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The Rabbi's Blog

A Message from Rabbi Spalter

Are You Happy?

Our sages instruct us that “Mishe’nichnas Adar Marbim Bi’simcha” when the month of Adar begins, we increase in our joy. Being that the month of Adar began this past Tuesday, we must look for ways to increase our joy.

The language the rabbi’s use is: in the month of Adar we should ‘increase’ our joy. This means that they take for granted that we are already joyous as it is, only that in this month we need to just ‘increase’ it. Is this indeed the case? Are most people happy? The statisticians have us believe that this is the unhappiest generation of all time and I for one believe that they are right. Half of our families are broken; the other half are also reporting high levels of anxiety and many other serious psychological problems with our youth etc. and the question is why? Why are we so unhappy? One would think that a generation such as ours would be the happiest. After all, there has never been a generation that had as much as we do. In addition, we are the most educated generation ever. Most High School graduates continue on to higher education, something our ancestors could never afford to do. Communication is at an all-time high. I remember when I went to study abroad, (in the early eighties when I was fourteen years old) I would only receive a phone call from my parents twice a month. Beyond that, I had to write letters and send them by regular mail (sounds like ancient history). Today, my children who are abroad sometimes call me three times a day and they can Skype with us if they want. Distances hardly separate anyone these days. Yet with all we have and all we possess, the fact remains that we are less happy than ever before.

In a conversation I was having with a woman this week, she shared with me how concerned and worried she was about everything that is going on in our society these days, I told her that she is not alone. There is indeed a lot to be concerned about. Watching television is very depressing. We see a world that has gone mad and no one really knows what to do about it. The New York legislature gave themselves a standing ovation for making third term abortions easier. Virginia and its governor are talking about doing the same and are even suggesting allowing abortion to happen at birth G-d forbid. All this in the name of women’s health and a woman’s right to choose. (A right to choose what? To end the life of someone else?) Our leadership is nowhere to be found or heard. Anti-Semitism is on the rise and has reached frightening levels with Jews being targeted all over the world and especially in Israel. Just this morning Israel buried a 19-year-old singer who was murdered after being mutilated and tortured in a most horrific way. The anti-Semitic BDS movement and its supporters (now even in the US congress) are on a mission to destroy Israel, and there are very few voices out there that can give us some comfort and strength. In this kind of environment, can one be happy at all, let alone increase our happiness?

If we want to be happy and even add in our joy, we first need to understand what happiness is and where is comes from. Happiness results when our inner self and outer self are in sync. We are all made up of body and soul. Our body is the outer self while the soul is our inner self. When those two elements of the human being are in sync, the person will be a happy one. What makes us unhappy is when our outer lives are not in line with our inner selves. When a Jew has a good job, is well educated, eats healthy, goes on fun vacations, lives in his/her dream home and has everything else imaginable, but for whatever reason completely neglects his or her soul’s needs, the result is unhappiness. In that case, the outer self is well pampered, but is not at all in sync with the soul which is not being tended to. The body’s successes do not talk to the souls needs at all. This is a life that is not well aligned and it is only a matter of time that the person or perhaps his/her children will begin to feel the misalignment. The same is true for a person who is extremely soul oriented, but completely neglects the body. This too is not a life well aligned and will result in unhappiness. Happiness is the result of the soul and body working together. When the body’s successes are employed to further the soul’s passions, the result is unbounding joy.

Our ancestors might not have had as much as we do, but their lives were aligned far better and were therefore much happier. The world they lived in was not the Garden of Eden and they had many problems, but they were happy because their own lives were aligned well. We might have much more and we may know much more, but those advantages will not necessarily lead to happy lives if we don’t sync our inner and outer selves.

In the month of Adar, when the story of Purim happened, we are able to not only be happy, but increase our happiness. On Purim, we read of how the Jews realigned their inner and outer selves in a most fantastic way. The story is about repentance, closeness to G-d, commitment to Torah (the inner self) and saving of the Jewish people from physical extinction (the outer self) … hence the increased level of joy and happiness we experience during this month.

A happy Adar and a most joyous Shabbos to all.

 

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