A. Tanya (end of chapter 34) quotes the Zohar “Joy is lodged in one side of my heart, and tears in the other”. We are capable of two (even) opposite emotions, as long as they are for different reasons. We can love our child deeply, yet at the same time, be truly upset at a specific misbehavior. As different responses to different things, conflicting emotions are compatible. It is important however, that we not confuse the two. The world needs more joy than ever before, but it would be terribly insensitive to dance at Ground Zero. There’s a humorous chassidic story illustrating this point.
An old chassid arrived at a roadside inn, somewhere in Eastern Europe. The simple Jewish innkeeper gives him a room upstairs. In the middle of the night, the innkeeper hears mournful wailing from that room. It turns out that this elderly Jew was reciting (an unusual prayer) Tikkun Chatzot – mourning the (Churban) destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, and lamenting the harsh exiles of the Jews. This was all new to the innkeeper. He had not heard of the Temples, and was touched by the elderly man’s sincerity. So he sat down to join him. It was customary for those who recited this prayer to conclude with a joyous dance of hope, looking forward to the redemption. The innkeeper’s wife awoke from the sound of heavy boots pounding on the floor, and seeing her husband missing, went to investigate.
When she found him dancing with the elderly man, at the crazy hour past midnight, she called out to him, “What are you doing!?” And in all sincerity he answered her: “We’re dancing for the Churban (the Destruction)!
Having said that, we need to remember that the world does need more Joy. Joy is more than fun, frivolous and empty excitement. Joy is a meaningful, powerful, positive expression and state of mind. Joy breaks all boundaries – says the Talmud, and we are commanded to serve G-d joyously. The great Arizal said – even if we do the commandments, but without joy – that’s enough reason to cause the exile (Tanya 26).
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