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Want to be Happy?
By Avi Lazerson
A generation such as ours with such an abundance of physical commodities, food, clothing housing and furnishings, still finds itself in a crises when it comes to achieving personal happiness. Never before has any generation lived in a time of such great material supply which is available to satisfy physical needs and yet suffers from a lack of happiness.
Why is it? What causes happiness, and conversely, what causes unhappiness?
Let us first look at the life of our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Isaac. Each of these three personalities suffered setbacks in their lives.
Abraham had to leave his home, his city and his country and journey to a place to which he had no familiarity. He left his security. He came to the land of Israel, the land that G-d promised him and there was a famine. G-d did not seem to help him; instead he was forced to go to Egypt. In Egypt, his wife was taken captive by the king of Egypt. That certainly does not sound like a happy event!
When he finally came back to the land of Israel, he was unable to have any children with his beloved wife, Sarah. He had a child with her handmaiden, Hagar. Then Sarah conceived and he had to send Hagar and his son, Ishmael, away because of problems between the two wives and their sons. That certainly was no happy event for Abraham.
Then his cousin Lot was taken captive by several kings who destroyed the city that Lot lived in. Abraham had to take his men and fight a battle to release the captives. That was some difficult situation!
Can you imagine Abraham's feelings when G-d told him to taken his beloved son, Isaac, and bind him and then sacrifice him? That was the supreme test! It is hard to image Abraham in a "jolly" mood at that point!
Isaac also did not live the great life of contentment. He had to leave the land where he dwelled because of a famine. His wife, Rebecca, was also taken captive by a king. That too, was no pleasure.
They had two children, Jacob and Esau. Jacob was a righteous person, but Esau was wicked. Esau vowed to kill Jacob, so Rebecca had Jacob sent far away. These were serious family problems again Isaac had to live in an environment that did not promote happiness.
Isaac eventually became blind. Having to live blind certainly was no source of happiness and contentment for anyone.
Jacob also had his share difficulties and disappointments. First he had to work seven years to marry Rachel, and instead the wicked Laban gave him Leah! Waking up the morning after the wedding and discovering that you mistakenly married the wrong woman certainly would cause most people tremendous anxiety! Yet Jacob had to live with this.
Jacob had to come to terms with his wicked brother Esau and also fight with an angel. His life was lived under great pressures and stresses and he was in great physical danger. He did not have the security that we would consider to be a fundamental element to generate happiness. What kind of life do you think that he led?
His most beloved son, Joseph, was taken from him. He was lead to believe for many years that he was eaten by a wild animal. Jacob suffered many years because of this supposed loss. Did Jacob have a happy life?
If our forefathers, the saintly patriarchs, who lived in such great spiritual harmony with G-d were denied earthly happiness, who are we to even think that we have some "right" to be happy. We see just the opposite; G-d gives us troubles!
But there is one difference between us, perhaps, and the patriarchs. They accepted the problems as they came their way. Perhaps they viewed life differently from us. They saw that life included problems and disappointments are as much as life includes the discomforts of rain and cold. A condition of the human experience includes transversing various difficulties. This is the way G-d created for us.
What is Happiness?
Let us now proceed to understand what happiness is. For without a proper understanding of what it is, we may never begin our journey to reach it. In reality before we can set a guide for attaining happiness we must define our term. What constitutes happiness?
Now let us clearly state that happiness is not joy. Joy is a euphoric feeling that elevates man above his mundane and dreary daily self. Joy is that rare state which is acquired when a person works hard and achieves his goal or difficult aspiration or overcomes a difficult problem or finally attains a certain desired status or level. It is this attainment of this transitory goal that gives him a momentary elation. The euphoric feeling is a "high" that is the direct result of his personal achievement. But let us realize that soon the achievement will fade and he will return to his prior state.
Getting Happiness into Your Life
If happiness is not joy, how does it come about? Happiness in life is being comfortable with one's self, with ones position in life and with one's attainments. Happiness is really being content with who you are and with what you have accomplished in life. Even more so, the acceptance of what you are not, and with the acceptance of what you did NOT accomplish. Not thinking that had I married so and so, I might enjoy life more. If I did this or that, I might have made more money. If I acted differently I might not be in the situation that I am in now.
But before we reach this state we must make some adjustments in our thinking and values. We must re-evaluate our lives in view of G-d's will for our being. We must know that it is G-d that brings us into the situations that we must face, not our own selves.
To properly be conditioned to meet the world head on, we must acquire the proper values from our childhood. A proper family environment enables its members a basic security, a common identity and a feeling of support and intrinsic worth. The deterioration of the family, the breaking of the traditional warm bonds not just between children and their parents, but also between siblings and cousins is symptomatical of the overall problem of "FINDING HAPPINESS".
Happiness is not wealth. One who is happy is content with his portion in life. The happiness referred to here is the acceptance of his position and acquisitions with out feeling that life has treated him poorly for not having achieved more.
A Deeper Look at Being Happy
Perhaps more deeply understood - reaching happiness requires the realization that each person was created and placed in this world at this particular place and time to do a certain task. G-d has placed him here and has given him the difficulties that he encounters. Each person's difficulties are different from the next. What we all have in common is the difficulties that we face and the matter in which we accept them.
This is probably the point that we can learn from the lives of our forefathers. Each of the patriarchs was a prophet, yet each had many difficult problems in life to which G-d did not always extend a helping hand. But our patriarchs realized that their problems had come to them with the explicit agreement of G-d.
Once we have chosen the correct mind set, we can begin to face those difficult and challenging that are our divined destiny. With the proper understanding of life and its predestined difficulties, we will feel more content with ourselves.
With the knowledge that we are going to experience problems and difficulties, and they are send by G-d Himself we can accept them and their outcomes. We are going to be tested by our creator who knows exactly what our test is. We are going to have big disappointments.
We must understand that failure in not the last word unless we do not continue trying. We can easily persevere towards our goal since this goal in OUR personal G-d given destiny. Each victory that we achieve in our individual personal lives will keep us content. Each disappointment that we feel will bring us to realize that there is indeed a G-d running this world.
This is the message that we can take from the lives of the great patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
After Jacob died and the brothers had to face Joseph, the powerful ruler of Egypt, they send him a message asking him for forgiveness for what they had done to him. They were fearful that since their father Jacob had died, there was nothing holding Joseph back from taking revenge on their treatment of him. Joseph spent years as a slave and years in an Egyptian prison, suffering because of his brothers.
Joseph answered his brothers that all that happened was the divine will of G-d. He told them that they were really powerless to act against him if it were not that G-d had decreed that it should happen. Joseph possessed the proper outlook on life. This is what saw him through the most difficult times imaginable in life. This is what we must learn.
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