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Tishrei 5762 – Achieving Happiness

15 Tishrei 5762

From the Desk of: Rav Hadar Margolin

Dear Students,

The Maharal explains that happiness is essential in our relationship with God:

“The purpose of an act of mitzvah performance is to bring man to a state of completeness, [and] joy is an outgrowth of completeness. The reason the Divine Presence dwells only in an atmosphere of joy is because Hashem can connect only with that which is complete, since He Himself is complete in the ultimate sense of the word. The joy puts the crowning touch on man’s completeness, thereby enabling the Divine Presence. “

Our state of happiness, therefore, is what enables Hashem to dwell among us. Hashem, as it were, can not fully relate to us when we are not happy, for the incompleteness we express when we are unhappy prevents Him from making a full connection with us.

Therefore, in the season of our happiness, as the Torah defines Succos, we should all make it our primary objective during this time to grow closer to Hashem. Let’s explore one enormously effective way to gain a high level of happiness, which will open us to a closer relationship with Hashem.

THE HAPPINESS WISH

“If you had one wish, what would you wish for?”

The most common wishes would likely be for health, wealth, power or prestige. Underlying our one wish would be the desire to have what we perceive as a key to happiness. In reality, though, beneath our pre-programmed desires, we all have an awareness that there is no true happiness in these material pursuits – on the contrary, they are often the source of much misery.

There is, though, one wish, that if granted, would absolutely deliver happiness: a wish that we would have the constant ability and opportunity to give to others. Why? Because our greatest happiness is in our making others happy. There is no question that when we are told that we have made a positive impact on someone’s life it gives us the highest level of satisfaction.

King Solomon illuminates this truth in Mishley, his book of Proverbs. There King Solomon writes that “the soul that blesses will be saturated [with delight], and one who sates others will himself be sated.” The Vilna Gaon explains the uncommon wisdom in this statement, which is the corollary of another verse elsewhere in Mishley that states “jealousy rots bones.” When one relates to another with jealousy, that is, when one feels ill will due to the good his friend has attained, those feelings of jealousy actually define and permeate the atmosphere that surrounds him, ultimately penetrating into his own self causing his bones to rot – so to speak. The opposite of a jealous person is “a soul that blesses.” Such a person is not only at peace with his friend’s merits and attainments, but he actually rejoices in his friend’s good fortune, wishing him even more goodness. Therefore, states King Solomon, this is what will return to him. The good will he has toward others will define the environment ultimately penetrating his being. Thus, “the soul that blesses” that seeks to saturate others with delight, will itself “be saturated with delight”. What we radiate towards others will in turn define our essence.

Using more contemporary language, the Rosh Hayeshiva, Rabbi Yitchak Hutner, observed this reality that one’s pleasures are directly connected to his giving. In a letter to an acquaintance he explains: “Of course I was satisfied with the knowledge that I was able to encourage you in difficult times, for what pleasure is there for a person except to help people in their times of need.”

The Rambam in his Mishneh Torah also brings out this explanation as to the basis for joy that comes from giving. There he writes that “there is no greater and more wonderful joy than gladdening the hearts of the poor, downtrodden, orphans and widows. That is because then one so closely resembles the spirit of Hashem.”

HAPPINESS ON ONE FOOT

We are all familiar with the famous story of the student who asked Hillel to teach the one foundational principle upon which all Torah rests while he, the student, stood on one foot. In other words, encapsulate the Torah’s essence into a sound bite. Hillel did so, and his answer, that which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow, has earned a significant place in the world’s wisdom.

Had our sages been asked to teach the one foundational principle upon which all happiness rests, they would have similarly replied: Seek to make others happy! This is the single most important key to happiness.

During this chag we should all work intensely to help each other develop the happiness and consequent closeness to Hashem that will support us and all of Klal Yisrael during the coming year.

Chag Kosher VeSameach
Rav Hadar Margolin