The Concept and its Implications for Psycho-spiritual Growth
The professional Torah based treatment model was named Nachat Ruach, נחת רוח and was developed in the early 1990s. Looking back now, I have a sense of having been inspired (siyata dishmaya) to utilize this concept. Its essential and unique goal will be discussed in this section.
Nachat Ruach (or Nachas Ruach) is a concept that is difficult to translate. This is due in part to the various nuances of meaning that it has in different Torah contexts where it appears. In Jewish thought, the “ruach” represents the emotional aspect of the soul or “neshama”, נשמה.[i] In modern Hebrew, the expression “matzav ruach”, which means “mood”, can also be translated literally to refer to the “state of one’s spirit”, implying that one’s emotional status is not always static. In English, when one is asked how he feels, it is not unusual for a person to respond that “he has his ups and downs.” In this section, we will begin to look at and analyze two different dimensions of the concept of Nachat Ruach:
When a person gives Nachat Ruach to Hashem through fulfilling His Will.
When a person experiences an inner sense of Nachat Ruach.
Sources for giving Nachat Ruach to Hashem through fulfilling His Will
In the Torah, the concept is mentioned in relation to the sacrifices, קרבנות that are acceptable to Hashem and give Him Nachat Ruach, so to speak:
“And the Kohen shall cause it all to go up in smoke on the Altar” an elevation-offering, a fire offering, a satisfying aroma to Hashem” (Leviticus 1:9)
והקטיר הכהן את ” הכל המזבחה עלה אשה ריח-ניחוח לה”
On the phrase ניחוח””, Rashi comments, “it is Nachat Ruach (translated as a gratification or pleasure) before Me, for I have commanded (spoken) and My Will was done”.
Since the destruction of the Temple, the Bet HaMikdash, in Jerusalem, prayer has taken the place of the sacrifices. We see here that a Jew has the intention to give “nachat ruach” to Hashem through this medium as well. Thus, in the standard Sephardi prayer format or nusach, there is an introductory preparation or “kavanah” that is said: “We have come to pray the afternoon prayer, Mincha, that was established by Yitzchak Avinu, May His Name be blessed, to give nachat ruach to our Creator.”[ii]
“הנה אנחנו באים להתפלל תפילת מנחה שתיקן יצחק אבינו עליו השלום…לעשות נחת רוח ליוצרנו”
The Ramchal, in his introduction to Mesillat Yesharim, describes a number of attributes characterizing the perfection of man’s serving Hashem (Avodat Hashem). An important aspiration in Avodat Hashem is to wish to serve Him out of love more than out of fear. Ahavat Hashem, the love of Hashem, is experienced as an inner arousal to do what is pleasing to the Creator “that there be implanted in a person’s heart a love for the Blessed One which will arouse his soul to do what is pleasing before Him, just as his heart is aroused to give pleasure to his father and mother.”[iii]
שיהיה נקבע בלב האדם אהבה אליו יתברך עד שתעורר נפשו לעשות נחת רוח לפניו, כמו שלבו מתעורר לעשות נחת רוח לאביו או אמו”
In a later chapter, when describing the nature of the concept of “saintliness” (Chassidut), the Ramchal writes that the root of this manner of serving Hashem is derived from a teaching in the Talmud in Berachot 17A, where the Rabbis state:
“Fortunate is the man whose toil is in Torah and gives pleasure to His Creator.”[iv]
“אשרי אדם שמעלו בתורה ועושה נחת רוח ליוצריו”
The Baal HaTanya, Rav Shneur Zalman, teaches that there are two kinds of nachat ruach that are consequences of different levels of a Jew’s Avodat Hashem.
“For there are two kinds of Nachat Ruach: one, from the complete annihilation of the sitra achra, (the other side, the force which stands opposite the side of holiness) and the conversion of bitter to sweet and of darkness to light which is accomplished by Tzaddikim; and the second: when the sitra achra is subdued while it is still at its strongest and most powerful, soaring like an eagle, and from this height G-d topples it and responds to human initiative. This is accomplished by Beinonim.[v]
Finally, the Noam Elimelech wrote an inspiring prayer that was formulated as a way to better prepare or arouse oneself to be able to properly say the formal morning (Shacharit) prayer. In many prayer books this supplication is entitled “prayer before the prayer”. At the end of this lengthy preparation (“kavanna”), the Noam Elimelech concludes: “it is clear and well known before You that everything that was said in this introduction to prayer was to give You nachat ruach, and this was the main purpose of our intention.”[vi]
“ואל יעלה שום שנאה מאחד על חברו חלילה, ותחזק התקשרותנו באהבה אליך
כאשר גלוי וידוע לפניך שיהא הכל נחת רוח אליך, וזה עקר כונתנו”
Sources that relate to a person experiencing an inner sense of Nachat Ruach
In the Shacharit (morning) prayer before saying “Sh’ma” we allude to the angels (malachim), who accept upon themselves the yoke of the heavenly sovereignty of G-d (“ol malchut shamayim”), sanctifying the Creator from within a state of “nachat ruach”, as is written:
“Then they all accept upon themselves the yoke of heavenly sovereignty from one another, and lovingly grant permission to one another to sanctify the One Who formed them, in a state of nachat ruach (tranquility).”[vii]
“וכלם מקבלים עליהם על מלכות שמים זה מזה …… להקדיש ליוצרם בנחת רוח”
The second aspect can also be seen from the Ramban, who uses the phrase “being in a state of nachat ruach”, three times in his letter (Iggeret) to his son, which was written after he had come to Eretz Yisrael. He begins by stressing:
“Always be in the habit of speaking all your words pleasantly (בנחת) to every person and at all times and in this way you will avoid becoming angry.”[viii]
” “תתנהג תמיד לדבר כל דבריך בנחת לכל אדם ובכל עת ובזה תנצל מן הכעס.
Later the Ramban teaches:
“Therefore I am going to teach you how to behave humbly in all that you always do, and that is that all your speech shall be pleasant (בנחת).
“”על כן אפרש לך איך תתנהג במדת הענוה ללכת בה תמיד, כל דבריך יהיו בנחת,
Finally he says:
“And if someone calls you, do not answer him in a loud voice, only respond in soft tones as you would if you were standing before your Master.”
ואם יקראך איש אל תענהו בקול רם, רק בנחת כעומד לפני רבו””
It is possible that the Ramban was basing his understanding of the concept of being in a state of “nachat” or “בנחת” from the verse that appears in Ecclesiastes 9:17, where it is taught that the “words of the wise are heard when they are spoken with “nachat” or pleasantly: “דברי חכמים בנחת נשמעים”. Practically, the Ramban stresses the importance of speaking “בנחת” in order to avoid the negative character trait of anger and to achieve the very positive character trait of humility.
The Ramchal also discusses the notion of being in a state of nachat ruach in the first chapter of Mesillat Yesharim, that deals with man’s duty in the world and the purpose of pleasure. The Ramchal teaches that “the world’s pleasures should serve only the purpose of aiding and assisting him by way of providing him with the nachat ruach (contentment) and yishuv daat (peace of mind) requisite for the freeing of his heart for the service which devolves upon him.”[ix]
In a teaching connected to Shabbat HaGadol, the Bnei Yissachar differentiates between teshuvah (repentance) motivated by fear and that motivated by love. He teaches that one who does teshuvah through love is able to experience “nachat” in his Avodat Hashem. He bases this on the verse in Isaiah 30:15: “In stillness and nachat you will be saved.”[x]
“בשובה ונחת תושעון”
In the Shulchan Aruch, when discussing the section of the morning prayer called “Psukei D’zimra”, which comes from Tehillim and prepares us to later say “Shema” and the “Amida”, Rav Yosef Karo writes: “one should not say this section in a “harried” way, but rather from “nachat”.[xi]
“אין אומרים הזמירות במרוצה, כי עם בנחת”
Summarizing the verses discussed in this section, we can see that the phrase “nachat ruach” is understood as being a desirable inner emotional and spiritual state that leads to a positive outcome. Thus, it can be inferred from the Ramban that the ability to speak in a calm way is more likely to occur when it is an outward expression coming from an inner place of nachat ruach. For the Ramchal, the value of nachat ruach is understood in an even more comprehensive way. Having an inner sense of nachat ruach provides the best foundation for man being able to fulfill his purpose or duty in this world. For the Bnei Yissachar, teshuvah motivated by love allows one to experience nachat ruach through Avodat Hashem.
The two dimensions of giving nachat ruach to Hashem and being in an inner state of nachat ruach are not necessarily mutually exclusive. When one senses that what he does gives nachat ruach to Hashem, this can also naturally have the effect of influencing him to also feel nachat ruach. Many may be able to relate to this “reciprocal relationship” when understood within the context of parent-child relationships. When a son or daughter knows that they are giving nachat to their parents, this creates a “boomerang effect”, where the son or daughter also achieves a sense of gratification. When a parent is fortunate enough to have nachas from his/her children, and later on, from their grandchildren, this is experienced as a warm cozy feeling in the heart that is a mixture of deep satisfaction, real joy or simcha and a sense of gratitude to Hashem. Nachat Ruach can also be experienced when a person feels that he is acting in such a way that he is actualizing his unique potential in the right way in one’s work or in important relationships.
[i] Inner Space, Rav Aryeh Kaplan, Moznaim, Brooklyn 1991, Page 18 [ii] Siddur Kol Yaakov, Yeshivat HaChaim V'haShalom, Jerusalem, 1993, Page170 [iii] Moshe Chayim Luzzatto (Ramchal), Mesillat Yesharim, (The Path of the Just) Translated by Shraga Silverstein, Feldheim Publishers, Jerusalem/New York 1966 Page 12. [iv] Ibid., p. 217 [v] Lessons in Tanya, Chapter 27, Elucidated by Rabbi Yosef Weinberg, Kehot Publication Society, Brooklyn 2004, Page 359 [vi] Siddur Beit Tefilla - בית תפילה, Miller Publishers, Jerusalem, 1991, Page 28. [vii] Siddur Imrei Ephraim, Artscroll Siddur, Messorah Publications, Brooklyn, New York 1985, Page 91. [viii] Iggeret HaRamban [ix] Moshe Chayim Luzzatto (Ramchal), Mesillat Yesharim, (The Path of the Just) Translated by Shraga Silverstein, Feldheim Publishers, Jerusalem/New York 1966 , Page 27 [x] Bnei Yissachar, Toldot Aharon, Jerusalem, 2007, Page 111 [xi] Shulchan Aruch, Yerid HaSefarim, Jerusalem, 2005, Page 49