GATEWAY TO HAPPINESS
Chapter One HAPPINESS IS AN OBLIGATION
It is a mitzvah (good deed) to be happy.
The Bible (Deuteronomy 16:11) states a commandment to be happy: “You shall
rejoice with all the good that the Almighty has given you.” My teacher, the late Rabbi Mordechai Gifter, wrote that this is mitzvah (good deed). We are obligated to feel joy with what we were given by the Almighty. The question arises, why we need a directive to rejoice since we would automatically be happy when we have good things.
The answer is that we humans have a tendency to always want more. Therefore it is easy to forget to feel grateful and happy with the good that we already have. We should strive to feel a joy that is complete. Lack of joy with what we have is destructive both physically and spiritually. (Rabbi Mordechai Gifter 1915-2001; Pirkei Torah, vol. 2, p.107)
2. The Rambam (Maimonides) (1135-1204) advocates happiness in moderation: “Be neither frivolous nor sad. Be consistently in a happy mood with a pleasant facial expression.” (Hilchos Daios 1:4 and 2:7)
3. “It is a great mitzvah to be consistently in a state of happiness.” (Rabbi Nachman of Breslov -1772-1810; Lukutai Aitzos, simcha, no.30)
2 The reality and the ideal
The late Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz (1874-1936) observed: “People become so
used to being unhappy they are unaware of the needless misery they cause themselves. They imprison themselves by filling their minds with thoughts of resentment, hatred, envy, and desires. It is amazing how they tolerate living such a life. The only reason they do tolerate it is because they have become so used to living with such thoughts they feel it is the normal picture of life. They mistakenly think that it is impossible for life to be any different. (Daas Chochmah Umussar, vol.2, p.139)
You have the ability to make yourself happier than you presently are. A person who mistakenly thinks there is nothing he can do to increase his happiness will fail to make the necessary effort to improve.
HAPPINESS IS AN OBLIGATION