The perpetual joy by Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov

The perpetual joy by Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov

Perpetual joy? Is that even possible? it seems far as we have seen many people being miserable with everything they have or live with. Eternal joy is something that sounds impossible because life throws us sadness almost every day every hour of our lives. Perpetual joy is a concept that for many is just not possible or very hard to reach.

Rabbi Baal Shem Tov had a different view on this. Perpetual joy is to always be happy with what you have; perpetual joy is to be happy and not matter what other people say or do or even criticize. It doesn’t matter the circumstances, happiness is always possible and an option.

Here is the Rabbi Baal Shem Tov view on Perpetual Joy.

Image courtesy of Leslie at

Once the rabbi was asked why was it that every time that there was a Chassidism ceremony or reunion everybody just started singing and dancing to the smallest provocation on music.  The rabbi was also asked if this was a behaviour of sane people or if it was just only a few of them that had this way of expressing Chassidism.

The answer was a simple one and came along with a story. The Baal Shem Tov told the man that once a very strange musician had arrived to town, playing this amazing but very rare music. He placed himself on a corner and started to play  so he could have his peace of mind and his joy. Many people stopped to listen and couldn’t keep walking away, the music was so good and was so contagious that many of those people started dancing. Not long passed and the entire street was dancing at the music´s rhythm, and then the whole block was a big party of people dancing and jumping. There was a big “mass of humanity” just enjoying the moment.

To conclude the story, the Rabbi explained that there was a man that couldn’t hear anything, he was deaf. He asked why was everybody just jumping and dancing and moving their arms in circles down the street and he thought that everybody had gone crazy. The Rabbi explained that “Chassidism,” is the melody that every person has within, the melody that comes forth from  every creature in god’s creation. This is how god expresses himself through people, with joy. So, if somebody that does not understand or does not have the sensitive ears to hear the joy of Chassidism, should all the other people stop dancing?

According to tradition the people who were followers of the Baal Shem Tov and now were considered as part of the  Chassidism movement, were called the “frielicheh” which means the “happy ones.” From the very start of the movement  of Chassidism, joy was a big part of the teachings and lectures.  The Baal Shem Tov used to believe and preach that the ability to always be in joy, to always be happy and have the skill of finding joyous things within every little act in life is a command that comes directly from the bible. “For with joy shall you go out…” was and is a very popular saying that has been said and repeated in the name of  Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (1789-1866). The entire adage goes like this “For with joy you can go out—and bid farewell to all your afflictions and problems!”


So, critics did not take long to take a look at this way of communicating with god. They used to say and ask themselves and everybody if this was really what god wanted. They asked the leaders, the followers, the neutrals:  almost all of their days are just one big party, a big holiday. Is this really what god wants for his people? To eat, drink and merry like crazy?

At that time the people who transmitted the Jewish beliefs to the communities were the maggidim who were skilled preachers.  In the 18th century the  maggidism became popular and preached a moral and religious behaviour in order to avoid the  punishments of the Day of Judgment. This information did not help with the moral of Jewish people, instead it scared them and demoralized them towards the beauty of religion. The Baal Shem Tov did not agree with these methods and always preached that joy and happiness had to be part of everyday life even when they were praying. This went totally against the Jewish beliefs and in fact it brought the Baal Shem Tov and the followers of Chassidism many problems. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi went to jail on charges that included him and others creating a new religion that stated that a person has to always be happy, not only while praying—but at all times. And this was considered a crime.

Be sure to also read this post about The Tallit and the Tzitzit: the garments and what they represent