For the week ending 26 July 2008 / 23 Tammuz 5768

Be Happy

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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From Josh in Baltimore, MD

I have befriended a guy on the Internet who is asking me many questions about Judaism. He wants to know if Judaism specifically says anything about enjoying life? I thought I once heard that the Torah says one is obligated to benefit from the pleasures that G-d gave us, (obviously within reason), and we were meant to be happy. Can you please confirm or correct this.

Dear Josh,
The Torah in Parshat Ki Tavo writes:
"Tachat asher lo avadata et Hashem b'simcha...."

"Because (tachat) you did not serve the L-rd your G-d with happiness and a glad heart when you had plenty of everything, you will therefore serve your enemies when G-d sends them against you..."

Maimonides states that from here we learn that one is supposed to serve G-d with joy and gladness.

If you stop and think about it, we shouldn't need a verse in the Torah to tell us this. It should be common sense that we should be happy. So why command us to do something that is common sense? A parable told by the Alexander Rav provides an answer.

There was a boy who was trained by his tutor to read the Aleph Bet. One day the father proudly stood by to watch his son recite the letters with the vowels. The boy began, "Kamatz Aleph Aw, Kamatz Bet Baw, etc." until he came to Kamatz Hey...suddenly he couldn't continue. The father was embarrassed and threatened his son with a beating. "Come on you can do it. Just look under (tachat) the Hey, what's under the Hey? WHAT'S UNDER THE HEY?"

At which point the boy burst out in tears and declared "But father, you told me to not tell anyone that you hid a stolen calf under the hay."

Just as this easy task for the boy was blocked by something underneath and behind the scenes, so it can be with happiness. Happiness should come easily in life. However, sometimes something underneath prevents this happiness. The Torah reminds us that our job is to deal with these underlying factors and open the way to serving G-d with happiness.

  • Devarim 28:47
  • Maimonides - The Halachot of Lulav, 8:15
  • Ma’ayana Shel Torah, Devarim 28:47

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