Always Happy

How can a person accept the bad things in their lives with the same joy they feel when good things happen? Even if we intellectually understand the concept, can we control our emotions to the point of not being sad? 

5 min

Kalever Rebbe

Posted on 01.04.24

On Purim, at the height of World War II, R’ Kloniumus Kalmish from Piaseczno, zt”l, was celebrating the holiday in the Warsaw Ghetto. He was surrounded by yidden who were broken and oppressed. 

During the celebration, someone asked the Rebbe, “How can you rejoice and celebrate when the Jewish people are suffering?” 

The Rebbe responded: 

“The Zohar HaKodesh teaches that there is a deep connection between Purim and Yom Kippur. You all know that everyone fasts on Yom Kippur – even though it is physically challenging and difficult – because that is what Hashem commanded us to do. Similarly, on Purim, we are commanded and therefore obligated to rejoice even when it is difficult to be happy.” 

A person can find happiness even in the face of horrible challenges and hardships, even when living through troubling times, when they believe with the utmost and absolute faith that everything that occurs in this world is for the best and is constructed with Divine Design. And the goodness in the pain, the Divinity behind that design, surpasses our intellectual capabilities. As Chazal taught us (Brachos 54a) that a person must make a blessing on the bad as he does on the good. 


The Wrong Address

There is a story about R’ Shmelke of Nikolsburg, zt”l, and his brother, the author of the Haflah. When they first met the Maggid of Mezrtich, they asked him to explain the deeper meaning of Chazal’s expectation that a person must bless the bad and accept it with love. How can a person accept the bad things in their lives with the equal joy they feel when good things happen?! 

The Maggid instructed them to go to meet his student, R’ Zusha of Anipoli, zt”l. And he would provide them with the answer to their question. 

When they arrived at R’ Zusha’s home, they saw that he was living in abject poverty. When they explained why they were there, and when they asked him their question, R’ Zusha, puzzled, responded, “I can’t explain this to you. I have never felt any suffering. Hashem has only blessed me with goodness and kindness. You need to find someone who has experienced suffering and has, nonetheless, remained happy. They can teach you the answer to your question.” 

When they heard this response from the Tzaddik who was living in destitution, they saw and understood that it was possible for a person to achieve such a level of faith that he can accept everything in his life as goodness and a blessing; that it was possible to accept even the hardship with love and joy. 


The Merchant of Brisk

It is difficult for most people to achieve this level of faith where they can accept with happiness everything that happens to them – including the hardship and challenges – as it is for their ultimate good. Even when a person understands this concept, it is still hard for his mind to control his emotions to the point that he will never allow himself to be sad or disappointed during difficult times. 

One of the most successful merchants in the city of Brisk once experienced catastrophe. All his ships were destroyed at sea, so he lost a tremendous amount of money. When a note with the news first arrived at his office, his clerk was afraid to report this tragedy to his employer. So, the clerk went to the rabbi of the city, R’ Yosef Dov Soloveichik, the author of the Beis HaLevi, to ask him what he should do. 

The rabbi told him to give him [editor: R’ Soloveichik] the note and say nothing else about it. Then, the rabbi sent for the merchant. When the man entered the rabbi’s study, he saw that he was engrossed in studying one of the esoteric passages in Brachos. The rabbi turned to the merchant and said, “I am puzzled how could the Sages teach that one must bless the bad just as one does for the good? Not only that, but to do it with joy!” 

The merchant enthusiastically said, “Isn’t it simple! One needs to have faith. And, when someone believes that everything Hashem does is for the best, then he will never have a problem accepting life’s hardships.” 

The rabbi then handed the merchant the note. He read it and he immediately fainted. It took a few minutes to revive him. 

After a few days, while the rabbi was visiting him, the merchant asked, “What did the Sages really mean?” 

The rabbi smiled and answered, “A person is ‘chayav’ meaning that a person always has this obligation to accept the bad as well as the good with joy. It is not just one time.” 


Divine Design

Even if a person never reaches this level of faith where he can sincerely rejoice during challenging times, he must know and believe that this is how it should be. As the author of Yesod HaAvodah from Slonim, zt”l, explained that even if a person never merits to reach such clarity, he is nonetheless obligated to understand that he should be joyful even in the midst of his suffering. 

A Jew must constantly work on this. He needs to focus on living a life that aspires for this level of clarity and faith. He needs to understand that nothing in this world is happenstance. For, if someone thinks this world is a collection of incidental occurrences, it is indicative that he does not contemplate Hashem’s Greatness and His intervention in this world and that He watches and oversees all of creation at all times. 

This is alluded to by the word “Vayikra” at the beginning of this week’s Parsha. The word is written with a “tiny Aleph.” Without that Aleph, the word would be “Vayakar” which is related to the Hebrew word for happenstance and chance. The word “Aleph” refers to Hashem, the Alufo Shel Olam. When a person sees the “Aleph” small, then he will leave everything to change, he will credit all the events of his life to happenstance. 

This level of faith and clarity was at the heart of the war with the Amalek. The pasuk says (Devarim 25:18), אֲשֶׁ֨ר קָֽרְךָ֜ בַּדֶּ֗רֶךְ- how he happened upon you on the way … The Amalek wants to attack a Jew’s faith in Hashem’s Divine Providence; he wants them to accept that everything just “happens” in this world void of a Divine Design. 

During the days of Purim, the Jews victoriously battled this heresy, and they hung Haman, the descendants of the Amalek. Afterwards, they were able to clearly see that everything that unfolded, even the challenges, even the events that seemed horrific, was for their ultimate salvation and the destruction of their enemies. 

Chazal taught (Megillah 7) that one must become inebriated to the point that he does not know the difference between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai”. On Purim, a person must realize that he needs to rejoice during the good times and the bad times; that one is obligated to accept everything with joy whether it comes in the form of Haman or Mordechai



The Kalever Rebbe is the seventh Rebbe of the Kaalov Chasidic dynasty, begun by his ancestor who was born to his previously childless parents after receiving a blessing from the Baal Shem Tov zy”a, and later learned under the Maggid of Mezeritch zt”l. The Rebbe has been involved in outreach for more than 30 years and writes weekly emails on understanding current issues through the Torah.Sign up at  

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