Rabbi David Ashear
Hashem created a beautiful world for us to enjoy and in which to live in happiness. And yet, when we look around, see so many people who feel unfulfilled and depressed. Why are so many people miserable, when there are so many wonderful things in the world for us to enjoy?
Rav Eliyahu Dessler explained that people are miserable because they’ve been trained to believe that they are entitled to whatever it is they desire. We are constantly being told, “You deserve the best in life”; “You deserve more”; and “Don’t settle for anything less.” None of this is true. We aren’t entitled to anything, and we deserve nothing. A Jew is to live his life feeling grateful for all he has, appreciating everything Hashem has given him, and recognizing that anything we have is far more than we deserve.
We are to walk around all the time feeling happy, and saying “I will now thank Hashem” – just as Leah Imeinu did (Beresheet 29:35). We must thank Hashem for giving us so much, beyond what we could deserve. When we walk around with the opposite attitude, thinking about what we deserve and what Hashem owes us, then we will always feel that our lives are lacking, that we are cheated and do not receive our fair share in life.
Happiness does not depend on any external source; it comes from within ourselves. A person can be happy under any circumstances. It comes from a proper ideology and outlook. The great Reb Zushe of Anapoli was so poor that once he could not afford a single morsel of food. He turned to Hashem and said, “Hashem, You are so kind – You gave me an appetite. There are people in this world who cannot feel when they are hungry, but I do – thank you!” Everything we have in life, including the sensation of hunger, is a gift.
Someone told me that he visited a museum in Israel where visitors experience a day in the life of a blind person. He told me that ever since that visit, he is so happy and grateful for being able to see. Every time he opens his eyes and sees something, he feels grateful to Hashem for His kindness. If we could feel that way throughout life, we would feel so much happier and our lives would be so much better. Whenever we reach the Modim section in the Amidah, we should stop for a moment, think about a blessing in our lives, and then express our gratitude to Hashem. This will train us to feel content and grateful for what we have.
If a person’s livelihood falls on hard times, and he is forced to sell his home and move his family into a smaller residence, there are two possible ways he could approach the situation. He could say, “Hashem, why are You doing this to me? Aren’t I a good Jew? Do I deserve this?” Or, he could turn to Hashem and say, “Hashem, You are so kind to me.
You gave me this wonderful, large home which my family enjoyed for many years, and now, when I need the money, I have something to sell so I can continue living comfortably!” If he views the situation from this perspective, he will feel happy and content, rather than bitter and depressed.
I recently attended a sheloshim where a man for the second time in his life had to give a eulogy for a deceased wife. He stood up and said, “I know you are all probably feeling bad for me that I’ve had such a hard life, but I haven’t. I don’t ask Hashem, ‘Why did this happen?’ I ask Hashem, ‘What did I do to deserve to be married to the two greatest women in the world, who gave me such happiness and joy for so many years?'” The man spoke with such inspiring faith. He realized that each day he was married was a great hesed from Hashem, and he appreciated it the way a Jew is supposed to appreciate life.
Every person can be happy. It depends on his mindset. And when we are happy, this will improve the quality of our lives and we’ll be far more able to accomplish what we’re really here to do – to serve Hashem with joy.