Insight – Happiness, Life and Light

By Rabbi Simcha Scholar

(Getty images)

America’s founders delineated the “pursuit of happiness” as an expression of independence and freedom. Yet, the essence of happiness remains obscure and undefined. Each person, each culture and even each religion has their own subjective understanding of what constitutes “happiness.”  So, as the adage goes, the chase is on. Seeking happiness, humanity races to the end of the earth and back for this elusive, mysterious key to life. Another famous maxim comes to mind: “people search for the city of happiness but they don’t realize its in the state of mind!” 

As Yidden, we have our own understanding of happiness and how it is attained. But there is another element of simchah that is sometimes overlooked; not what it is but what it can do. Simchah, the sefarim tell us, is much more than a mood or feeling. It is a force, an energy, a power of life and light. The words we sing throughout the wondrous days of Adar and Purim, “Orah v”simchah,” light and joy, indicate that they are intertwined. Much like light, happiness induces growth and development. Simchah does not merely remove or disperse overwhelming clouds of darkness; it actually generates its own illumination. The positive effect of happiness restores and rejuvenates life.

Scientists have noted an interesting phenomenon. Farmers who speak positively to their plants have seen them blossom beautifully while those who spoke cruelly or despondently to their shrubs saw them wither and wilt away. Perhaps plants can hear. (After all, corn has ears!) But there is a much deeper explanation. The power of positivity, uplifting words of happiness and joy, invigorates life. An infusion of simchah can rehabilitate and rejuvenate beyond our dreams.

I have witnessed the boundless power of infusing simchah. Sick, listless children regained their strength, vitality and vigor through happiness. It was more than just medicine or treatments. Doctors had all but given up. Simchah imbued them, and their families, with hope and, much more, it revived their spirit, their lives. They went through a total transformation. From bleak and black to buoyant and bright.

Fighting illness with simchah is our mantra and the results, baruch Hashem, speak for themselves. Yet, perhaps tapping in to the positive energy that simchah brings is something we can all try to work on. Many Yidden desperately need, and deserve, a boost of simchah in their lives. We cannot know what lies in each other’s hearts, but the myriad pressures, setbacks and challenges of today’s world certainly warrant feelings of anxiety and despondency. With a kind word, a genuine smile, a pat on the back, or an arm around the shoulder, we can bring life and light to our brothers and sisters. If an infusion of happiness can battle poor health  and ward off illness, if an uplifting word can cause flowers to flourish and blossom, then a bissele simchah can light up someone’s life. And that would make our world a much happier place. n

Rabbi Simcha Scholar is the chief executive officer for Chai Lifeline.

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