Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

Simply be happy

A sermon that’ll leave you feeling good

A message especially for Jews. Just as with the Hebrew Bible, it’s a Jew addressing the Jews but the ideas are for everyone who cares to listen.

First a parallel: I was raised by honest parents surrounded by an honest culture so I came out honest — no great merit of mine. I found a book that wanted to explain how to be honest. So many twists and ingenuity to demonstrate how to do it! Instead of elaborate excuses for why one was dishonest, it used complicated ‘reasons’ for why to be honest. That’s not it.

Some people can seriously discuss for hours how to be happy and how to cry, without ever showing one sign of delight or one tear. That’s not it. One doesn’t need to reason oneself into being happy. Be happy. As Moses reports: [first] we’ll do and [only then] we’ll understand.

There are people who are very fine and deeply religious Jews who say that if you trust completely in G^d, it’s easy to be happy. I believe them. But I would say, Be happy first. It will help you with relying on G^d.

No child in the world wakes up in the morning and tries to reason herself or himself into a happy state. They just jump out of bed and smile.

The recipe is no different for grownups. Show how much energy you want to have and how happy you want to feel. The Ramchal already explained (centuries before behaviorism) that feelings follow action. (If you just sit there waiting to feel energy and happiness, only then to change anything, you may have to wait a lifetime.)

So, pull up the corners of your mouth, show a little teeth, let your eyes twinkle, and go do something.

But how is that not pretense? We don’t want to lie being happy. We don’t want to lie period. It’s not a lie because it’s true. Happiness shows our truest self. You can’t lie being yourself. But, you must allow your inside to follow your outside. Don’t just fake being happy as a mask. Mean it.

All my children are happy campers. One of them said to me at the age of five: I will always be happy. So I asked, What will you do when you go comfort mourners? He answered, Then I will be happy on the inside (בלב).

Some say that it’s not a good idea to complain because the Angels then say, You think that’s bad? We’ll show you. And that it’s a good idea to be happy because the Angels then say, You think that’s good? We’ll show you.

I could tell you a dozen good reasons for being happy. That happiness pushes out ungratefulness, arrogance, loneliness, coldness, selfishness, stinginess, numbness, pessimism, despair, heaviness and passivity, abusiveness, anger, revengefulness, quarreling, and stubbornness. I could show that it says that G^d demands happiness far above obedience. (G^d is not an idol that needs to be please. He lacks and wants nothing from us. He implores us to feel good.) All nice and dandy. But in the end, just do it.

Commerce makes good bucks telling us that if we’d buy their things or travel their destinations, then we’ll be happy. All lies. The best happiness comes without reason. If it is not caused (בחינם), no event can kill it. Happy בחינם also means, that it has no outside or ulterior motive or goal. You’re only happy because it’s such an excellent expression of you. The greatest number of unhappy people are among those who assume that they are entitled (to more). The happiest people are those satisfied with what they have. There’s no way to peace; peace is the way. Tell Americans that there’s no Pursuit of Happiness; happily should be the pursuit.

I won’t tell you you must. But why would you tell me that you wouldn’t?

What about sadness and worry? Worrying has never helped anyone. We may think about the future and try to plan. But as soon as it turns into worrying, it shows that you’ve placed yourself on G^d’s Throne. Leave something for Him to worry about. Walk with Him and it will all be fine.

And sadness? Well, happy people cry more easily than people feeling heavy. Happiness opens the door to dealing well with sadness (crying).

On the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, the 9th of Av, you can still be happy to be alive and have the opportunity to join other Jews in coping with the saddest parts of our history. You can be happy to cry.

The Jewish month of Adar and the Festivals of Tabernacles and Rejoicing of the Law, we’re told to spread extra happiness and be extra happy. Today exactly is also the Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Nachman of Breslav who advocated happiness as nothing and no one else. (He was also the Rebbi of my Rebbi, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, the Dancing Rabbi.) If not now, when? Just do it. It’ll rub off on your whole half-year ahead. Happy holidays!

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a vegan for 8 years now. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach and lehavdiel bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff and Rav Meir Lubin. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, GLBTQAI, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quit a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500st blog post with the ToI. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having a peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me. To see other blog posts by him, a second blog - under construction - can be found by clicking on the Website icon next to his picture.
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