Happiness and Judaism

    April 1998 Passover Edition            
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Opinion & Society


Enjoying Life

By Doctor H. M. Marvin

   Ever looked around and seen so many unhappy people? How many people are having heart attacks, strokes, ulcers, or just plain heart aches. What is the chance of you being infected by one of these germs? Well, if we go by the average, the chances are not slim. Even those people who seem to avoid the modern illnesses do not seem to be happy individuals.

   Look around you at work. Who is successful? Is it someone who is really happy with life? Or, perhaps, they are happy with their successes. How many so called successful people are truly successful in the full meaning of the word? True, there are those who have amassed money, or fame, but it doesn't take much to see under the surface that their personal lives are lacking and unfulfilled. Why is it the exception, rather than the rule, that being successful in money making does not mean success in personal relationships. How many wealthy people who have really made it monetarily, yet, are on their second (or third marriage)? How many of them have miserable relations with their children? Why is it that it is only a minority of people who are able to achieve both crowns, success in business and in family?

   Perhaps the first place to look is in the striving for success. We take it for granted that making money is important. For sure it is! But is it necessary that every one live up to the Hollywood standard of consumption? Must we have to reach a level that will impress others? Let's be blunt. Is it possible to be content with what we have with out trying to get more? Is it possible to enjoy life with out being a consumer? Can we just spend time with people and enjoy it? For sure!

   The concept of becoming rich is so embedded in our psyche, that we lose track of the realities of life - not every one makes gobs of money. Not only does not every one make gobs of money, but the message which underscores the drive for financial success, "happiness", is merely a hallucination and not an effect of money. Let's be practical and realize that money is surely a convenience, but it certainly is no substitute for being a truly warm person.

   What we need to realize and focus on is a very simple idea. There is a G-d in the world. He is the one who makes the rich wealthy and makes the poor penniless. It is His direction of the world that causes money to flow either into our pockets or out. What is required from us is simply to know this and accept it, but not to be complacent. True, we need to strive to make a dollar, but we need to realize that the fortunes of all are in His hands. This acceptance guarantees success. Maybe we won't make a million, (until next year) but we will be happy with what we have and not be unhappy with what we don't have.

   Let's give an example of this kind of thinking. Two men, Joe and Harry, invest in the stock market. Joe spends a lot of time researching the market, speaking with the experts and plotting charts. Harry does about the same. They both invest and the stock goes up. Joe and Harry both make a killing. Joe is happy, not just because his stock went up, but also because it vindicated his intellectual abilities. Harry is no less happy, he also make a killing. But unlike Joe, Harry is happy because he knows that the success was really a gift from G-d.

   The next week, Joe and Harry reinvest in another stock in the same manner that they used previously. The stock flops. They both lose heavily. Joe feels really depressed. Why? Not just did he lose a lot of money, but his intellectual ego just took a heavy beating. Harry is not exactly singing joyfully either, but he is not depressed like Joe. Why? Harry knows that just like success is from G-d, so is failure. Harry can rationalize his loss, perhaps he should have been more charitable with his money and he wasn't. But for sure it's not a blow to his ego.

   This is the point. Why go through life trying to please your ego or your concept of what your neighbor thinks is important? Learn to see life as an extension of G-d in all things and you will be happy. Happy with successes and accepting of failure. Why? Because it is not from you!

   This is the words of the sages in Ethic of the Fathers: Who is happy? He who rejoices with what he has.

   If we do this, we are assured happiness. Try it, it has a money back guarantee.


from the April 1998 Passover Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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