Ask The Rabbi

For the week ending 8 March 2003 / 4 Adar II 5763


by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Fred in Dallas, TX

Dear Rabbi,

I was at a party where people were singing songs in Hebrew. One song was about it being a mitzvah to be happy all the time. Nice song, but how can a person who is serious by nature do this mitzvah?

Dear Fred,

I’m happy you asked.

Happiness doesn't necessarily mean walking around with a big smile on your face. For sure smiling is great, it makes you and others feel good. But true happiness is an inner feeling. A serious demeanor may also have a bright and happy disposition behind it.

A person who feels he’s fulfilling his purpose in life, feels good about himself. Through learning Torah and keeping mitzvot a person does this, comes closer to G-d, and attains true happiness. Even someone serious by nature can “enjoy” this happiness. Sounds great, but how do you do it?

Doing simple acts of kindness makes people feel good. I recently met a successful businessman who, as I was told, is miserable despite his wealth. However, all that changes on Friday morning when he’s home packing food parcels for unfortunate families who cannot even put the basics on their Shabbat table. Being involved in the mitzvah of giving to others transforms him into a big “bundle” of joy.

Changing one’s way of thinking about things is also a route to happiness. Regarding this, the Baal Shem Tov noted that rearranging the letters of the Hebrew word for thought (machshava) results in the word for happiness (b'simcha). Another reasonpeople are unhappy is because they feel they’re not getting what they deserve from life. Setting high goals is good, but expecting less and giving more is even better. Also, many take for granted what they have. Count your blessings, such as family, health and livelihood. As our Sages teach, "Who is considered wealthy? One who is happy with what he has” (Pirkei Avot 4:1).

Public Domain

Re: Ethics - Hold that Bus!? (Ohrnet Ki Tisa)

Sometimes, I want to let someone with one or two items "cut into" the line at the supermarket. But I tell that person to ask the people behind me too. It's their wait also.

This is so right what you wrote about a similar sensitivity one should have when using public transportation.


Re: Mark Twain & His “Jewish” Essay (Ohr Somayach Website

I have read the "Concerning the Jews” cartoon exposition/essay on your website. I think it is important to point out that if the Jews had stayed close to the one and only G-d, the ancient Greeks would not even dare to touch them.

Niko in Sweden

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