Conventional Divisions Abolished By Joy

The coming of Jesus has certainly confused our experience of spirituality.  Our relationship to divinity, ever since, has become much more subtle.  Gone are the well-defined walls that separated what is godly from what is merely human. Gone is the clear-cut distinction between the sacred and the common . . . The OT was painstaking in the ways it delineated the gulf between what is divine and what is human . . . But Jesus has changed all that.  He who is both human and divine has confused the lines of demarcation that made sense of our lot.

– Rob Des Cotes in his 2014.01.02 meditation (

The connection between radical attentiveness, prayer, and joy pervades Jewish mystical thinking in its diverse phases but never so brightly, so every-day-related, and so clearly as in Hasidism. Melancholy is the dust in the soul that Satan spreads out. Worry and dejection are seen to be the roots of every evil force. Melancholy is a wicked quality and displeasing to God, says Martin Buber.

Rabbi Bunam said: “Once when I was on the road near Warsaw, I felt that I had to tell a certain story. But this story was of a worldly nature and I knew that it would only rouse laughter among the many people who had gathered about me. The Evil Urge tried very hard to dissuade me, saying that I would lose all those people because once they heard this story they would no longer consider me a rabbi. But I said to my heart: `Why should you he concerned about the secret ways of God?’ And I remembered the words of Rabbi Pinhas of Koretz: ‘All joys hail from paradise, and jests too, provided they are uttered in true joy’ And so in my heart of hearts I renounced my rabbi’s office and told the story. The gathering burst out laughing. And those who up to this point had been distant from me attached themselves to me.” (a quote from Tales of the Hasidim by Martin Buber).

Joy, laughter, and delight are so powerful because, like all mysticism, they abolish conventional divisions, in this case the division between secular and sacred. The often boisterous laughter, especially of women, is part and parcel of the everyday life of mystical movements.

– Dorothee Soelle, in The Silent Cry: Mysticism And Resistance (translated by Barbara and Martin Rumscheidt)


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