a gans yor frielach


purim and happiness


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Purim & Being Happy the Whole Year

By Nachum Mohl

When I was a boy, I would dance for hours each Purim and one of the songs that we would sing was a Yiddish song, "a gans yor frielach", meaning an entire year of happiness. Even as I grew up, this song was always in my memory as a desire to be happy through out the entire year – a certainly worthy cause!

As I matured I began to think, is it really possible? Can a person really attain "a gans yor frielach"? Doesn't there exist times in everyone's life when it just is not frielach? And if it be so, that happiness is really elusive and not sustainable, then why should we sing, "a gans yor frielach"?

Let us just be happy for Purim and other special times and be what we are on other times. On the other hand, I wondered, perhaps it is possible to be in a joyous state for a sustained period.

This led me to much thinking and reading on the subject of happiness, and experimenting with various philosophies which promised continual happiness. I began to see problems with attaining the constant high. I saw many of my friends trying to reach a "nirvana" that was drug induced. In their drug induced states they seemed to be in a very special state, but it did not last long. There was a "down" after the high, and worse than that, there was an intellectual addition to the drug community and a disregard for simple rules of good living, i.e., honesty, hardworking, goodness, etc.

Not only that, I saw with my own eyes that their happiness was ultimately connected only with getting their drugs, not with life and people. It seems that they avoided the obvious, that we are here to be in this world, not to vegetate and take drugs to avoid the world.

If the good G-d who created us truly wanted us to be happy, then it was in our power to be happy, and, conversely, if He desired us to be unhappy, then we could not escape it. So then what is our ability to reach the "a gans yor frielach" that we sing about on Purim in our own lives?

The reality is that G-d does desire our happiness, but just like he desires us to be healthy, it is dependent a good deal upon us.

Take good health as an example. Every one desires to be healthy, but in reality we see that many fall prey to their own destructive habits. Some over indulge in food, others in drinks; still others do not exercise, etc. It is in our hands to a large extent if we are going to be health, are we going to go to a doctor about this or that, are we going to follow his advice? This is all dependent upon our own exertion. We choose to be healthy or we by laziness choose to be unhealthy.

Similarly, we may choose to be happy but like health it takes a bit of exertion. Like health, there are three states, healthy, not healthy and middle ground. A muscular young man who exercises and eats properly is a striking example of good heath. A glutton who spends his time lying in front of the television is an example of poor health. An average middle age person is an example of someone who is neither in good health nor in poor health, he is in the middle ground.

Similarly in happiness, there are three states, happy, depressed and in the middle – neither happy nor depressed. Now a state of elated happiness generally comes at certain periods of a person's life and is rare: marriage, winning a large prize, etc. This level of happiness is really elation and can not be maintained. However, happiness which is a certain contentment with life, can be realized by most people, but like good health, it requires a special exercise.

First we must realize that everything comes from G-d, the good and the bad. This is the beginning of everything. Good is that which we can comprehend as something which we desire. Bad is that which we try to avoid.

G-d on the other hand is the ultimate of good, nothing bad comes from him. That which we perceive as bad must be understood in light of the principle that nothing bad comes from Him.

When we contemplate on our lifes, if we must realize that everything is G-d directed and that nothing comes by accident, we must begin to consider what is the reason that a misfortune occurred. Remembering that G-d is just and desires that we be with him constantly here on earth, we must look into our deeds and justify the events that he brought upon us.

Conversely, when good things happen, it is incumbent upon us to attribute this to G-d's desire to give from His goodness to us. Only when we are willing to do our "spiritual" exercises can we achieve "a gans yor frielach", being happy, in the sense of contentment the entire year.

If we learn this from the story of Purim, the story of how it appeared that the Jews would be destroyed, and how that relates to their misdeeds, how they repented and how the evil decree was reversed, then we also can reach the level of "a gans yor frielach".


from the March 2006 Edition of the Jewish Magazine




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