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Can we be Authentically Happy? Part 2

In part 1, we discussed how natural joy is the happiness in who we are, in our very existence. It already exists within us. All we have to do is uncover it and especially, choose it and adopt it as a way of life. This discovery manifests in each of the powers of the soul, which completely transform when they meet up with happiness. In this chapter, we continue with the various manifestations of happiness in the powers of the soul.

Joy and Unification (Knowledge)

The greatest joy is the joy of a wedding. One would think that it is the bride and groom who invite everyone to celebrate the meeting of their two souls. But in certain respects, the opposite is true: everyone comes to the wedding to make the bride and groom happy, to give them the joyous energy they need to overcome their doubts and the gaps between them, and to wed. Joy has the power to unify opposites, melt away differences and anxieties and create connection. Thus, it is not only the wedding that makes the event joyous—it is the joy that makes the wedding!

This also holds true throughout the years of the marriage. The glue that connects a man and a woman is the joy of the husband in his wife and the joy of the wife in her husband and their mutual joy in their love. Their joy makes their relationship creative and fruitful, as in the verse in Psalms, “The mother of children is joyous.”[1] Happiness makes it possible for us to connect to others and the connection to others makes us happy.

Joy and Compassion (Beauty)

What is the connection between joy and compassion? Generally, it is a sad situation that arouses our compassion. Compassion is the feeling that is aroused when we truly feel and identify with someone else. A person who is sad is closed within himself and is incapable of opening up to feel someone else.

The Zohar calls joy “the world of freedom.” Joy takes us out of ourselves and opens our eyes to see others, to feel for them, and to have compassion for them. Being able to come out of our solitary state depends upon our own happiness and arouses happiness. Even if the situation that we are facing induces compassion, our sensitivity to it and sharing in it kindles joy. Conversely, when we are the ones arousing the compassion and we open ourselves up to feel God’s compassion and unconditional love for us, we are filled with simple joy that reflects the Divine joy over the fact that we exist.

Joy and Simple Sincerity (Acknowledgment)

Be sincerely simple with your God.”[2] Simple sincerity is a great virtue in the service of God. It is also the key to emotional health, honesty, seriousness, and simplicity. People are afraid to be simply sincere. They think that only the sophisticated succeed. Perhaps they have also been hoodwinked here and there. Happiness, however, safeguards simple sincerity and makes it a positive experience. The simply sincere person is aware that people may try to take advantage of him. Nonetheless, he adopts his simple sincerity as his way of life. Even if someone tries to deceive him, he will not be overly upset, and will remain happy with the simple sincerity that he chose. This is exemplified in Rebbe Nachman’s story, The Sophisticate and the Simpleton, in which the simply sincere, perpetually happy man is the role model to be emulated. His joyous simple sincerity is the key to his success.

A person who walks before God in simple sincerity can accept all the failures in life with joy. We all have situations in life that don’t work out as we dreamed. The simply sincere person accepts everything that happens to him in life with joy and faith; everything is for the very best. Joy and simple sincerity create health and emotional resilience in all of life’s circumstances.

Joy and Lowliness (kingdom)

The lowest power of the soul is lowliness. Lowliness is our sober, honest knowledge of ourselves – including all our weaknesses and shortcomings. Think about how you would like to be, how you could be with the Godly potential concealed inside you, and then open your eyes and see yourself as you truly are. This is healthy self-awareness, but it is difficult to say that it would bring a person to a state of joy. Joy protects lowliness from deteriorating into depression, as could easily happen when a person focuses on himself with an awareness of all his shortcomings. Happiness allows us to look outside ourselves and to remember that our problems are only a small particle in the broad, happy reality.

The pre-eminent expression of lowliness appears in the Bible at the peak of a joyous event. King David says then, “And I would be lowly in my own eyes”[3]  to explain why he was dancing unaware of having made a spectacle of himself before the Ark of the Covenant. His lowliness generated joy. Why? First, lowliness liberates a person from the tension involved in preserving his self-image. Yes, I have shortcomings and weaknesses. That is me, and I don’t have to invest energy into deceiving myself or others. This is a very liberating statement, enough to make one want to dance. When I am “lowly in my own eyes” and feel that I am not entitled to anything, my eyes open to see all the gifts that God has given me, both large and small. I feel God’s love and compassion for me despite—and even because of—all my shortcomings. I thank God, am happy with my lot, and am truly wealthy with happiness.

The Joy of Faith (crown)—Joy in its Purest Form

The joy of performing a mitzvah is a great joy. Joy that connects to the other powers of the soul is superb. Chasidut however, established an entirely different level of service of God with joy. This is not joy that is dependent upon the fulfillment of a particular mitzvah, but rather, “joy in its purest form,” independent of anything external; this is the joy of faith.

Sometimes we do not have energy for tasks or missions. But the joy of faith does not need reasons. To be happy, you don’t need anything. Just be yourself—a Jew who believes in God. We don’t have to invest effort in believing. Faith is in our genes as we are “believers, the children of believers.” Faith is our self-definition; it is who we really are. It is not an addition to life, but rather, life itself. “A tzaddik lives by his faith,”[4] literally like the Resurrection of the Dead. When we divest ourselves of all the layers that conceal us, our natural faith and joy manifest. Then we have the strength to fulfill all the mitzvot.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe coined the phrase “joy in its purest form,” saying that all the ways to bring the redemption have already been tried – and all that is left is to bring the redemption by “joy in its purest form” (שִׂמְחָה בְּטָהֳרָתָהּ). Joy in its purest form is the redemption of the soul. When it is expressed by the self-fulfillment of the soul and a complete, pure connection to God, it brings redemption to the entire world.

In our generation, as the redemption approaches, all that we need to do is rejoice in God, rejoice in our faith in God, and rejoice in God’s faith in us. We rejoice in the fact that God gives us life, every moment anew despite everything and because of everything. The mitzvah of faith can be expressed as, “Be a Jew”—be your true self. Fittingly, in Hebrew, “Be a Jew” (תִּהְיֶה יְהוּדִי) has the same numerical value as the unification of “faith” (אֱמוּנָה) and “joy” (שִׂמְחָה).

Click here for Part 1



[1]. Psalms 113:9.

[2] Deuteronomy 18:13.

[3] 2 Samuel 6:22.

[4] Havakuk 2:4.

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