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The Happiness Mix

07/20/2018 11:16:09 AM


Emotions are complicated.

When we pause to think about what and how we're feeling, we can get confused. Am I feeling like this or like that? Or a little bit of both?

Just try answering Facebook's question "How are you feeling?", and you'll be challenged to find one definite answer from the long and nuanced list.

One very misunderstood emotion is happiness. We tend to have a very narrow view of happiness. If everything isn't going right, then 'we can't be happy." If we're experiencing pain or loss, then "we can't be happy." We turn happiness into something way too black and white, way too small and limited.

As we approach Tisha B'Av, the annual Jewish day for sadness and mourning, we should take lesson from the prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah was the iconic prophet of doom. His prophecies and writings are filled with pessimism, as he laments the Jews' negligent behavior, and predicts consequences of destruction and exile. He openly spoke about his depression and despair, as he literally foresaw every sorrow that the Jews would experience throughout history.

On Tisha B'Av eve, when we read the scroll of Eicha, it is impossible not to be moved to tears and feelings of melancholy as Jeremiah describes the horrific and unspeakable tragedies that befell the Jewish people.

Question: The Jewish view on prophecy rules that one cannot attain the level of prophecy when one is in a state of sadness or laziness. Rather, prophecy can only be experienced when one is in a state of happiness.

So how did Jeremiah, the ultimate naysayer, merit to experience prophecy?

The answer is both profound and simple. Even when you cry tears of pain and misery, you can still be happy. These aren't contradictory feelings.

Because happiness isn't necessarily the emotion for when things are going well. Happiness is also the emotion when things are not going well.

I know what you're thinking. "Huh? That's not what I was taught..."

Happiness is the most natural state of a human being. It is the natural result when a person is living life fully, when their soul is flowing freely through their body. Happiness is synonymous with life itself.

Depression is a sign that there is a blockage in one's system. Something isn't allowing the soul to flow freely.

But sad occurrences don't create blockages. They just add other emotions and reactions to the mix.

Children are typically happy. We don't ask children "why are you happy?" When a child is unhappy, we ask "why aren't you happy?"

Sadly, as we mature, the opposite happens. When an adult says that they're happy, we ask "why?"

This is an important insight to learn from Jeremiah. If he found happiness in his life, then so can we. No matter our circumstances.

Wishing you blessings of Shabbat shalom, and may you have an easy and meaningful fast.

Fri, December 3 2021 29 Kislev 5782