Happiness Through Challenges
(Summary: So far, we have explained three kinds of happiness: intrinsic happiness (which is a deep kind of happiness that is impractical for us) goal-oriented happiness, and happiness from appreciating details. The second kind of happiness – to be goal-oriented – is to be happy as we are actually trying to get to a goal. This we explained already, and we also explained another aspect in this – that happiness comes precisely from challenges. Simchah (happiness) has the same letters as the word chamesh, weapons of war. This shows us that happiness can come to us only when we endure a war – when we face our challenges. We will explain what this means.)
Happiness Is Not Pleasure
Let us differentiate between two similar concepts, which are not the same thing: simcha\happiness and oneg/pleasure. Pleasure is called oneg, which is found mainly on Shabbos. On Shabbos, there is a mitzvah to have oneg Shabbos, to have “pleasure” in the Shabbos. On the festivals, we have a mitzvah of simchas Yom Tov, to “rejoice” on Yom Tov. (Some say that there is also a concept of simcha on Shabbos, but we mainly find the concept of simcha when it comes to the festivals). So oneg (pleasure) and simcha (happiness) are not the same thing. What, indeed, is the difference between pleasure and happiness? Oneg (pleasure) is in your actual existence (havayah). Our existence is essentially that of oneg\pleasure – and on the ideal level, a person enjoys the very fact that he exists. Simcha\happiness is the way you get there; meaning, when I am happy, I enjoy my existence. In this series, we are not discussing here the power of oneg\pleasure; here we are discussing simcha\happiness.
Sadness Comes From Earth, Happiness Comes From Wind
We have begun to explain that being happy means appreciating our efforts to get to our goals, and that the depth behind the happiness is that we overcame a struggle. Therefore, we need to learn how be happy with our struggles, in order to conceptualize this. When we feel a challenge, the sadness we feel from it is rooted in the element of earth in creation. Sadness comes from earth, which is a heavy element. Happiness, by contrast, is a “light” feeling, so which element is it rooted in? Wind is the lightest from all the elements. Thus, happiness is rooted in the element of wind, the lightest of the elements. (Pleasure, though, is rooted in water). What holds back wind? Earth can block wind. This shows us that sadness “blocks” us from being happy, acting like the earth which can block wind. To understand this on a deeper level, before the sin of Adam, happiness was rooted in the element of fire [we will not go into the depth of this here], and after the sin, the happiness we know of has become rooted in the element of wind, which is the moving force in creation (and as we said, we need to see ourselves as “moving” in order to be happy). Wind can oppose our earth; therefore, we will need use our “wind” to overcome our “earth”, so that we can get back to our natural happiness. Thus, we must overcome our tendency toward sadness – the state that has now become our natural state, now that we live after the first sin, where we were cursed with “you are earth” - by using our power of happiness, the natural state that existed before the sin.
Happiness – Overcoming A Struggle
We have explained that happiness is experienced when we see ourselves on a tahalich (on a path or journey) towards an achievement, but happiness does not simply mean to be on our way towards a goal. We can only be happy if we create something out of those efforts to get there. In order to be happy, one has to come out of the “path” of sadness that he was taking, and instead arrive at a new “path” - happiness. (Until now, we only described how to derive happiness from our efforts. Now, we will explain the second part to our happiness, which is to derive happiness from our achievements). A person’s efforts might either lead toward sadness or happiness. So we can ask: how can a person know if he is headed toward happiness or not? Maybe he’s involved in an undertaking that won’t bear any results? In Egypt, there was physical labor. It was avodas perach, cruel labor, in that the men had to do women’s labor and women had to men’s labor. They faced two kinds of problems – the hard labor, which was physical pain; and a more spiritual kind of problem, which was that they were “short of breath.” (koitzer ruach). They were short of breath because they were doing things that were not for them to do, and this was a spiritual kind of pain. This shows us that in life, a person can have two different kinds of problems. Our physical problems are rooted in the element of earth, while our spiritual problems are rooted in our wind. If our problems are “earth”-related, then our struggles will be physical, and these struggles don’t bring us happiness. But if our problems are “wind”-related – when our pain is about spiritual pain and frustrations, and if we identify this as our main source of pain in our life - such struggles will actually bring us happiness. All of us have to go through a certain amount of problems in our life; that is why we are all here. That is how life is. But the question is: what are the things that bother us? If our suffering is spiritual – “Praiseworthy is the man who suffers…and from Your Torah we are taught”, then our suffering revolves around our learning of the Torah, and such suffering comes from the element of wind, which is spirituality. Such problems are the problems we should be bothered about. What really bothers us in our life? If soul matters are important to us and we have pain with our spiritual struggles, we can arrive at true happiness. Happiness – after the sin of Adam – is rooted in the element of wind. In order to be happy, we need to give ourselves an increase of “wind” - in other words, we need to search for more “wind”, for more spiritual growth. Therefore, the more we will search to improve ourselves spiritually, the more happiness we give ourselves.
Increasing The Happiness Every Day
If a person every day seeks to add onto his spiritual gains, he lives a life of happiness – a life of consistent gain. A person has to be gaining constantly in order to be happy, and the way to have this consistency is through always adding onto your spiritual vitality. If someone is only happy when he overcomes physical hardship, he is only happy when he gets to the results; he can’t enjoy the struggle. But when a person has spiritual pain, not only does he enjoy what he gains, but he even enjoys the struggle. Happiness comes from an increase in our “wind” – an increase in our spirituality. Our spiritual gains, on a consistent basis, give us strength to deal with problems. We bless a chosson and kallah that they rejoice “like your Creator rejoiced in Eden.” How come people lose this great happiness a little bit after the wedding? It is because their happiness is based on externalities, which are superficial. A wedding is a dose of spirituality, but it is only a little bit and not enough to keep the happiness going. The only way to stay happy is to keep increasing the happiness, which is by adding on more and more spirituality every day.
To Want Vitality Out of Life
Happiness is when we constantly increase our quality of life. This doesn’t mean to grab on to more and more things in our life. It means to add onto our spirituality. The more wind we add onto ourselves, the more life we give ourselves. Why do most people fear death? It is because most people think that they are a body, and that everything in life centers around what will happen to their body. For someone who lives for his body, it is indeed very scary to think about death: “What happens to me when I die? My body is no more….” Everyone wants to live, but from where does this desire come from? It is usually because people think they are a body, and so there is a great fear of death. The “will to live” comes from the body.
Really, the will to live is a power rooted in the soul; the soul has a desire for life, but it desires a life of spirituality; it wants true chiyus (vitality). The body, which covers over our soul, misuses this power to have a will for physical interests.
This is really the depth of who truly learns “Torah lishmah” – learning Torah for the sake of Heaven. Many explanations are given of this concept, but the simplest explanation of “Torah lishmah” is, when someone learns because he feels like the Torah is his very life. Anyone who learns for anything other than this reason isn’t learning “lishmah”. Just like a person wants to breathe and drink because he wants to live, so does a person who learns Torah “lishmah” learn because he feels like it is his very life-giving vitality – his chiyus. The Torah feels like to “life” to him, and it is.
Desiring Spiritual Vitality
We are not talking about having “aspirations”. Certainly we should want to arrive at our aspirations, but we mainly need to have a desire to gain actual spiritual vitality (chiyus) in our life. Everyone has many aspirations and goals, but we need chiyus now, right this moment. We need to demand for ourselves spiritual vitality. This is not a small side issue to think about - it is a personal, inner redemption to the soul if one has it. There are ways we make our body happy, and there are ways we make our soul happy. What is happiness of the body? Anything which comes from an external factor – and on a more subtle note, even if it is a spiritual kind of desire – is only happiness of our body. This is because if we don’t consider it to be our will for vitality, then it is just happenstance to us, and it will not give us vitality (even if is spiritual pleasure). Happiness can only come from our will to sustain our soul. Everyone wants to live, but the question is what kind of life do people want: to be physically healthy - or to have spiritual vitality? The true happiness one can have is not the regular kind of happiness we know of. Most people are looking for all kinds of fun and entertainment, because they think that this is happiness. But it’s really a form of sadness. In fact, most people never even once experienced true happiness.
Our soul longs for a spiritual kind of vitality; we need to listen to our soul and hear how it desires the real life. In a time of danger, anyone can feel happiness at the fact that he’s alive; they feel an increase of life and realize how they take life for granted. But usually, no one feels this appreciation of life on a regular basis.
One should therefore pay attention to the times that he feels that he doesn’t have vitality and to the times where he feels a burst of vitality. You need to connect to this desire to always want to increase your spiritual vitality -- to desire it constantly. The fact that we must continuously seek to add onto our vitality is a reality. It is part of the way Hashem designed creation. Usually people think that this means to think: “What have I gained?”, but really, it’s a connection you must have with your soul. You need to connect to the point in your soul which seeks spiritual vitality. One who succeeds in concentrating on this point in his soul for a while will see a lot of success in his life.
Two Ways How We Can Feel
This Vitality How can a person have this vitality every day? One way is through producing Chiddushei Torah (new Torah thoughts) every day. This enables one to feel this spiritual burst of vitality we are talking about. But what if a person is not on the level of coming up with Chiddushei Torah every day? How can he get spiritual vitality on a daily basis? Here is something everyone can do, no matter what level you are on. Every person must at least seek a more spiritual kind of life, and to want to add onto his spirituality every day. In order to do this, one has to listen to what’s going on in his soul - and he can then hear his soul’s longing for spirituality. He should listen to the subtle voice in his soul which is longing for more spirituality, and become attuned to this inner longing. With the more one becomes attuned to the soul’s voice that is calling out to him, the more he will demand more chiyus for himself. This is something that is within reach to anyone, and the more a person is aware of it, the more he will demand from himself to add onto his spiritual vitality every day. This is a great key toward happiness: to constantly seek to add onto to your spiritual vitality, each day.
Happiness Vs. Escaping Reality
“There is no happiness except in wine”
The Gemara states that in the Temple era, there was no happiness except in meat; nowadays, there is no happiness except in wine. In addition to this, the Gemara says that women rejoice with new clothing and jewelry, and children rejoice with candy. It is clear that these things are not just superficial ways to get to our happiness, but that they reveal to us what an inner happiness is. Let us understand how we can do this. We know that we have a mitzvah to be happy on Yom Tov - as it is written, “V’somachta b’chagecha”, (“And you shall rejoice in your festival”). But if we need to be happy with the Yom Tov itself, then how are we allowed to rejoice with meat and wine? Don’t we know that the rule is “We do not mix one happiness with another happiness”? Won’t the meat and wine cause us to take our minds off the actual simchah in the Yom Tov? The answer to this is that being happy on Yom Tov is an inner kind of happiness. In order to get to the inner happiness, we need to use something to get to it – through these external factors of meat and wine [for men] and clothing and jewelry [for women]. We aren’t mixing together two kinds of happiness – we are simply using an external tool (physical pleasure) to reach our inner happiness.
Using The Body To Awaken Our Happiness
To illustrate how this works, let’s say a person comes to a joyous occasion, (such as a wedding), but he doesn’t feel happy. What should he do? He needs to awaken his inner happiness through festivity, and that will bring out his inner happiness. On Yom Tov, we know that we have an inner happiness, and besides for this there is also a time of happiness in the air; it is “zman simchaseinu”, a “time of our happiness”. The time of Yom Tov itself is a reality of happiness. But we usually don’t feel this happiness – why not? It is because our body covers over our soul, and this prevents us from feeling our inner happiness. What can we do about this? This is really why we have meat and wine on Yom Tov. We make the body happy – and through that, we get to our soul. The whole purpose of meat and wine on Yom Tov is not a purpose of itself. It is there to awaken in us the inner happiness; when we loosen our body, by making it happy through the effects of the wine, we are enabled to penetrate past the body’s hold and then tap into our happiness that is in the soul.
Happiness Of The Body
A person is comprised of a guf (body) and neshamah (a Divine soul). There are a lot of details to this matter, and it is a very complex discussion, with many factors involved. But without getting into all the intricate details of this, this is the general makeup of a person: body and soul. Happiness is rooted in our soul, while sadness is rooted in our body. There is also an inner kind of happiness and an external, superficial kind of happiness. The external happiness is when we make our body happy, and the inner happiness is our soul’s happiness. Therefore, when we feel happy, let us ask ourselves: “Why am I happy? Is my body happy – or is it my soul that is happy?” How indeed can we know if our happiness is coming from our body or from our soul? Happiness of the body is when a person loosens up and acts silly (holelus), which is not real happiness. It might look like happiness, but let us explain why it isn’t, and what it really means to be happy. Most people [sadly], have not yet revealed their souls. People are usually more aware of their body then their soul, so the happiness that most people look for is happiness of the body. Since this is so, the actual search for happiness that people have comes from the body’s hold! This is because the body itself has a tendency toward sadness. We see that people get sadder more easily than they become happy, because since we have a body, the body has a natural pull toward sadness, and this makes us “search” for happiness. Why is our body pulled toward sadness? It is because the body was made from the earth; the element of earth in a person is the source of sadness. We can see clearly that most people are searching for happiness, and that they are searching for physical happiness – comfort or indulgence. Each person needs to clarify for himself: “From where does my happiness come from? Am I mainly getting happiness from physical pleasures - or from spirituality?” You must know that if you are searching for happiness of the body, it will never bring you happiness – and it will only bring more destruction to your life.
Happiness Of The Soul
We have explained what happiness of the body is. Now, what is happiness of the soul? First, let us review what we have said before: Happiness is not solely about what I gain and achieve, but it is about what I overcame in order to get there. (The gain is necessary for our happiness too, but when we achieve it, the happiness we have is coming from our efforts we put in to get there). Our body, by contrast, is only interested in results. Our body’s happiness thrives on results; it is not satisfied with effort alone. This resembles what is written, “Eat and drink today, for tomorrow we shall die.”
The Desire To Escape Reality – Happiness of the Body
Now, we will go further with this and understand more about the happiness of the body, which is not really happiness. Our body seeks happiness really because a person wants to leave his body. People want to feel like they’re on a high, so they can forget about their body and put themselves out of their misery for a bit. Although it is written, ,כי בשמחה תצאו “For with happiness we go out”, the body’s happiness doesn’t want to “go out” “with” happiness – rather, its nature is that it wants to “go out” of itself! But this is not happiness. The whole wish in a person to “escape” the body is therefore the antithesis to being happy. Since the body is rooted in sadness, it cannot ever be happy, and thus our body cannot bring us happiness. What is the way, then, for us to be happy? Happiness can only come to you when you have overcome something. The fact that I just want to get out of my situation is only happiness of the body, and it is all about results. The body seeks happiness only in getting something. This will not bring happiness to a person. A person who lives a more materialistic kind of lifestyle always wants to leave his current situation and thinks that when he does so, this will give him happiness. But the happiness of the soul desires happiness because it wants life itself – not to only anticipate results, but to live life and to get there. Thus, happiness of the soul is about what I have overcome, while happiness of the body is a desire to escape reality. With happiness of the body, a person doesn’t really want to enter into reality – he just wants to escape it. Such happiness is doomed for failure, because with such a hope, there is nothing to really be happy about. To illustrate why this is so, Chazal say that “Hashem does not rejoice in the downfall of the wicked.” When the wicked perish, this doesn’t make Hashem happy, and the depth to this is because it’s not enough of a cause for happiness. So what if the wicked perished? It didn’t bring anything good; it just got rid of something bad. There is nothing here to be a cause for a happiness, and that is why Hashem does not rejoice in the downfall of the wicked. The fact that the body seeks to escape itself for a little bit doesn’t produce happiness. The happiness which the body seeks is not built on anything; it’s all about putting oneself out of his misery for a little bit. By contrast, happiness of the soul is a happiness that is based on something – it is built upon something. An example of this is Simchas Yom Tov, which is happiness that has basis to it. We are being happy about something we have; there is something here to be happy about. And on Simchas Torah, we are happy over the completion of the Torah – not because it is over, but because of what we have. When we truly have something, that is a cause for happiness.
Leaving The Element Of Earth To Reveal The Other Three Elements
The natural situation which Hashem created the world with was, an existence of happiness. Creation itself is really a giant, epic situation of happiness. The universe is really one big happy existence! It is only sin which brought about sadness to the world and altered the natural state of things. Sin, which caused sadness, is rooted in the body, and the element of earth in the body is the source of all sadness. Therefore, the other elements – fire, wind and water – are the elements which we can use to bring us happiness. Without using the other three elements, a person can’t be happy. When a person just wants to escape his element of earth – in other words, when he just wants to escape his sadness, his earth – such happiness is only being imagined. It isn’t real. When people just let loose from their body, what do they do? They enter into a fantasy. It’s not happiness, and it’s just being imagined. Letting loose and having fun is not happiness – it is just provides a person with a feeling of imagined happiness. Real happiness is when one removes his element of earth, in order to reveal the other elements. In the future, our happiness will be perfect and complete. This will not just be a departure from our element of earth – it will be a state in which our very element of earth is elevated to the higher elements of water, wind and fire. This is why we say on Yom Tov, “And bring happiness to your land”. The “land” can also be a reference to our element of earth – that in the future, even our element of earth will be able to become happy, because it will have been raised to the higher elements (water, wind and fire). This is also why on Yom Tov, the halacha is that one has to spend “half the day in personal enjoyment and half the day in spiritual enjoyment” – because the purpose is to elevate our personal enjoyment through spiritual enjoyment. Of course, we are not saying that there is never a point in wishing to leave our element of earth and go out from it. Sometimes it is necessary that a person should want to leave his “earth” a little bit and loosen up. But we are just saying that it is not the main part of our avodah in becoming happier. Our main avodah is not to “go out” of our element of earth, but to elevate our element of earth to the higher elements.
Simchas Yom Tov
Simchas Yom Tov is through meat and wine. This is really meant to make our body happy, and through that, one can awaken his soul’s happiness. But if a person is happy on Yom Tov just because there’s good-tasting meat and fine wines, he becomes engrossed in the meat and wine and he forgets their whole purpose. The meat and wine of Yom Tov are meant to be used as a tool, not as a purpose unto itself. We have to uproot our superficial happiness and arrive at an inner happiness. We need to find something to be happy about it; it is not enough to just eliminate our sadness. Simchas Yom Tov, as well as the happiness that tzaddikim have in spirituality, is not just a way to escape sadness – it is to arrive at something to be happy about, to actually have something.
Being Aware To Why You Are Happy
When we are happy, we need to become aware why we are happy now. When we feel happy, we need to ask ourselves: Is our happiness coming from our body, or from our soul?
Happiness of the body, which is superficial, is to simply “look” for happiness. It is not about to find what to be happy about; it is just “I want to be happy.” This isn’t yet happiness! You must know if you are just “looking” to be happy, or if you are looking for what to be happy about. There is a big difference. When a person is just searching for happiness, he’s just looking to escape his depression. The happiness he will find will only be the body’s happiness. His search comes from a desire to want to leave his body. What a person really needs to do is to find what to be happy about, as opposed to just putting himself out of his misery.
Calming The Body
There is a method people use to try to reach their soul’s happiness, through the body - which is by calming the body, in various ways. This cannot work, however, if the focus is on what one’s body will feel. When a person is mainly concerned that his body just shouldn’t get in the way, then calming the body in this way will be beneficial and it can help one get through to his soul, because here the person is trying to remove his bodily hold with intention to penetrate into the soul. But if a person is calming his body simply because he wants to experience physical comfort, then he’s just indulging in physical pleasure. We must know that if all we are trying to do is just to escape our misery, then we won’t find happiness. We need to find something to be happy about. To do this, we need to know: what brings out our soul’s happiness? On Yom Tov, there is a mitzvah to rejoice with meat and wine. We must understand that these are really just tools we can use to do the mitzvah, but the essence of this mitzvah is to reveal an inner happiness.
Happiness – To Have What To Be Happy About
Why is it so hard to be happy on this world we live in? It is because the souls of most people aren’t revealed. We need to open our souls. We have to reveal our soul in order to be happy, and by revealing our soul, that will show us what we truly “have” and then we will find our happiness. Happiness must come from something that we actually have. Sukkos is called “zman simchaseinu, a time of our happiness, and it is also “chag ha’asif” (the time of harvest), because it is the time in which produce is harvested and gathered together. The connection is that when a person has what to be happy about, when he has his “harvest” that he has gathered together, only then he can be happy. There is no such thing as happiness when there’s nothing here to be happy about; there has to be something tangible here in order for happiness to take effect. So if all I’m happy about on Yom Tov is the fact that I have good-tasking food, elegant wine, and nice new clothes (all of which are indeed part of simchas Yom Tov), this will never make me happy, because this isn’t really what I “have.” Can meat, wine and clothing be considered something you “have”? A person needs to really “have” something in order to be happy.