Happiness, Sadness, Depression, Music, and Jokes

One of the most successful tactics of the evil inclination inside us is to cause sadness and, worse yet, depression. When one is tired and weary, the evil inclination makes its move to drag the person down by encouraging him to act foolishly. The person must then contend with the foolish act itself and the guilt that follows it.

In the Holy book of the Tanya, it is written that the only way one is able to emerge victorious over the evil inclination (unhappiness) is with Simcha, joy untainted by worry or sadness. The Tanya compares this to two people fighting. Even if one is naturally stronger if he lacks joy and enthusiasm i.e. Simcha, the weaker one (the evil inclination) will defeat him.

The Godly inclination inside every person is the spark of Godliness and is compared to light. Naturally, a small quantity of light will chase away much darkness, but the person must be happy and joyous. I did not say he must enjoy himself; I said he must find joy in his life. 

This is one of the very powerful reasons why the first acknowledgment we make as we open our eyes every morning is gratitude to God for returning our souls to us. This demonstrates God’s faith in giving us another day to fulfill His mission and the day starts with gratitude and joy.

The spirit of internal strength, the flow from one’s soul — the internal candle — does not shine on someone who is sad or downtrodden.

The book of the prophets tells us a story that when Elisha became angry with Yehoraam, the king, for his wicked ways, the spirit of prophecy left him. It was only after the music was played for him and his mood was lifted that his spirit of prophecy returned.

Another story comes from the Talmud. Once, a Rabbi was walking around in the marketplace when he noticed Elijah, the prophet. The Rabbi asked the prophet whether anyone in the marketplace merited paradise. The prophet answered in the negative. Soon, two brothers entered the marketplace, and Elijah pointed to them, saying, “These will merit the world to come.” The Rabbi went over to them and asked what their occupation was, and they said, “We are joyful people, and we make those who are sad happy. If we hear an argument, we make peace using humor between those quarreling.”

The Zohar tells us that the way we act here is how we are dealt with from above. When a person acts in a happy, joyous, grateful, relaxed, and open manner, God will deal with him in the same way — in a happy and joyous fashion.

Once, a great Rabbi crossing over a bridge saw a man struggling to save himself in the waters below. Seeing no way that he could save the fellow, he called out, “Send regards to the big fish (Leviathan) at the bottom of the river.” At that moment, God came to the fellow’s aid, and he was able to catch hold of a plank of wood and pull himself to safety.

The Rabbi later explained that due to the man’s broken and frantic spirit, he could not be helped. “When I made that foolish funny comment, in that moment of distraction, he was able to save himself with the power of the joke.”

“The mind is always working.” A person should consciously try to keep his mind occupied with things to accomplish, so he does not have the time and does not permit his mind the opportunity to think sad thoughts. 

When the evil inclination comes to a person and tries to persuade him with all kinds of foolish arguments that he has every reason to feel sad, the person must respond without entering any logical arguments. “You are bad and trying to trick me. Even if what I did or who I am is not perfect, I must always be happy.” He must immediately divert his mind to uplifting thoughts and not look back.  

Chapter 305

About the Author
Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui is an author and lecturer. "A Spiritual Soul Book" & "Maimonides Advice for the 21st Century" Rabbi Ezagui opened in 1987 the first Chabad Center in Palm Beach County, Florida, and the first Orthodox Synagogue on the Island of Palm Beach, Florida.
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