When I was in prison in Russia, I was surrounded by men who’d given up hope, who were despondent and broken. I always tried to be upbeat, and one of them asked me how I could be happy in such a miserable place.
I answered that before he’d been taken to prison, he had been a respectful banker, with a prominent position and an upscale lifestyle. Then, they took him away from his life, ripped him away from his position and material good, and threw him into jail where he had nothing. Of course he was devastated. He had lost himself.
But I had one identity before being arrested: I was a chassid, intent on serving my Maker. In prison as well, I had that very same goal: trying to serve Hashem. My material situation was far more difficult, but the overall goal hadn’t changed, even if the circumstances had, so why not be happy?
I was chassid before, and I was still a chassid! ~ R’ Mendel Futerfas