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Title: The Power of Simchah: Illuminating the Torah Path to Happiness
By Rabbi Meyer Yedid
Artscroll

 

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Happiness is intrinsic to being a Jew:

“There are many different words for joy in the Hebrew language. I won’t go through all of them here, but if you want a sample, take a look at the last beracha of the sheva berachot… But no two words in Lashon Kodesh are exactly synonymous; each one refers to a type of joy that is unique and different from all the others.”

We all want to be happy. Not only because it’s a great mitzvah, but because we enjoy being happy. No one wants pain, worry, affliction, despair or despondency in their lives.

Rabbi Yedid tells us that happiness is in our control:

“Happy people generally see things in a positive light.” “Whether we have a good life is based on perspective, not our actual circumstances.”

But although most of us are aware of this on some level, we still have a hard time accessing happiness. The Torah path to happiness that Rabbi Yedid illuminates in this volume is that happiness is interwoven, and inexorably linked with every other middah. It results from positive middot like patience, responsibility, gratitude, optimism, persistence, calm, love, and alacrity. And it is hindered by negative middot like jealousy, hatred, laziness, ingratitude, despair and controversy.

So, if you want to reach happiness, working on your middot is the roadmap. The good news is that since there are so many paths to happiness, taking any one of them, working on any positive middah, will lead you there, and it’s very much work you can do within your own mind, where most of our emotions, fed by thoughts originate.

If we don’t have joy, it is because we are confused, overwhelmed, frightened, panicked and in denial regarding the challenges of our lives.

“So much of our physical and spiritual success, in this world and the next, depends on our living with joy. The happier we are, the more reasons we will be given to be happy. Sounds counter-intuitive, shouldn’t people who are lacking happiness be given reasons to rejoice? But the fact is we all have reasons to rejoice, the reason we aren’t happy is because we focus on the negative or aren’t grateful enough for the good.”

Therefore, joy is not only a mitzvah in itself, but a prerequisite for all other mitzvot.

The book has many stories, Midrashim, and anecdotes to illustrate its thesis, as well as suggestions for ways for us to access our happiness; how simcha is directly or inversely related to many other character traits – it doesn’t exist in an emotional or spiritual vacuum. In fact, happiness, is the touchstone for evaluating where we are at any moment in our spiritual journey.

“People who are constantly focused on doing away with any struggle will look at something as minor as mud on their shoes, while experiencing the most amazing miracle, and use it as an excuse not to be happy. Had Hashem made the miracle at the Yam Suf perfect, that would not have been real life. Because to live means that there’s always at least one wall standing between you and happiness. And unless you decide to ignore that wall and find happiness nonetheless, you will never be happy.”

Happiness can best be achieved by all the middot that grant us happiness. Happiness isn’t a state of being, it’s many milestones on the journey to being a self-actualized Jew.

“When Hashem calls us His firstborn, He means that we have that role in the world. We are here to make the world a holier, kinder, more beautiful place.”

Available at Artscroll.com.

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