Tag Archives: happiness

The Fool on the Hill – is it me or everyone else?

An old Israeli joke tells of a certain Israeli politician (who for politically correctness purposes shall remain nameless) who, while driving on the highway, receives a call from his wife. Frantically, she informs him she just heard on the news that some lunatic is driving in the wrong direction on the highway. Even more frantically, he responds “one lunatic? there ALL driving in the wrong direction”!

That kind of sums up my underlying feeling during Sukkot in Toronto so far. So much of it seemed “off”, purely ritualistic, even fake. A few examples are these:
1. During the days leading up to the Chag, everyone was busy building Sukkot and buying Arba’at Haminim. I couldn’t help but feel they are missing the point – these are celebrations of the land of Israel and by choosing to celebrate it in Chutz La’aretz it seems an imitation, even a mockery.
2. The Birkat Kohanim during Chagim in Chutz La’aretz has a special atmosphere due to its rarity; announcements are made and special tunes are used, etc… But for some reason all I could think of during Birkat Kohanim is that the rest of the year we DON’T say Birkat Kohanim in Chutz La’aretz because there is no Simcha (joy) in Chutz La’aretz except on Chagim and Simcha is a prerequisite for blessing the people. Was I the only one thinking to myself “this reminds me – why do I choose to live in a place which is Halachically defined as joyless and without happiness?” or, “what is wrong with the way I lead my life that I don’t even notice that my life is defined as Halachically joyless?”
3. The first two days of Sukkot had wonderful weather. For the first time in years, supposedly, all meals of the first two days could be eaten, comfortably, in the Succah. I was speaking with an acquaintance after Shul on the second day when she said “this Sukkot weather is so great. It’s like being in Israel!”.
Am I the only crazy one who couldn’t just enjoy the Chag, with its myriad beautiful Mitzvot, or is everyone else crazy for not realizing that once you choose to stay in Galut all that’s left is empty, insincere rituals? especially with a holiday like Sukkot?

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Choose Happiness!

What was the מן (Manna bread) actually like? Was it aesthetically beautiful with superb taste, as described by the Torah, or was it ‘dry and rotten’ as described by the מתאוננים (complainers)? 
A possible answer could be found in the Midrash that states the מןhad no taste of its own, rather, tasted like whatever the person eating it, wished it to.
To the מתאוננים, the מן indeed tasted like dry and rotten bread but only because they wished it to. Why would someone choose a rotten מןover a delicious one?
The מתאוננים thought happiness and contentment are dependent on the material things they felt were lacking in their lives, when in truth, happiness isn’t something that happens to you, it is something you must choose.
This idea is especially relevant in today’s consumer culture. Day and night we are bombarded with false promises of happiness. “Don’t these people look happy? It’s because they just bought this shiny new product. Buy it, and you will be happy, too!”. It seems, though, that the more people chase this form of happiness – the more it eludes them.
Some of the poorest countries on earth are known to have the lowest levels of depression and many of the wealthiest countries – the highest. This could be attributed, among other things, to the fact that in those poorer countries, people have no choice but to look internally for a source of happiness. Similarly, we are all familiar with individuals who, despite ‘having it all’, never seem happy while others, who have suffered loss, illness or financial constraints are happy and positive about life. That is because happiness is not an objective state of being. It is a state of mind.
How does one choose happiness? That is a matter for a different post but first one should acknowledge that it is completely dependent on their choice; nothing else.
Repeat with me: “Happiness isn’t something that happens to me. It is something I need to choose”.  

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