You Just Have to Be Happy

Secular people may be less blissful, but at least they have a choice.

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
A Haredi man.Credit: Daniel Bar On

When happiness is commanded, when doubt or deliberation are forbidden and when even bad things are blessed as happening “for good reason,” it is hardly surprising that the more religious a person is, the “happier” he is. Those poor secular people, whose God is not high up in heaven but close to heart, constantly pestering them.

If the people conducting and analyzing surveys were more familiar with Jewish tradition, they would have long been aware of the fact that there is no point in asking guardians-of-the-faith Orthodox people how they feel, since any data gleaned from answers referring to joy and grief in that community is meaningless. It has no bearing on “the situation” or on the nature of this or any other government, not even a government in which Yaakov Litzman is serving as a full or half-minister.

A priori, unsupported by any survey, one could have told those conducting the survey everything they discovered in their data: the more ultra-Orthodox, faith- and Torah-embracing you are, the happier you are. Blessed is he who created me; the converse is also true – the less religious/Orthodox a person is, the less happy he is: he cries out from the depths but there is no one to respond.

Happiness, according to the Torah and the rabbis, is decreed to its proclaimers as an obligation, not as a right worth pursuing. Every joyous occasion is prescribed. What does such joy lead to? To whatever it is that joy does to religious belief – it blinds and stupefies it.

It is said that “there is no joy equal to that obtained by the removal of doubt,” and that humankind should not wallow in its doubts and sink into indecision; who knows where that could lead us, we could even become total heretics and – god forbid – start doubting the very existence of god. Therefore, it’s a “great obligation to be perpetually happy,” and being sorrowful is sinful. Belief must be total, and the bad must be blessed just as the good, since “that too is for the best.”

“Divinity dwells not in a place of sadnessit arises from the joy of fulfilling religious commandments” – and who wouldn’t want to gather under divinity’s wings and remain there? It’s true, your life is in the pits, poverty and ignorance are embittering you, you need the grace of Heaven and some charity, yet you are a contented and rich person. If only you took joy from your troubles, you could disregard your confined and stressful world. Be happy, young man, in your childhood, and you will experience only happiness when you grow up. This is how it continues throughout life.

Sadness, in contrast, is dangerous; it comes from the devil. Frustration and disappointment are a sure recipe for apostasy and heresy. What exactly don’t you get here? The act of creation that made you, of all people, in the image of the divine? Is the beauty of the world not enough in your eyes? Your life, which you received as a gift, created from the earth and living until you return to it? What else do you want, for god’s sake, what else would you ask of him for yourself? Don’t you get it yet? Every misfortune is actually for the best.

Being observant seems to go hand in hand with being happy.Credit: Leo Atelman

After eating from the Tree of Knowledge despite the divine prohibition, we were expelled in disgrace from the paradise of wise men who could differentiate between good and evil. We quickly passed into a paradise of fools who can’t distinguish between the two. And paradise is paradise, even if it’s hell. So what do you expect us to say when survey-takers phone and ask how we feel with the advent of the New Year, by necessity a good one?

And how miserable are secular people, whose god is not far up in Heaven but close to heart, not giving them any respite, always pestering. My god, I wanted you to know, says the free-thinking and liberated Jew to himself and his god: you aren’t responsible for me but I’m responsible for you and for my deeds. This personal responsibility is so burdensome that it sometimes erupts in surveys, affecting the happiness index, dragging it downward.

But the Orthodox faith- and Torah-embracers are free from any worries that might cloud their happiness horizon. They’ve got someone looking after them from above. Things are not in our hands anyway, everything happens according to his will. It’s not important what the gentiles say, nor does it matter what Jews do. The main thing is to have no fear, since there is a God in Heaven and in Jerusalem. He saved us from the Holocaust and he will save us from the bomb and from Zionism. Didn’t he do so in every generation when they rose against us, so why would he ignore our generation? Cast out any worries from your thoughts, you can continue dancing and singing – may evil intentions be foiled – and move on to create favorable surveys.

Click the alert icon to follow topics: