DVAR TORAH | October 24, 2014

We wish each other Happy New Year, Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary. Happiness seems to be the one thing that everyone seeks but very few are successful in finding. Perhaps you might like to join me in making a New Year resolution. My New Year resolution is to find happiness and to foster more happiness in the world around me.

A basic right in this country is the pursuit of happiness. But many people pursue happiness all their lives without ever being happy. I want this year to be the one in which I catch up with happiness – to actually be happy, not just to pursue it.

By the time this article is printed, my family plans to be celebrating the wedding of my son Rabbi Shlomo Litvin. At a Jewish wedding, an integral part of the ceremony is wishing the couple joy in their new home together.

We ask G-d to bless this couple with the happiness that Adam and Eve shared in the Garden of Eden. I don’t think the blessing is about the beauty or the bounty of G-d’s garden. Rather it is the happiness that Adam felt when he looked to Eve and said: “Honey, you are the only woman in the world to me.” And, he meant it. Eve, too, felt she had the best husband in the entire world.

The sages teach: “Who is happy? The one who is content with their portion.” Being happy requires an appreciation that at this exact moment, you have exactly what you need. But maybe this is easier said than done.

Elsewhere, the sages say that the key to happiness is finding purpose in life. Judaism teaches that life is holy. We are small insignificant beings given a higher purpose to make the world a better place than we found it. It therefore follows that recognizing that our lives have meaning and purpose is an initial step along the road to happiness
The next step toward happiness is having a good attitude about oneself. On one hand we can’t be too self-centered, but on the other hand low self-esteem is another obstacle to happiness. Somehow, the road to happiness must involve a balanced self-respect, not veering off course in either direction.

Stress detracts from happiness. So part of our New Year resolution would be to reduce stress for ourselves and those around us.

Someone once said, “If you think you can’t buy happiness, you must be shopping in the wrong stores.” But good fortune, beauty, genius and even power don’t necessarily lead to happiness. So this year, our resolution might include training ourselves to be happy based on the good things we experience in life, rather than the numerous possessions that we accumulate in life.

If we aren’t satisfied with our achievements in life, or if we lose something or someone we love, we often lose our sense of happiness. Part of our New Year resolution must include ways to reframe our lives to deal with these issues and not let them detract from our daily feeling of happiness.

Finally how does G-d fit into generating happiness? For ultimately, is it not faith that G-d is giving us EXACTLY what we need at this moment, the essence of what provides us the ability to be happy with our lives. Therefore, our New Year resolution must include bolstering our faith in G-d as a means to reaching happiness in life.

Happiness is a road, which requires constant movement and advancement. The blessing we offer to a new couple is that the wedding day should be the pinnacle of their happiness. And then, the next day will be the new pinnacle of happiness, and the next and the next and the next. Because a wedding includes that same faith that G-d has brought together the exact right person and place and situation. This knowledge is thus a blessing that should inspire them to be truly happy.

I would like to wish my son and his fiancé much happiness in their future lives together, and I would like to wish each and every one a truly happy New Year.

As an aside, I believe happiness is so important that I plan to teach a six-part course on attaining happiness in our lives.

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Shabbat candles should be lit on Fridays, October 24 at 6:36 p.m., October 31 at 6:27 p.m., November 7 at 5:20 p.m., November 14 at 5:14 p.m. and November 21 at 5:09 p.m.

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Editor’s note: Rabbi Avrohom Litvin, regional director of Chabad of Kentucky, has volunteered to provide Torah commentaries for Community.

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