Kenneth Cohen

“Oneg” and “Nega”

There is a pretty well known idea in the world of Chassidut, that reflects an overall attitude about life. This relates to the word, נגע, which means blemish.

If you take these same three letters, and scramble them around, you now have the word, ענג, which means delight or pleasure. We are familiar with the word, “Oneg,” in describing the delightful day of Shabbat.

The Chassidim taught an important philosophy of optimism. If someone is going through difficult times, and he feels plagued by a “Nega” blemish, he must remind himself that an “Oneg,” is right around the corner.

This attitude has helped Jews through some of the most difficult periods in our history. Despite the present difficulties, they never stopped believing that a better tomorrow awaited them. I recall my advise to close friends when they commiserated about a series of troublesome events. Their place of business was destroyed by a fire, and their home was badly damaged by a California earthquake. Using this philosophy, I sympathetically told that this was great news.

They were stuck in LA running their business and could not break away. I told them that the “Oneg” of this “Nega,” is that they can now move to Israel.

At the time, my words were not that comforting. But they later told me how right I was, and that Hashem works in mysterious ways. The Nega-Oneg philosophy really works. It allows us to cope and have the faith that Hashem knows what He is doing. The Divine plan will be revealed, when He sees fit.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at