This week's Torah reading gives us a remarkable insight into the 'fail safe tool' for developing Happiness. Whether you are Jewish or Noahide, HaShem wants YOU to be Happy!
But is happiness possible during difficult times, such as we are now entering? YES! And we find an important secret to developing and maintaining such joy, even amid hard times, in this week's Parsha Mikeitz.
Joseph went from childhood innocense, freedom and blessings in his own land to betrayal at the hands of his brothers. Despite their negative intentions, he experienced social elevation and the praise of an entire nation, but then he was falsely accused and imprison, only to be redeemed and become the leader of Egypt – second only to the Pharaoh! In this exalted state he experienced vindication before his decietful brothers as they, as HaShem had predicted, bowed down before him.
Through all of his many trials, tribulations and blessings Joseph maintained his center and hence his happiness. As a result he was blessed through his two sons Ephraim and Menashe – through whose merits we continue to bless all the son of Israel each Shabbat.
This week's Torah portion opens with Pharaoh experiencing two vivid dreams. In the first, he sees seven healthy cows emerge from the Nile but then another seven cows, ugly and emaciated, emerge from the river only to eat the healthy cows. He falls asleep again and has a second dream. In this dream Pharaoh sees seven healthy ears of grain growing from a single stalk. Suddenly another seven thin and emaciated ears grow and swallow up the seven healthy ears.
Joseph is summoned to interpret these dreams and he tells Pharaoh that his country is about to experience seven good years followed by seven years of famine, which will totally obliterate the seven "good" years. History often repeats.
In his commentary, instead of translating "nice looking cows" – which is the literal translation, Rashi says that "they look kindly at one another."
Rashi likewise translates the "good years" as years of satiety rather than years of plenty or abundance as is normally done.
What point is Rashi making? We know that Rashi always strives for the simplest and most direct meaning, its part of what I love about his work, so why does he translate these words in such a novel way?
Rashi is characterizing the "good" years as years of "satiety" and not as years of abundance for a very simple reason: having an abundance doesn't mean that one is happy or even satisfied, as almost any member of Western society can attest. We have more abundance than any other society in world history, and yet we have become one of the most irreligious and ungrateful generations of all! Abundance and famine aren't antonyms.
Satiety is a matter of perspective not of abundance, as we see in Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of our Fathers where, at 4:1, "Ben Zoma says – who is wealthy? The person who is happy with his lot."
Real happiness comes from within, from knowing that G-d is in charge and pleased with us. If a person is right with G-d he or she will know he always has enough, indeed, more than he deserves. This da'at, this "knowing," is the Source of true happiness. Such a person is truly wealthy in ways that most of the materially rich can not begin to comprehend.
Regardless of external pressures, fears, realities, lack, or anxieties, those who are attached to HaShem know they are safe in His care. As Psalm 46 reminds us:
God is for us a shelter and a strength, a help in troubles; He is very accessible.
Therefore we will not fear even though the earth changes and the mountains totter into the heart of seas...
Nations have stirred, kingdoms have tottered; G-d lets out His voice and the earth melts.
But The Lord of Hosts is with us! The God of Ya'akov is our fortress forever.
Go and see the works of the Lord, that He has wrought devastation in the earth.
[The Beloved says:]
"Stop! Be still, and know that I am G-d; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted upon the earth."
The Lord of Hosts is with us; the G-d of Jacob is our fortress forever.
Knowing that HaShem alone is in control, how can we be anything but happy as we keep our consicousness on Him? Our Beloved is in control and He has promised to care for us! Come what may. Baruch HaShem!
As our countries fall and as His righteous indignation becomes increasingly manifest throughout the world, we KNOW that we are His People and that He cares for each us! Come what may. Am Y'isrel Chai! Such Joy! Such Satiety!
So, if you want to be really happy, place HaShem always at the forefront of your consciousness as advised at Psalm 16:8. Study His Torah, observe His applicable mitzvot with humility, love and thanksgiving. With bitachon – motivating trust in Him – know that HaShem has and will provide for all of your needs. Build up your emunah – your motivating faith – in Him. This is the Source of true and lasting happiness, inner peace, and security.
This consciousness will lead you into ever deeper and sweeter levels of satisfaction, transforming you into the kind of wealthy person Ben Zoma references in the Ethics of Our Fathers as mentioned previously.
So choose LIFE! Be fully present in this moment. The past is gone and the future remains uncertain, but this moment is sacred! This moment and this place is a gift from G-d to YOU! This time is a miracle that you are now experiencing. Don't waste it! Have the courage NOW to let the Beloved be your overriding focus at this time, in this place, and then in the next and then in the next and then next moment and so on as you walk the Derech into the future he has prepared or you.
As David HaMelech writes:Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed are all who take refuge in Him – Psalm 34.
This is a fail safe tool or true and abiding happinessWe now read: Likutey Moharan, book 2, lesson 10.
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