hashem.
That’s why to fall into despondency, into a depression, is a sin. It’s absolutely an aveirah for a person to cut off his finger. He has no right lachbol b’atzmo, to hurt himself. And unhappiness is a form of self destruction.
Now don’t say, “I’m depressed – it’s not my fault.” At the beginning it is your fault. Of course, when you fall deeper and deeper into the depression, then chas v’shalom sometimes you’ll never pull out. Sometimes you will eventually, but during that time you may be a victim of conditions beyond your control. But the beginning of the depression is your fault!
It’s like beginning of hiccups. Hiccups, you must stop at the very beginning. Hold your breath until the hiccups stop. Because if you’ll neglect it, it might turn into an attack and sometimes it could last for days and days. And it’s a tragedy; sometimes you might have to operate in hope of stopping the hiccups. It’s good advice, by the way – as soon as the hiccups begin, hold your breath until it stops. Don’t wait until it gets into the long road. And the same is with a depression. The time to nip a depression is when it’s in the bud, at the very beginning.
And that’s why a frum Jew should always be cheerful. Whatever you can add to your store of happiness; it’s a mitzvah to add. Because you’re going to be serving Hashem with your tefilla, and with your learning and you’re doing good deeds also, so all the simcha that you have becomes energy to help you daven and learn and perform good deeds! We need all the energy we can put our hands on and simcha is energy.
So eat and enjoy what you’re eating. Enjoy your sleeping. Get up in the morning and say, “Ah! I slept a sweet sleep last night.” Thank Hashem for it! Whatever you do, try to enjoy it either before or while you’re having it or after you’re done. Look back and enjoy what you already experienced. When you finish a meal, look back and enjoy what you have eaten. “Ah! A good piece of bread! A good piece of fish!” – whatever it was you ate – and try to re-experience the pleasure and thank Hashem for that experience.
Find simcha in everything around you because the world is built for simcha. It’s only our stubbornness, our contrariness, that makes us unaware. The truth is nature is planned to stimulate simcha. Even looking at a tree causes simcha naturally. And people have to learn to respond naturally to these stimuli. And so certainly it is a mitzvah at all times to be b’simcha.
TAPE # 584 (January 1986)