Weekly Letter: The Difference Between Merrirus (Bitterness) and Atzvus (Depressions)

During the Ten Days of Repentance – we approach the day of Yom Kippur with awe and trepidation. As we experience feelings of remorse – it would be good to keep in mind the words of the Rebbe in this letter – where he explains the difference between feelings of merrirus (bitterness) and atzvus (depressions) – as the Tanya teaches. And points out that teshuvah is followed by a feeling of relief and joy – expressed in the “Season of our Rejoicing.” The letter, written originally in English, is from the archives of the Rebbe’s trusted secretary Rabbi Nissan Mindel.

By the Grace of G-d
Erev Succos, 5736
Brooklyn, N.Y.
Wilmington, N.C.
Blessing and Greeting:
Your letter reached me with considerable delay. In it you write about your background, and sense of confusion, etc.
From your writing I gather that you are acquainted to some extent with Jewish philosophy. At any rate, I hope you have seen the Chabad classic, the Tanya, of which there is also an English translation. In it you will find a fairly lengthy discussion on various states of mind that may trouble a person. The gist of this is- how, and why, a person should not be discouraged by such moods and should not allow himself to lapse into a state of depression – atzvus, since this is contrary to avodas Hashem, which must always be with complete joy. He explains that atzvus inhibits energy and vitality, which are also indispensible ingredients of Divine service.
It is there further explained that if atzvus is brought on by a feeling of guilt for some undesirable action in the past, there is a legitimate outlet in merirus, and he goes on to explain the basic difference between the two states in that merirus is energizing, inducing an inner urge to rectify the past and improve the future, whereas atzvus is paralyzing, inducing depression and inertia; hence it must be ruled out completely.
I suggest you study this topic in the Tanya and it will surely give you the proper perspective.
By hashgacha pratis your letter reached me during the Ten Days of Teshuva of which it is written, “Seek G-d when He is found, call Him when He is near,” as our Rabbis explain. Significantly, this period is followed by the “Season of our Rejoicing.” Such is the feeling of relief and joy, after teshuva, in the light of the said discourse in the Tanya. Even if you do not fully grasp it as yet, I trust you will nevertheless dismiss any feeling of atzvus from your mind and apply yourself energetically to fostering Yiddishkeit in yourself and your surroundings, with greater dedication than before.
Wishing you a happy and inspiring Yom Tov,
With blessing,

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