“And Yisro rejoiced over all of the good…”

One of the revolutionary truths revealed by the Chassidic masters was the notion that with the proper intention, all facets of the human experience can be elevated to the spiritual realm and consecrated as holy service. In his foundational code of Chassidic thought, sefer HaTanya, the first Rebbe of Chabad teaches that at a time when something is troubling us and we are overcome with sadness, it is good to channel this energy into broken-heartedness over our distance from Hashem. In his brilliant masterpiece, Likutei Moharan, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov makes a similar point regarding moments of great joy.

Rebbe Nachman teaches that there are varying levels of joy operating at a given celebration. Take a wedding, for example. While the guests are enjoying the wedding ambiance, partaking of the food and appreciating the music, the joy experienced by the parents of the bride and groom greatly transcends these minor details. They are in a position to take joy in the wedding itself, a joy that reaches far beyond the tasty food and pleasant music that enhances the celebration. Usually, those experiencing a broader level of joy do not focus at all on the smaller details. The baalei simcha are typically far too preoccupied with the wedding itself to stand in line for sesame chicken at the shmorg.

Still, the tzaddik teaches that there is an even greater level of joy. When one is able to connect to the Source of all joy, the place where the joy of the entire world merges as one, one is able to rejoice in all levels of the celebration at the very same time. Using the joy he is feeling as a ladder to a realm beyond, the Jew is able to rise above the lower levels of joy (food and drink at a wedding etc.), pass even the higher levels of rejoicing (parent’s joy over the marriage of their children), and reach the very essence of joy, the Master of the world from Whom all joy derives. When this is accomplished, even joy over mundanities becomes a spiritual experience; our emotions become a medium for encounter with our Father in heaven, the Source of all emotion. Aware of the great “all” of the joy that surrounds him, the Jew is able to perceive how this mighty “all” of ultimate ecstasy is reflected in even the most minute details of the celebration. Every enjoyment, both great and small, points him toward the transcendent Source of all joy, the Master of the world. Rebbe Nachman sees this idea hinted to in a verse from this week’s parsha, Vayichad Yisro al kol hatovah – “And Yisro rejoiced over all of the good”. The tzaddik teaches that the word “Vayichad” , which means “to rejoice” also connotes “Achdus” , unity. Thus: “Vayichad Yisro”: Yisro connected to the Source of joy, the place where all joys are bound as one. “Al KOL hatovah”: In so doing, he was able to experience all of the goodness at the very same time. Using his joy as a portal to the Source of all joy, Yisro was able to find that Source reflected on all levels of his celebration.  

Binding each joy to its Source in the great “all” of rejoicing, the Master of the world, a Jew is able to relish every facet of the celebration as one.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
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R’ Yaakov Klein is the founder of the Lost Princess Initiative, an author, musician, and lecturer devoted to sharing the inner light of Torah through his books, music, and lectures.

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