Chapter 12: A Lightning Rod
To The Spiritual Realms
The positive potential of simchah is highlighted by the Maggid
of Mezeritch’s interpretation1 of the teaching in Pirkei
Avos :2 "Know what is above you." Literally, the Mishnah
is teaching us always to be conscious that, allegorically speaking,
in the spiritual realms there exists an eye that sees everything
we do, an ear that hears everything we say, and a hand that records
everything that takes place.
The Maggid of Mezeritch extended the meaning of this teaching.
He would say: "Know that everything above" all that
transpires in the spiritual realm is "from you," dependent
on your conduct. Each of us influences what goes on in the spiritual
realm. And so, when a person is happy, he not only lifts the spirits
of the people around him, but he generates joy in the spiritual
realm as well.
Let us explain the dynamics at work: One of the most fundamental
concepts discussed in the Kabbalah and in Chassidic philosophy
is the interrelationship between the spiritual realm and our material
reality. The Zohar3 states that our material world parallels the
spiritual realm. It is like a mirror reflecting an object or person
before it. When one sees a person moving a hand in the mirror,
one realizes that standing in front of the mirror is an actual
person who is moving his hand. Even when we cannot see the person
himself, the image in the mirror is sufficient.
Similar concepts apply with regard to the interrelation between
the physical and spiritual realms. Our physical realm mirrors
spiritual reality. Everything taking place on our plane has a
parallel within and gives us an understanding of the workings
of spiritual existence. Although we may not be directly conscious
of spiritual reality, we can understand many things about it from
the parallels we see in our world.
This concept also has a deeper dimension. When we are speaking
of a mirror and a person, we are talking about two separate, unrelated
entities; one merely reflects the other. With regard to the spiritual
and the physical, it is not that the spiritual realm is one form
of existence and the physical realm another, with G-d creating
them to correspond to each other. In this instance, the two are
more closely related. Our material existence is merely an extension
of the spiritual.
We do not have a proper analogy to illustrate this. One of the
closest examples we have is the relationship between the soul
and the body. Our Sages tell us4 that just as the soul fills up
the body, G-d fills up the world. Therefore, if we want to develop
a better understanding of the interaction between G-d and the
world or in different words, the spiritual realm and the physical
realm we can focus on the relationship between the body and the
soul, the neshamah and the guf.
The activity of a person’s soul is reflected in his body.
If a person is anxious, you can tell by looking at him. One look
at his eyes and his facial expression tells the whole story. The
same is true when he is angry and when he is sad. And surely this
is true when he is happy. When a person is truly b’simchah,
his face radiates joy. For what a person experiences internally
expresses itself in his physical form.
It has to be this way. The soul and the body function as a single
entity. Although they have different sources, as long as a person
is alive, his body and his soul share a single identity, and the
body expresses what is happening within the person’s soul.
A similar concept applies with regard to the interaction between
the spiritual realm and the physical realm. When we see something
happening in the physical realm for example, it is raining what
we are seeing is, in essence, a reflection of what is taking place
in the spiritual realm. In the spiritual realm, there is a great
outpouring of kindness, and that becomes manifest in our world
And this holds true for all the events that take place in our
world a snowfall, a wind, an earthquake. From the most unusual
to the most mundane, everything that occurs in our world is a
result and a reflection of something that is taking place in the
There is, however, a dual nature to the dynamic of causation.
Just as what happens in our material realm is a result of what
is taking place in the spiritual realm, what takes place in the
spiritual realm can be determined by the events of our world.
This is the meaning of the teaching of the Maggid of Mezeritch
mentioned above. He explained that the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos
is telling us to: "Know that what is above" the goings
on in the spiritual realm "is from you" dependent on
our conduct. We mortals determine the nature of the influences
active in the spiritual realm.
Why does man have this potential? Because "man was created
in the image of G-d."5 Needless to say, this does not mean
that G-d has the same physical form as man; G-d is infinite and
He has no body or shape whatsoever.6 Chassidus and Kabbalah, nevertheless,
explain that there is a spiritual counterpart to all our bodily
features. G-d does not possess eyes, but He possesses a means
of perception that operates in a more complete way than we could
possibly comprehend in a manner comparable to our power of sight.
He does not possess a mouth, but He possesses a means of expression
that corresponds to our power of speech. Similarly, every element
of our being has its counterpart in the spiritual realm.
And so, when we move our hands, we are also activating the spiritual
counterpart of our hands. Everything we do all of our activities
and everything that goes on in our lives in this physical realm
has an effect in the spiritual world.
In particular, there are three phases in this cycle: our deeds,
the effect that activity has in the spiritual realm, and the reflection
of the activity within the spiritual realm in our material world.
For example, when someone is not well, G-d forbid, and a friend
decides to give charity in his merit, the friend’s gift
activates G-d’s attribute of chessed (kindness) in the spiritual
realm. This in turn becomes manifest in our world in the improvement
of the sick person’s condition.
The Baal Shem Tov explains a similar idea,7 commenting on the
verse,8 "G-d is your shadow." Literally, the verse tells
us that just as a shadow protects us from the sun, G-d shields
us. The Baal Shem Tov, however, offers an extended interpretation,
explaining that just as a shadow mirrors a person’s actions,
the nature of the influence that flows from G-d to the world will
be a reflection of the nature of our activities.
This same idea is reflected in the Maggid’s interpretation
of the Mishnah , "Know what is above you," that "what
is above" is dependent on "you." Everything that
happens in the spiritual realm is determined by our behavior,
because whatever we do activates the counterpart in the spiritual
realm. And that spiritual activity brings about changes in our
world. When I show compassion to another person, that motivates
G-d to show compassion.
Let us take another example of this idea. When two people marry,
their union reflects the creation of a similar bond in the spiritual
realm. For within the spiritual realm, there are two aspects:
one referred to as Malchus, which reflects the feminine dimension,
and another, referred to as Zaer Anpin , which reflects the masculine
dimension. When a man and woman marry, they bring about a union
between these attributes in the spiritual realm. This union, in
turn, encourages the flow of positive influence to our material
Similar concepts apply with regard to speech. Everything said
in our realm activates a counterpart in the spiritual realm. So
when we say good things, positive influences are generated in
the spiritual realm. And if, G-d forbid, we say unfavorable things,
negative influences are generated.
This is one of the explanations of our Sages’ statement,9
"Do not regard the blessing of an ordinary person lightheartedly."
We know that blessings given by a tzaddik, a righteous person,
can bring about miraculous changes in our lives. But the truth
is that whenever anyone gives a blessing, the blessing has power.
For the person’s statements create effects not only in our
world, but in the spiritual realm. When he speaks words of blessing,
he is actually generating a blessing in the spiritual realm. And
that blessing can effect change in our world.
[The converse is also true. And for this reason, the Torah forbids
cursing another person. For this can also, Heaven forbid, have
Our thoughts also effect changes in the spiritual realm. In this
world, thought has no apparent effect, but the dynamic of spiritual
causation is such that every expression of our being be it thought,
speech, or action creates a spiritual effect. And that spiritual
effect can later bring about changes in our world. Indeed, we
find that intense thought about another person has often produced
very positive effects.10
There was once a chassid whose son was very ill. After a prolonged
illness, the physicians finally told him that there was no hope.
There was nothing more they could do; they did not know if the
child would live.
The chassid was devastated. He hurried to Lubavitch and approached
the Tzemach Tzedek, the third Lubavitcher Rebbe. Overcome with
grief, he could barely mouth his request for a blessing.
The Rebbe answered him briefly in Yiddish: Tracht gut, vet zein
gut. "Think positively, and the outcome will be good."11
As the chassid walked out of the Rebbe’s room, he pulled
himself together. He put himself in a state of mind that radiated
utter confidence. He knew G-d could help him and cure his son.
And he believed that this would happen.
When he came home, he was told that there had been a sudden change
in his son’s condition. The physicians had no explanation,
but the child had definitely taken a turn for the better. When
the chassid inquired, he was told that the change took place at
exactly the time that he visited the Rebbe.
The story shows us that thinking positively produces two effects:
a) when a person is in high spirits, he functions better; and
b) thinking positively itself brings about positive change. By
envisioning good in one’s mind, one creates positive spiritual
influence that enables that picture to materialize.
This is the basis of the Chassidic explanation of one of the
most fundamental principles of Judaism, bitochon. Bitochon means
confidence and trust that G-d will help. That G-d can help us
at any given time is a point of faith, and one that is very easy
to accept. After all, if He is G-d, He is capable of doing anything
He wants. Bitochon means more than that; it expresses our trust
and confidence that He will actually help.
Bitochon is not euphoric escapism; it does not absolve an individual
of taking responsibility for his future, and acting accordingly.
It means that as a person acts, he realizes that his efforts are
dependent on G-d’s providence, and he relies on G-d and
trusts Him totally.
Besides giving a person the confidence and inner strength to
face challenges, this approach also generates positive Divine
influence. When a person trusts and relies on G-d, G-d creates
situations that will allow him to use his energies in positive
and beneficial ways.12 Our positive thoughts serve as catalysts
that promote favorable circumstances for us.
Now we can appreciate the importance of simchah. When a person
is genuinely happy and sees things in a positive way, he creates
simchah in the spiritual realm. For "everything that happens
above is dependent on you."
The joy that is activated in the spiritual realm is not self-contained,
but flows outward, bringing joy to many others in our world. When
we are b’simchah , in both a physical and spiritual way,
we bring joy to ourselves, our families, and all the people around
As we explained in the previous chapter, this joy is not a passive
potential. On the contrary, "joy breaks through barriers,"
destroying all the obstacles and difficulties that may present
When a person is happy, he stands above all his personal limitations
and weaknesses. He can do things that he ordinarily could not
do. He can forgive his worst enemy. His joy generates inner energy
that breaks through and shatters any barrier that stands in his
When a person creates joy in the spiritual realm, the same thing
happens. In the spiritual realm, there are also limitations and
barriers, for G-d has chosen to establish a natural order through
which He controls our world. Just as there are rules of nature
that govern the physical world around us, there are principles
of causality that govern the effects produced by our conduct.
For as above, everything we do generates an effect in the spiritual
realm that in turn produces an effect within our world. On the
most general level, these rules follow the following principle:13
When a person does good, he receives benefits that enable him
to continue in this path. If he fails to do good, he will suffer
difficulties that make it obvious to him that he should change
his ways. These are the patterns of causation that G-d chose to
establish in the spiritual realm.
Nevertheless, when a person is b’simchah , he creates joy
in the spiritual realm; G-d Himself is, so to speak, also b’simchah.
This causes G-d to reveal a transcendent dimension that is not
bound by the laws of causation mentioned above. In simple terms,
this means that G-d will give great blessings and make positive
things happen, even though normally these blessings would not
When, G-d forbid, there is a situation where something is not
going right, we must realize that this is a result of the laws
of causation that G-d established. We must, however, also realize
that by radiating simchah, we can awaken simchah above, and effect
a radical change in the situation before us.
This demonstrates the power our joy possesses. With simchah we
can change the makeup of the spiritual realm, and in this manner,
bring blessing and all forms of good to ourselves, our families,
and to the entire Jewish people.