Last week, we explained that happiness is achieved by focusing on what you have, instead of thinking about what you are lacking.
Levels of Happiness
As you may have noticed, different things give you different levels of happiness. Eating a chocolate bar will give you momentary pleasure, but two hours later, you will hardly remember you ate it at all. The happiness fades away over time, and has no impact on your overall sense of happiness. On the other hand, when a person has a new baby, they are filled with an overflowing joy that can be seen on their face for hours, days, weeks, and even years later!
We all know that a baby and chocolate are different, but what exactly is the difference? Why do some things give us more happiness than others do?
How can we achieve happiness that is deep and everlasting, and wont fade away?
Rabbi Lawrence Keleman1 explains that the determining factor is how long the pleasure will last. If you buy a new house where you plan to settle for the next 20+ years, you’ll feel a lot happier than when you rent an apartment to live in for just a few months. The fact that you’ll benefit from the house for much longer means that you’ll feel much happier when you acquire it.
Similarly, when you eat a slice of pizza or a bar of chocolate, you might enjoy it for a moment, but the pleasure is fleeting. It wont offer you any lasting happiness because the pleasure is over so quickly.
Paying the Price
Not only that, but often these fleeting pleasures end up hurting us more than they help. Shlomo HaMelech teaches us: “V’Acharisah simcha toogah – The result of [physical] pleasure is agony.”2
We have all experienced this. You eat one too many donuts at a Chanukah party. It gave you pleasure for a few seconds, but then it’s over. The pleasure fades away and you are left only with the calories. The next day you are very unhappy.
So if we want to find things that will give us the ultimate happiness, we will need to search for something that will give us everlasting pleasure with no downsides.
The Ultmiate Source of Happiness
As you may have guessed, the only thing that can offer us real deep everlasting happiness is doing mitzvos and learning Torah.
The pleasure from eating a slice of pizza, buying new house, or getting a new car will all eventually fade away, but mitzvos last forever. Every time we do a mitzvah, we earn eternal reward in Olam Haba. Our bodies, our money, and our physical possessions will all fade away when we pass on to the Next World. The only thing we can bring with us into the next world is our mitzvos and our connection to Hashem.
When a person realizes this, they will have “Simcha B’Mitzvos” (joy in doing mitzvos).
One way to have Simcha B’Mitzvos is to focus on how every mitzvah helps you acquire eternal pleasure in the World to Come.
Awareness Is the Key
Many people do many mitzvos every day – they wake up in the morning, put on tefillin, daven, say numerous brachos, do countless acts of kindness… but they are still unhappy. Why?
It’s the same reason why a wealthy man can be depressed, even though he has so many things: He is not focusing on what he has! He is too busy focusing on what he lacks, instead of noticing all the things he does own.
If someone would slip $100,000 into your pocket, but not tell you, would you be happy? No! You would not feel any different, because you would have no idea about the tremendous gift you have just acquired.
Therefore, if we want to have Simcha B’Mitzvos, we need to train ourselves to focus on the mitzvos we are doing, and realize the eternal reward we are acquiring through performing them.
This week, we will practice focusing on the mitzvos we are doing, and feeling happiness when we do them.
P.S. Did you know? The Orchos Tzaddikim3 says that one who performs mitzvos with joy receives 1,000 times the reward of one who treats mitzvos as a burden!!!
SOURCES:  Rabbi Lawrence Keleman is the author of Permission to Believe and a world-renowned lecturer. The ideas contained here are from his audio shiur entitled Holidays – Preparing for Succot: The Secret of Happiness;  Mishlei 14:12;  Orchos Tzaddikim: Sha’ar HaSimcha
While you are in the middle of doing a mitzvah, smile, and say (or whisper):
“I am so happy to be doing this mitzvah of _____, because it helps me earn ETERNAL merit in the World to Come.”
- “I am so happy to be learning Torah, because it helps me earn eternal merit in the World to Come.”
- “I am so happy to be cleaning the house for Shabbos, because it helps me earn eternal merit in the World to Come.”
- From which of the 12 shevatim does the Midrash learn the rule: When a person does a mitzvah, he should do it with joy? (See Bereishis 37 or Vayikra Rabbah 34:9)
- In addition to Naftali (referenced in last week’s questions) there was another tribe who Moshe said was happy when they would “leave” – Which shevat was it? (See Devarim 33)
- Where was this shevet leaving to, and why did their “leaving” make them happy? (See Rashi, Ohr HaChaim, or Rabbeinu Bachaye)
- Which words do we say in Maariv that mean: “We will be happy from the words of Your Torah and Your mitzvos for eternity, because they give us life…”
- Which words are said after the Torah has been read in shul, which mean: “Hashem planted within us the opportunity to achieve eternal life [through doing mitzvos]?”
Questions to Ponder
- As we explained, one way to achieve Simcha B’mitzvos (joy in performing mitzvos) is to focus on the eternal reward that you are earning by performing mitzvos. How else can you achieve simcha b’mitzvos? What are some other reasons why mitzvos make you happy?
- Happiness comes from acquiring something that you value. If someone hands you a pile of dirt, yes, you have acquired something new, but it has no value to you. The more you value something, the more you will feel happy to acquire it. We all know intellectually that Torah and mitzvos are our #1 value… but why do you value it? Try to think of as many reasons as you can.
- What can we do to help ourselves internalize the value of Torah and mitzvos to a greater degree?
- Rav S.R. Hirsch (Tehillim 9:3) says that the Hebrew word “Samei’ach” (happy) is related to the word “Tzomei’ach” (growing). Why do you think these words are related?
- The name Yitzchok comes from the word s’chok, meaning laughter. But Yitzchak was actually the most serious of the Avos! Yitzchok is known to parallel the middah of yirah (fear of Hashem), while Avraham parallels kindness and Yaakov parallels truth/harmony! Why, of all the Avos, is Yitzchok the one whose name means “laughter”?