An investment with immediate returns

Friday, 29 July, 2022 - 8:17 am

I was never in a remote African village, nor have I ever been in the lesser developed areas in India. But from reading, hearing and watching programs about these places, I have learned that people there can be happy for a whole day if you give them one apple. If you give them two apples, they will be happy for two days. And I don’t mean the Apple Company. In our successful and advanced Western world, where people have much more than an apple or two, people lack happiness.

Today is Rosh Chodesh Menachem-Av. “When Av comes in, we decrease in happiness,” said our sages in masechet Ta’anit. But we shouldn’t forget that one can decrease only something that exists already; something that does not exist cannot be increased, just like it cannot be decreased. Therefore, even during the Nine Days, when we mourn the destruction of the Temple, we first have to put some happiness into our lives, and only then will we be able to adjust its level to these days, as Chazal said.

In one of the Rebbe’s talks in the winter of 1992 (5752), he explained in the simplest way why it’s worthwhile for us to put happiness into our lives. Here is what he said – in my own words:

Why is it worthwhile to be happy? Because then you will be both ben Olam Hazeh (destined for This World) and ben Olam Haba (destined for the World to Come).

How do we know you will be ben Olam Haba? The Rebbe mentions in his talk the famous gemara in masechet Ta’anit 22 about Rabbi Broka who met Eliyahu Hanavi in the market and asked him: “Are there people here who merit the Next World?” Eliyahu Hanavi pointed at two Jews there and said: “Those merit the World to Come.” Rabbi Broka approached them and asked them, “What is your occupation?”, and they answered: “We are happy people, and we make sad people happy.”

In other words, do you want to merit Olam Haba? Be happy, make others happy, and, if necessary, do some standup comedy for them. 

How about meriting Olam Hazeh, This World? Here, the Rebbe says one clear sentence: “By way of happiness he becomes a true ben Olam Hazeh; his life in This World is a real, happy and successful life.” The Rebbe also explains simply how it works: “The nature of happiness is that it acts on and permeates all a person’s matters. When a person is happy, he lives a happy life, with a happiness that affects all his deeds. This happiness brings success to all his actions and his entire life – as one can see for oneself.”

One more small thing: the returns on the happiness arrive immediately – not in a decade and not in a week, and not even in an hour. A person who decides to be happy at this moment, will become happy immediately, right now, and those around him will feel it immediately as well. 

Try this at home. 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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