Tuesday, Jun 11, 2024

The Secret of Happiness


This Shabbos, we announce the arrival of the second month of Adar, granting us another opportunity to take advantage of the obligation to increase our joy as Adar arrives.

Although the obligation of “mishenichnas Adar marbim b’simcha” is only mentioned in the Gemara (Taanis 29a) and is not cited in Shulchan Aruch, it is set forth universally in seforim, which discuss this period of the year, and is commonly accepted by all.

Yet, while many discuss the obligation, less discussed is what it entails. Marbim b’simcha. It seems so easy. Be happier. Who doesn’t want to be happier? But when you begin to think about it, the obligation gets complicated.

If we are to be happier with the advent of Adar, that means that we were supposed to be happy before this month came along. It’s just that now, we get happier. But we wonder: How happy were we supposed to be before Adar and how much happier are we supposed to be now during Adar?

The bigger question is that everyone has problems. Everyone has things that aren’t going the way they wanted or planned. How are they expected to be happy when things aren’t going the way they would like them to? And what is a person supposed to do to be happier? Is it really that simple? Adar comes and all our problems disappear? Just like that, we are happier or at least happy?

Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv was asked how joy is increased during Adar. He answered that it is accomplished through the study of Torah, as the posuk (Tehillim 19:9) states, “Pikudei Hashem yeshorim mesamchei lev. The laws of Hashem are just; they gladden the heart.”

The questioner pressed him that the obligation to study Torah is extant a whole year, not just during Adar. He responded that during Adar, there is an obligation to increase our Torah study and not to occupy ourselves with things that lead to sadness.

In his later years, the Ponovezher Rov was old and sick. Although he suffered a lot, the rov kept up his schedule traveling the world, raising money for his beloved yeshiva. Someone asked him where he derives the energy to work so hard from. How is he always so happy, seemingly never tiring as he goes from place to place and person to person asking for help to keep his yeshiva going?

The rov shared his secret.

“Many years ago,” he began, “when I was a very young boy, on Purim, my parents would send mishloach manos to the rov of our shtetel. Every year, my mother would bake a special cake for the rov and rebbetzin, and we would bring it to them together with a bottle of wine. I had a few brothers. My father would hold a raffle to choose which one of us would have the honor of delivering the mishloach manos.

“One evening before Purim, my father came home and was very happy. He said, ‘Every year, the mishloach manos that we send to our beloved rov and rebbetzin is basically from Mama. She bakes the cake, which is the main component of the package. This year, I will be contributing something meaningful!’

“He told us that a seforim peddler had come to town with a bunch of seforim for sale. He perused them on the table outside of the shul, and lo and behold, he saw there a Gemara Bava Basra from the Vilna Shas. In those days, barely anyone owned a complete Shas, let alone the beautiful Vilna edition, and even to have a single Vilna volume was a big deal. My father bought the Gemara to give to the rov on Purim. He was so happy, he was dancing.

“My brother won the raffle to bring the rov the cake and wine, and I was honored with carrying that heavy Gemara and giving it to the rov. As soon as I handed it to the rov and told him that it was mishloach manos from my father, he broke out in a wide smile. He held the Gemara high, as if it were a Sefer Torah, and began singing songs and dancing around the table with it, as if it was Simchas Torah.

“My brother and I stood on the side with the rebbetzin, watching in awe as he danced and sang with supreme happiness. We had never seen anyone as happy as he was. When he finished, he asked the rebbetzin if she would agree to serve the seudah an hour later than planned so that he could go into his room and study from the Gemara. ‘That will be your mishloach manos to me,’ he said to her. She readily agreed. He once again picked up the Gemara and began dancing.”

The Ponovezher Rov recalled, “I was but a child of nine years old and had no concept of why the Gemara caused the wise rov to be so happy, but I made up my mind then and there that if Torah can make the rov, who the town awesomely respected, that happy, I was going to dedicate my life to studying – and increasing the study of – Torah.”

The secret of happiness, the secret of satisfaction, the secret of accomplishment, is rooted in Torah. The more we learn, the happier and more fulfilled we are.

Also, perhaps we can add that by increasing our study of Torah, we strengthen our connection to Hashem, and the more connected to Hashem we are, the stronger our emunah and bitachon are. As we increase our emunah and bitachon, we become happier because we understand that everything that happened and happens to us is from Hashem and is for our betterment.

Even when Hashem afflicts us with something, it is because He seeks something from us.

The Chazon Ish once told Rav Shmuel Wosner that when a person becomes ill and davens, saying Tehillim and asking Hashem to heal him, and then he recovers, he thinks that his tefillos are what healed him.

This is the wrong way to view it, he said.

The correct way to understand what happened is that the person who was sick was doing well with his life, but he forgot Hashem. As the posuk says, “Vayishmon Yeshurun vayivot shomanta oviso… vayitosh Eloka osohu.”

Hashem wanted to remind the person to remember Him, so He made him sick, causing him to return to Hashem and daven. When the person returns to Hashem and davens, there is no longer a reason for him to be sick, so the sickness leaves him.

The more we learn, and the closer we become to Hashem, the more we can appreciate that what is happening to us is not a cause for sadness, but rather a stimulus to improvement and joy.

Therefore, bitachon causes us to be happy when others are sad, and joyous when things don’t go the way we want.

Alef. Bais. Gimmel. The two months of Adar, Adar Alef and Adar Bais, lead to the geulah of Chodesh Nissan.

Mishenichnas Adar marbim besimcha. Step by step, we grow in our appreciation of the truths of life and thus develop the ability to be truly joyous.

People have many tzaros. They wonder why they suffer from illness, parnossah challenges, tuition bills, shidduchim difficulties, and so much more. They wonder why they are being challenged. Why me? Why is this all happening? What is the purpose? How will it all end?

When Adar comes and we learn more and are closer to Hashem, our bitachon is strengthened. And when things don’t go according to plan, we are comforted by the knowledge that we will live to see the purpose in all the sadness that we experienced. We begin to view life as a giant jigsaw puzzle, with pieces of all shapes, sizes and colors coming together, and when fit correctly, they form a beautiful picture. This realization brings us relief and joy.

The Ponovezher Rov further enlightens us about what we should be doing during these rough times of ikvesa d’Meshicha, as the nations of the world push us to lose an existential war against the forces of evil.

The Gemara in Megillah (16) states that when Haman followed the orders of Achashveirosh and went to fetch Mordechai to dress him, place him upon a royal horse, and parade him through the streets of Shushan, Haman found him in the bais medrash. Mordechai was sitting there surrounded by other talmidei chachomim, showing them how to perform the kemitzah required for the korban mincha.

Haman asked what they were discussing. They explained to him that when the Bais Hamikdosh is in existence, a kemitzah size of flour is offered as a korban and it forgives the sinner.

The wicked Haman was astounded and responded to them that their small kemitzah size of flour has the ability to push away his ten thousand kikars of silver.

The Rov explained that Haman had constructed the tall gallows and let it be known that he was going to hang Mordechai from it. He was sure that when he would arrive at the Jewish study hall, the Jews inside wouldn’t be studying. Rather, they would be fretting and crying over the impending death of their leader, Mordechai.

Instead, when he walked in, he saw the rabbis hunched around Mordechai, discussing the intricacies of the laws pertaining to something they couldn’t even do at the present time because they didn’t have the Bais Hamikdosh.

Astounded, he asked the children there what the laws of korban ha’omer had to do with a Jew dying al kiddush Hashem. They told him that the two had no connection. They explained that the Jews believe that Hashem will soon bring them their salvation. The Bais Hamikdosh will be rebuilt and we will resume bringing korbanos. It was those laws that they were studying.

The Ponovezher Rov explained that Haman said that Jews who know that they are about to be killed are not only not in mourning, and are not only not preparing for their death, but are so trusting of their G-d that they study intricate laws pertaining to their temple, believing that G-d will rescue them and they will rebuild their holy sanctuary.

And so has it been throughout the ages, said the rov, who had lived through the Holocaust and lost everything that he held dear. Despite what the nations of the world have done to us, despite all the horrible deaths, pogroms, deprivation and tyrannical laws, through it all we have maintained our faith in Hashem, and our hope for the imminent arrival of Moshiach remains strong at all times.

And what do we do? How do we spend our time? Studying Torah, the essence of our existence.

When we are attacked by savages, when the civilized nations of the world support the barbarians and condemn us for seeking to defend ourselves and rid the world of the plague of vile monsters and their paymasters, we need not fear the outcome.

We do not become broken, because we maintain our faith in Hashem. We don’t wallow in self-pity. Rather, we rededicate ourselves to Torah, because it rejuvenates us and brings us happiness and life.

We know that the story will end well. We know that it is all a preparation for the arrival of Moshiach very soon. And until that happens, we are suffused with the spirit of Adar, continuing to daven for the Jews of Eretz Yisroel, for ourselves, for our friends and neighbors, and for all of Klal Yisroel.

May we all be zoche to much happiness and the geulah sheleimah bekarov.



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