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Ask the Rabbi
News & Call-In with Tamar Yonah
Before making Aliyah to Israel, Tzvi Fishman was a Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbi Kook, Eretz Yisrael, Art of T'shuva, War and Peace, and Torat Eretz Yisrael.
The Hebrew month of Adar is beginning. Our Sages teach that when the month of Adar commences, we all should add an extra measure of joy to our lives. Our joy is not only because we were saved long ago in Adar from the plot of the wicked Haman to destroy all of the Jews, but also because we trust that the G-d of our Forefathers will also save us today from Jew-haters the world over, in Teheran and Baghdad, in Damascus and Cairo, in Ramallah and Aza, in Moscow and Berlin, in Paris and London, in Stockholm and Rome, in Pyongyang and Peking, in Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and New York.
I am happy that I can walk around with a long Biblical beard and a big white kippah and not have to worry about getting a beer bottle smashed over my head.
One of the major principles of Judaism is to serve G-d in happiness. A person is not supposed to perform the commandments as if they were a burden, nor out of heartless routine. The Kabbalist master, the Arizal, stated that he attained exalted levels of Divine Inspiration because he performed the commandments with transcendent joy. Needless to say, with all of the trials, pressures, and worries of daily existence, at home, at work, and at the bank, happiness is not an easy state to achieve. True joy is not running from one movie to the next, or buying something new every day, but rather by being happy with whatever life brings, in the steadfast belief that whatever G-d sends our way is for our good. This kind of faith requires hard work and lots of learning, and, for most of us, there are many pitfalls and depressions along the way.
What can we do if we fall into hard times and a cave of darkness where everything looks gloomy and lined with despair? The famed Rabbi Nachman of Breslev has some advice. “Look for a good point,” he says. After all, everyone has something good they can be happy about. Think about your one good point and let the happiness it brings lead you to another good point. Then another. Soon you will realize that things aren’t really so bad.
To take myself as an example, when things get out of hand with the kids, or when I botch things at work, or when I seem to be getting further away from G-d rather than closer, or when the bank manager calls with a warning that I had better fill up the minus before noon, I pause, remember where I am, and say, “Thank you G-d for bringing me to the Land of Israel. Thank you that this test of my nerves is happening to me here in Jerusalem, and not in Los Angeles or New York.”
Remembering this makes me immediately happy. I am happy that G-d led me to realize that Israel is the true place for a Jew. I am happy to be in my homeland, and not in someone else’s. I am happy to hear Hebrew wherever I go. I am happy that my children learn about Avraham Avinu and King David in school, and not about George Washington and the Boston Tea Party. I am happy that they will be soldiers in the Israeli Army and not have to depend on someone else’s army to defend them when the Jew haters get restless again. I am happy to be a part of the colossal historic enterprise of the return of the Jewish People to Israel, a prophecy come true, and to do my small share in the nation’s rebuilding. I am happy that when elections come around, I am voting for Jews, even though many of them may be knuckleheads. I am happy that when I have to pay a traffic fine, the policeman is Jewish and my money goes to the State of Israel. I am happy that the calendar I live by is Jewish, and that when December comes around, I don’t have to see Santa Clauses and mangers wherever I look.
Believe it or not, I am happy to be writing blogs for INN and not scripts for MGM. I am happy that I am a ten minute drive from the Kotel and not a ten hour plane ride. I am happy that I can walk around with a long Biblical beard and a big white kippah and not have to worry about getting a beer bottle smashed over my head. I am happy that I can walk down a supermarket aisle like a human being and not have to bend over and search for little OU’s like an ape.
It turns out that from one little thought, I am happy for a whole lot of things.
If you are Jew who lives in the Land of Israel, you can try this how-to-be-happy technique. If you are a Jew still living in someone else’s country, pretending to be a Frenchman in Paris, and Englishman in London, or an American in New York, if you want to be truly happy, which means being truly a Jew, I suppose you will just have to come to Israel too.