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Rabbi's Corner

Purim! The Recipe for Joy!

 

Yesterday was Purim – the most joyous holiday of the year. So let us spend a few moments talking about joy and happiness.

Everybody seems to agree that we need it desperately. Most people surveyed in polls about "what is most important in life" will respond: "Happiness." The lack of happiness, it is believed, is at the root of all of society's ills, from substance abuse to domestic violence.

The amount of money, theories and man-hours invested in the pursuit of happiness is staggering. The result? Most of us, it seems, have still not reached the desired goal of Ultimate Happiness after all this! Why is this so?

It appears that we are looking for happiness in all the wrong places, and have no idea how to find deep and authentic happiness.

The strange thing is that all those who are pursuing happiness don't seem to find it, yet those who have found it never bothered to pursue it.

So how then do we become happy? We're caught between a rock and a hard place. We can't go seek happiness because inevitably it will run away from us. But we want/ desire/ need happiness now. What can be done to get it without actively seeking it!

Nothing. In the recipe for happiness, the first and primary ingredient is: Nothingness.

If you're actively pursuing happiness you're indicating that things are no good right now. Obviously, that can be quite depressing. But when you let go of your chase you create the void for happiness to dwell.

This might sound counterintuitive but it’s true. The less we focus on what “I” need and “how I’m” doing, the happier we are. In fact on a really joyous day, when things are going extremely well, we forget about ourselves so much so that we forget to eat – now that’s joy!

While “nothingness” is the first and primary ingredient to joy and happiness, it does not complete the puzzle. Once we’ve created the void; once we are no longer seeking to further our own needs and wants; once we’ve surrendered egocentric lusts – we then need to allow the joy to come through.

What does that mean?

The Torah teaches us that joy is natural and inherent to every person. Just witness the natural happiness and cheerfulness of a young child. Where does this joy emanate from? It comes from his soul and very essence. So why aren’t we always full of joy? Because our bodily functions and cravings mask and hinder the joy of our souls from shining through. We’re too caught up in ourselves to be happy.

But once we’ve removed the hindrances of our needs and wants, we become free to do that which is noble and right. We begin to refocus and invest our energy into those activities that bring true joy, namely, we begin to fulfill our G‑d-given mission on earth, the Torah and it’s mitzvahs

Now what could be more joyous than that!

Shabbat Shalom!

Be First!

Have you ever heard of a synagogue launching a building campaign and then telling it’s membership to stop donating because they have collected too much money? Well in this week’s portion that is exactly what happens.

In order to build the Mishkan – a ‘home’ for G‑d in the desert – Moshe launches the ‘building campaign’. Ultimately, the Jewish People donate so much gold, silver, copper, fabric, etc. that Moshe is forced to make an announcement to stop contributing. (I guess they didn’t have a Goodwill Donation Center in the desert to dump the extras!)

Strangely, the leaders of each of the 12 tribes of Israel didn’t make a very generous contribution. They merely brought a few precious stone, some oil, and spices.

Why? How could these 12 great leaders be so miserly in their contribution to such a holy cause?

Our Sages offer an interesting answer:

The leaders were not trying to be cheap at all. They wanted to wait until the Jewish People donated all they could and, in their largesse, would take responsibility for whatever was missing. So they waited until the end. Ultimately and sadly, they underestimated the philanthropic generosity of the people and they were left with but a few items to contribute.

In our daily lives, we are often called upon to get involved in important projects. Whether it’s sponsoring an important community activity, helping to pay for Torah activities, a collection to help a poor or sick family, or it might have nothing to do with money: To make the minyan for someone who has to say kaddish, to prepare food for a family that has just had a baby or, G‑d forbid, an illness. To help organize a program, plan a party for kids and an untold numbers of other opportunities to make a difference in the community.

How many times do we hear, in one form or other: "Let me know who else is involved and I'll see if I can help". Or: "when others step forward, then I’ll jump on the bandwagon." Often times the hesitation is an unwillingness to commit to a project that is not yet well supported.

Many people like to see a project be successful before they commit time and resources. And then there are those who truly want to be able to fill in whatever is lacking at the end.

Whatever the reason, this week’s portion teaches us that there is great value in being the first. Though we might feel more useful at the end, if an opportunity to do a mitzvah arises, step up, get involved, and let others follow your example and do the same.

Shabbat Shalom,

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