The Talmud recounts a story that once a great sage in the marketplace encountered Elijah the prophet and asked him, “Was there anyone who was assured his place in the world to come?” Elijah answered in the negative. Meanwhile, two brothers entered the marketplace and Elijah pointed to them saying, “They merit the world to come.” The Rabbi walked over to them and asked, “May I ask, what do you do?” They answered, “We are joyful people, and we make those who are sad happy. If we hear about an argument, we make peace using humor between those quarreling.”
What does it mean to be happy, and how do we achieve this?
First, let me make a clear distinction between pleasure and genuine joy. Unhappy people, looking for joy, run to a good restaurant or movie or take an extravagant vacation to boost the happy hormones, but . it doesn’t work. They get fatter, wasted time and money, and eventually get back again into their old rut.
Pleasure is temporary. The real McCoy – long lasting – deep happiness and joy is an experience and a state of being where superficial experiences are irrelevant. That’s right, it almost doesn't matter what’s going on, on the outside, when true joy is attained.
Occasionally, a ramp that can lead to inner joy, or can draw out and enhance true happiness is when we are enjoying ourselves on the exterior superficially. However that experience must be one that is connected to something deeper than just doing it to “feel” good.
The world, i.e. materialism and consumerism for the most part can only offer the temporary sort of pleasure and happiness. More stuff does NOT equal more happiness. By its very nature, the property of physical existence is fleeting. It has a time when it (or its style) came into existence, and it has a time when it ceases to exist. Someone who only lives in a world of money and existence is “always” bouncing from one thing to the next, hydroplaning on the surface, with small or sometimes large drops and empty holes in between.
So what’s the answer? Where’s the real joy?
In the Book of Psalms, written by King David, he tells us, “Strength and joy are in the place of G-d ..The joy of G-d is your strength…and Strength and joy are in His place.” There is no escaping this. Real inner strength and moral fortitude; real genuine long-lasting, deep-reaching joy is in G-d, and pursuing a G-dly life. Living a G-dly life means imbuing our lives with the character and wishes of G-d.
King David had it all. After all, he was a wealthy individual with lots of power at his disposal. Yet, he also had a lot of challenges. Family, close confidants and neighbors continuously confronted, defied and challenged him in every single respect. A man who had it all teaches us, “Don’t put your trust in princes in the son of man.”
Inner strength, one that lasts under all circumstances and is never extinguished; true joy, comes to a person who lives a life connected and influenced by the spark of G-d within, the soul. Only by living a soul-driven life can a person be truly joyous and happy.
To be continued…