Common Sense Happiness

Question

I have a new friend asking me many questions about Judaism. For example: “Does Judaism specifically say anything about enjoying life?”

3 years

Answers

  1. If you stop and think about it, it should be common sense that we should enjoy life. Why else would we be created with sensory perception and exist in a beautiful world that offers great pleasure!

    A child once showed me a shiny red apple and said, “Look what a beautiful apple I have! Not only does it taste great and smell great but it’s beautiful to look at as well! Yum, yum, yum!” This child opened my eyes to even greater appreciation of how much God wants us to be happy and enjoy life.

    The Torah states: “Because (tachat in Hebrew) you did not serve the Lord your God with happiness and a glad heart when you had plenty of everything, you will therefore serve your enemies when God sends them against you…”

    Maimonides teaches that from here we learn that one is supposed to serve God with joy and gladness. “Serving God” means living in a way that is moral, just and filled with loving-kindness. It is a mitzvah to live this way and includes basically every aspect of life.

    If being happy is so obvious and simple, why does it seem that many people find it difficult to be happy? There’s a parable from the Alexander Rav to answer this question.

    There was a boy who was trained by his tutor to read the Aleph Bet. One day the parents proudly stood by to watch their son reciting the letters with the vowels. The boy began, “Kamatz Aleph Ah, Kamatz Bet Ba, etc.” until he came to Kamatz Hey. Suddenly he couldn’t continue! The parents were puzzled and said to their son, “Come on, you can do it. Just look under (tachat) the letter Hey. What’s under the Hey?”

    At which point the boy burst out in tears and declared, “But dear parents, you told me not to tell anybody that you hid a stolen calf under the hay!”

    Just as this easy task for the boy was blocked by something underneath and behind the scenes, so it can be with happiness. Happiness should come easily in life. However, sometimes something underneath prevents this happiness. The Torah reminds us that our job is to deal with these underlying factors and open the way to serving God with happiness.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team