Saturday, June 16, 2012
Count your Many Blessings, One By One!
Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld. Rabbi, Ohev Sholom - The National Synagogue "How To Stop The Cycle of Unhappiness Posted: 06/15/2012 12:08 pm "Have you ever tried arguing with a three-year-old? It is definitely a no-win situation. Let me give you an example. A certain three-year-old I know might say to me: "I want chocolate milk in a sippy cup." I will then pour the milk into the sippy cup and add the chocolate syrup. No sooner will I add the syrup than I will be told, "Actually, I want plain milk, or strawberry milk, and I want it in a plain cup, not a sippy cup. Wait. Don't shake it. Wait, I want the powdered chocolate not the syrup." Just try convincing the three-year-old that he just asked for the exact opposite of what he now wants. "But how different is this psychology of the average three-year-old from that of many of us vis-à-vis the choices we ourselves make in life? "In a nutshell this is the sin of the generation of the Israelites who lived in the desert and accepted a bad report about the land of Israel from spies that were sent to scout out the land. Although the immediate sin of the Israelites is that they believed this bad report about Israel, their underlying sin is that they are constantly unhappy with what Hashem has given them in life. And now that Hashem gives them what they thought they wanted, they are suddenly unhappy with that as well. Their rationale and decision making is comparable to a three-year-old. "The underlying message of the Torah [the first five books of the Bible] is that we should not define happiness by what we don't have, but by what we do have. The Torah teaches us that the happiness we seek is literally right in front of our eyes. "The same Torah portion that begins with the sin of the spies and the Israelites in the desert ends with the third paragraph of the Shema -- the cardinal statement of Jewish faith -- that we recite twice a day. The message of the third paragraph of the Shema is the antidote to this mentality of always seeking happiness in the wrong places. * * * "In contrast, the Torah's path in life remains constant. It reminds us to cling to the Eternal One, to Hashem [In conversation, many Jewish people, even when not speaking Hebrew, will call God HaShem, השם, which is Hebrew for "the Name" (this appears in Leviticus 24:11)], and not to wander after the fleeting pleasures of our eyes and attempt to seek happiness elsewhere. True happiness can be found in what we already have in our lives by realizing that everything we have is a gift from Hashem. Authentic happiness, like the tekhelet, will never fade. "When we recite the third paragraph of Shema [A liturgical prayer consisting of three Scriptural passages (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37-41] morning and evening, and when we look at the tekhelet, we are reminding ourselves not to wander after a false happiness. And if we don't wander after a false happiness then our happiness will be like the authentic tekhelet. "This is what the promise of following the path of the Torah offers. Its message is so beautiful and rewarding and joyous and happy...and it will never fade." The great teachers of the Torah and the New Testament agree, you should Count your many blessings, one by one!