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Want To Grow Closer To Hashem?
Be Happy


It’s a new year. Everyone is looking for a fresh start. What better time, then, to inject an extra dose of simcha into your life?
When I first began researching simcha for a book I was writing, I thought being happy was a chok – a must-do. If I’m not joyous, I must force myself to be. After all, “ivdu es Hashem b’simcha,” David Hamelech tells us.
But simcha is not just a necessary state of being. It reaches the deepest essence of G-dliness. “Oz v’chedva b’mkomo,” we say every day in davening. “Strength and gladness are in His place.” They are Hashem’s “atmosphere.” Simcha is divine! (It does feel divine when you’re euphoric over some monumental event in your life, doesn’t it?)
Simcha connects us to Hashem and is a byproduct of our relationship with Him. When we’re joyous, we grow closer to Hashem. When we’re not, we lose that connection.
Not long after discovering this nexus, I caught myself getting annoyed at something and immediately asked myself, “Is it worth losing my relationship with Hashem over this?” The answer was clear: “Nah, not over this. The next day, something more significant came up. Again, I asked myself, “Is it worth giving up my relationship with Hashem over this?” No, not over this either, I had to admit.
And so it went. Every time my conclusion was the same – that my desire to maintain a relationship with Hashem was more valuable to me than indulging my negative thought.
Focusing on our relationship with Hashem adds depth to our service of Him. Many people think of mitzvos as a means of attaining reward in Gan Eden. But Chassidus explains that mitzvos are also “relationship builders.” When a Jew does a mitzvah, he connects to Hashem. When he sins, he disconnects from Him. Mitzvos are 613 ways to connect to Hashem.
A person can focus on a grim, judging G-d and making sure he secures a good spot in Gan Eden, but Chassidus prefers to focus on the ability of a person to strengthen his connection to a loving G-d who wants to be close to His creations. Sin should be painful, not because of any punishment we’ll receive, says Chassidus, but because it separate us from Hashem.
What do we achieve by focusing on connecting to Hashem rather than our personal fates in the next world? More simcha, for one. Generally speaking, thinking about oneself is the surest way to perpetuate unhappiness. When we try connecting with Hashem, we stop being the focus of our thoughts. Hashem becomes the focus.
Unhappiness results when we are in a relationship with ourselves. Simcha results when we are in a relationship with Hashem. And where there’s joy there’s more unity, strength, confidence, motivation, resilience, health, and more.
L’chaim to a great new year!

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When Joy Will Become Our Currency

Joy is one of the deepest and most elusive mysteries of creation.
Do you know what genuine joy is? Can you describe perfect joy?
Every time I was presented with this stumper during my initial joy-discovery process, I searched frantically through my mental files, groping for a satisfying answer. Even after I’d sifted through a good amount of Torah sources on the topic of joy, when people asked me “what is true joy?” I found myself a bit mystified.
I was on a quest to answer this. On myWe should not allow miserable people to bring us down friend’s enthusiastic recommendation, I downloaded a lecture by Dennis Prager, a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host who has also authored a popular book called Happiness Is a Serious Problem.
He reminds us, with his rich and practical humor, that we should not allow miserable people to bring us down. Whereas most people think pursuing happiness is an egotistical activity, he proposes that, on the contrary, it is egotistical to be unhappy; we have no right to inflict our own misery on others. Even when we may be unhappy, out of consideration to others, as well as for our own benefit, we could at least act as if we were happy.
All of this is useful, powerful and persuasive, but we’re still left with our question: What is happiness?
As I mulled over the content of the talks, I realized that it is not actually happiness that he and many other happiness experts expand on, but the idea of unhappiness! What we usually hear is why we’re unhappy and how to get over it. I experienced a Eureka! moment as I gained a new understanding of the power and sway that unhappiness holds in our contemporary world. We naturally relate to our current reality and experiences, and right now our lives are marked by struggle, pain and, let’s be honest, unhappiness.
One day, joy will be our currency. But now, we’re here, deep in the galut (“exile”) culture. Right now, frankly, the futuristic joy of the Redemption, while appealing, is simply not relevant. The language here is tzores, “troubles.” That may be why we talk endlessly about lacking joy and needing joy.
I asked Aviva, an insightful Israeli-born teacher, if she can define joy. She considered the question thoughtfully. “Unhappiness is complaining … feeling sorrow. So, happiness is no complaining … no sorrow … ”
“But you’re using unhappy terms to describe happiness! Can you give me information about happiness?”
Aviva was stumped. “You chose a difficult topic to write about,” she conceded.
Pure, perfect joy is a mystery to us because we have never really experienced it. Since Adam and Chava were evicted from Gan Eden, a series of unending troubles has been our lot.
Despite all that is written and said on the topic of joy from Torah sources, as well as a ceaseless stream of articles in all kinds of journals, people have a limited grasp of what joy actually is. Perfect, pure joy, all on its own, is a mystery. It’s part of the mystique of the unknown future.
And, this may come as a shock, but even the eras of the Holy Temples, the height of Jewish glory, were not times of perfect joy.1 Consider this: If the world were perfect and complete during the Holy Temple eras, destruction would not have been necessary. Apparently, there was still work to be done to bring the world to its perfect state.
Perfect joy will be experienced only with the advent of the Geulah, the ultimate Redemption, when our mouths will be filled with laughter. Filled means nothing intrudes. There is no crevice left for anything but joy; the pie of joy is 100 percent complete. The experience of joy will be perfect, genuine and inviolable.
Imagine a world of permanently perfect joy.
What a different world we’d live in if we went about our daily tasks and lives with ineffable happiness and undimmed exuberance. Luxuriate in that blissful vision for a moment. Here’s a sample scenario: you are marrying off your daughter and there is nothing to mar the joy. There are no ill people or singles to pray for. There is just a totality of joy. The joy of the Redemption is this, and then some. This kind of existence was envisioned for us since Creation.
Adam and Chava’s eviction from Gan Eden opened the way for the etzev, depression and suffering.
G‑d has constructed our lives and paths in ways that make joy difficult to secureWhat can be done to bring the world to its perfect state? and maintain, but He didn’t mean for us to be trapped in sadness and suffering forever. He has an ideal world awaiting us. We have been working towards it since Adam and Chava’s eviction from Gan Eden.
“Working towards it” means we have a hand in it. What can be done to bring the world to its perfect state?
We must flood our lives with more and more joy, until we outpower all vestiges of darkness.
“We must fight the darkness with great joy ... only by adding in light can we truly overtake the darkness.”2
“Joy ... breaks through the person’s limitations, the limitations of this world and the limitations imposed by this dreadful darkness of exile … 3
Joy is redemptive! We do not need to feel chained, passively watching the ticking clock as it creeps closer to the perfect future.
Sefer Maamarim 5657 (also known as Hemshech Samach T’samach), page 233. The Rebbe Rashab lists our greatest historic highlights, events that gave G‑d the greatest pleasure, and points out their deficits: G‑d derived great pleasure from our sacrifices, but the sacrificer (the person) was incomplete due to the sin of the eitz hadaas, “Tree of Knowledge”; the exodus from Egypt was not the final and complete redemption; the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai was the betrothal, but will only be consummated at the final Redemption.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s talk on Shabbat parshat Lech Lecha, published in Sefer Hasichos 5741 (1980), p. 392.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s talk on 15 Shevat, published in Sichos Kodesh 5739, vol. 2, p. 146. 

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