Adar, daily simcha and gratitude
The Gemara says, “…When Adar begins we increase simcha, our joy.”
Besides Adar, how do we experience simcha daily in a world that’s full of pain, grief and suffering etc., which keeps getting worse day by day?
1) How does one attain simcha?
Seifer Ha’Akeidah says that true simcha can be attained only if three conditions are met and those conditions can be met only through observance of Torah and mitzvos:
- The action must be perfect.
- The person performing the action must have perfect intentions. Harmful motives sadden the soul, which comes from an elevated source.
- Joy results from achieving the purpose of the deed.
Therefore, true simcha cannot emanate from temporal pursuits, for they do not provide complete benefit. True joy emanates only from G-dly pursuits, in which the action and the purpose are achieved simultaneously.
2) How we speak
As Mishlei states, “A man has happiness through the response of his mouth.”
What does Mishlei mean? The Tolner Rebbe of Yerushalayim explains:
“A person who merits to have a tongue that is clean and pure will merit the attribute of happiness.”
3) Quotes on Simcha
The Shem MiShmuel says, “Simcha reveals that which is concealed in the heart.” Reb Simcha Bunim of Pischischa said, “Simcha, joy, provides the means of escape from all difficulties.”
The Medrash states that if someone tells you that non-Jews have wisdom, believe him.
Dr. Brian Weiss and Ralph Marston state, “Happiness in life has nothing to do with what you have; it is completely dependent on your choice of perception!”
Oscar Wilde said, “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.”
H. Schachtel says, “Happiness is not having what you want but wanting what you have.”
Steve Maraboli and H. Jackson Brown, Jr. said, “Happiness is not the absence of problems but the ability to deal with them.” “People wait all week for Friday, all year for summer, all life for happiness.”
Brother David Steindl – Rast, Albert Clark said, “In daily life, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Wallace D. Wattles adds, “It is necessary, then, to cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
Milton Hershey says, “One is only happy in proportion as he makes others feel happy.” Rav Eliyahu Dessler explains, “Every positive emotion stems from giving and flows outward from us to others, whereas every negative emotion revolves around taking for selfish motives.” Indeed, the root of the Hebrew word for אַהֲבָה, love, is הַב, to give. In other words, “Giving leads to Love.”
Abraham Lincoln says, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their mind to be .”
What does he mean? The Baal Shem Tov z”l says, “If you rearrange the letters of the word מַֽחֲשָׁבָה, thought, it results in the word, בְּשִׂמְחָה, with happiness.”
When Dovid HaMelech wrote, “Serve Hashem בְּשִׂמְחָה, with happiness,” he wasn’t being illogical. One cannot serve Hashem naturally with simcha. One needs to put his mind in the right mood to experience d’veikus, closeness to Hashem. This is not always easy to do with the daily challenges that we face every day.
Nevertheless, as Rav Pam zt”l use to say, “People are always searching for the city of happiness, but they don’t realize that it is a state of mind.” Meaning, our thoughts that are formed in our mind, affect our mood, which determines how we will respond to a situation at hand. As the Chofeitz Chayim states, “Our thoughts determine our experience of Torah and mitzvos.” In the words of Earl Nightingale: “We become what we think about.”
4) What’s the significance of simcha?
The Gemara says that the Divine Presence rests only among the Simcha, joy of [the performance of] the mitzvos. Yet, many pages later the Gemara that the Divine Presence rests only upon someone who is wealthy.
Does the Divine Presence rest among someone who is full of simcha when doing the mitzvos or someone who is rich?
Avos answers the Gemara backward: Which person is rich? He who is happy with his lot. As Victor Hugo said, “Do not educate your children to be rich. Educate them to be happy. So, that when they grow up and enter the real world, they will know the value of everything in life, not just the price tag.”
The Orchas Tzaddikim says something profound:
“A person achieves joy from an overwhelming sense of tranquility without any negative element. When someone fulfills all his desires, with no source of discouragement, he will be in a continuous happy state. His face will glow, his body will be sound in health and aging will advance at a slow pace. As Shlomo HaMelech said, ‘A glad heart is as beneficial as a cure.’ In addition, the Maharal states, ‘Simcha flows from spiritual perfection.’ Perfection in one’s sense of joy is actualized by a combination of constancy in devotion and initiation of fresh approaches to service of Hashem.”
5) Simcha in halacha
The Shulchan Aruch says, “The day of Yom Tov should be divided between avodas Hashem – by davening, learning and the mitzvos of oneg and simchah through eating and drinking.” In addition, “There is a mitzvah of simcha on Chol Hamoed, as on Yom Tov.” However, “The simcha on Yom Tov should bring a person closer to avodas Hashem and should not lead to levity and frivolous behavior.”
6) What about Gratitude?
The Medrash HaGadol tells us, “Whoever is ungrateful for the good done to him by his fellow will eventually prove ungrateful for the good done to him by Hashem.” Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer says, “There is nothing worse before HaKadosh Baruch Hu than to be an ingrate.”
Similarly, “If a person does not have understanding, it is forbidden to have compassion for him…” The Steipler Gaon explains, “Our Sages are speaking of someone who lacks the quality hakaras hatov.”
Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz stated, “Once a person becomes accustomed to taking from others, he is in danger of feeling entitled to all that he receives – to the point that he might seek to harm someone who refuses his request.”
If Albert Einstein had a theory of Simcha, this is what would look like:
Gratitude = Happiness -> ingratitude ≠ happiness -> No happiness = ingratitude -> Ingratitude = selfishness -> Selfishness = High Ego – High Ego = Destruction of one’s soul.
Had Mahatma Gandhi been alive today, he probably would’ve said the following:
“Some people’s attitude is to have gratitude; while others have no gratitude only attitude and some are just ungrateful.”