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 as rain.

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 spiritual realm.

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 world.

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 an effect.]

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 us.

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 themselves.

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 way.

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 be granted.

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.