Shlomo Ezagui

Cultivating Joy.

Madison Oren

To truly experience the fullness of life, one must be happy and feel satisfied.

In the Torah, the instruction to be happy is repeated often. The Bible tells of the punishments that will be brought upon the people “because [they] did not serve God in joy and with a full heart.”

Thus, the source of much negativity in life is a lack of joy and happiness, and good performance is greatly enhanced when connected with joy.

Once, Reb Beroka met the Prophet Elijah in the marketplace and asked him, “Who over here will merit the world to come?” Elijah, the prophet, pointed to two simple people. Reb Beroka approached them and asked, “What do you do?” They answered, “We make people happy. When we notice people are sad and down, we lift their spirits.”

The commentary to the Talmud explains that it is written, “You are children to God, your God,” and “When they are in pain, He [God] is in pain.” These two people lightened, as it were, God’s pain; therefore, they merited a great reward.

Maimonides writes, “Joy is a valuable and virtuous effort and worship before God.” Joy comes only through a conscientious, focused effort. Our sages tell us that happy people are healthier people. In the Book of Proverbs, King Solomon says, “A happy heart improves and uplifts one’s health.” In other places, our sages write that someone happy will not get sick as frequently.

In the book of the Holy Tanya, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi writes, “When two people fight each other, even if one is inherently stronger, he will not prevail if he is sad.” The same is true regarding one’s internal struggles. “One must be happy to overcome his inner drives and negative emotions.”

In Hebrew, the letters of the word “happy” (besimcha) can be rearranged to mean “thought.”

A fundamental principle in mysticism is that our thoughts influence how we feel, which controls how we act. Being rich is not a value of a number; our sages tell us, “Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot.” Attitude is the key to being rich and feeling content. Looking at all that God has blessed us with, especially compared to others who have it worse, is one way of developing gratitude and contentment.

Helping and giving to others is another way to draw out from within a feeling of fullness and fulfillment in one’s own life. God says, “If you make my four happy (the Levite, convert, orphan, and widow), I will make your four happy (your sons, daughters, parents, and all that is yours).” Extending oneself to others brings out the best in a person. It makes one feel content and happy because they become valuable to the world.

Another way to cultivate happiness is by being with others. One of the punishments in the Bible was to be sent away from everyone because “Being alone is like being dead.” Being “mixed between people” enables one to receive support from others and confide in friends about his worries. “A worry in the heart is greatly helped by sharing it with others.”

Prayer is a potent tool. Through prayer, a person connects with an omnipotent force that uplifts and refreshes the soul, empowering the person and allowing him to see things better. It is for good reason that King David says, “You have gladdened my heart.”

Chapter 177

About the Author
Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui is an author and lecturer. "A Spiritual Soul Book" ( & "Maimonides Advice for the 21st Century" ( In 1987, Rabbi Ezagui opened the first Chabad Center in Palm Beach County, Florida, and the first Orthodox Synagogue on the island of Palm Beach, Florida.
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