Shlomo Ezagui

True Joy vs Immediate Pleasure

There is a Chassidic saying that “joy breaks all boundaries.”

The Talmud relates the tale of a great sage who encountered Elijah the prophet in the marketplace and asked him, “Is there anyone who has assured his place in the world to come?” Elijah answered in the negative.

Two brothers entered the marketplace in the interim, and Elijah pointed to them, saying, “They merit the world to come.” The Rabbi walked over to them and asked, “May I ask, what do you do?” They answered, “We are joyful people, and we make those who are sad happy. If we hear about an argument, we make peace using humor between those quarreling.”

What does it mean to be happy, and how do we achieve this?

First, let us make a clear distinction between pleasure and genuine joy.

Pleasure is temporary. Pleasure is fleeting and superficial and usually comes with a steep personal price at the end. An honest, long-lasting, deep joy is an experience and a state of being where the shallow and artificial are of little value. When true happiness is attained, the external trappings, however lovely, are of no consequence.

Occasionally, enjoyment of exterior superficiality can serve as a bridge to connect one with inner joy or to draw out and enhance true happiness.

One of the methods the prophets used to this end was the song. Song, and more precisely melody, has the power to open up a person to the unlimited vibrations of the soul; however, this experience must be connected to internal development, something more profound than just doing it to “feel good.”

The world (i.e., materialism and consumerism) can, for the most part, only offer a temporary sort of pleasure and happiness. More stuff does not equal more happiness. By its very nature, the property of physical existence is fleeting. It has a time when it (or its style) came into existence, and it has a time when it ceases to exist. A life attached to and defined by materialism will always flip from one thing to the next; hydroplaning on the surface, with small or sometimes large potholes in between. Spirituality, religion, and deep values are the enemies of consumerism. That is why the materialistic world fights so vigorously against religion.

Where is the real joy? The deep inner fulfillment?

In the Book of Psalms, King David tells us, “Strength and joy are in the place of God. The joy of God is your strength […] and strength and joy are in His place.” There is no escaping this: real inner strength and moral fortitude and genuine, long-lasting, deep-reaching joy are in God and in pursuing a Godly life. Living a Godly life means imbuing our lives with the character and wishes of God.

King David had it all. He was a wealthy man with lots of power at his disposal. Yet, he also had many challenges. Family, close confidants, and neighbors continuously confronted, defied, and challenged him in every respect.

A man who had it all teaches us, “Do not put your trust in princes in the son of man. Blessed is the person who puts his faith in God, and God is his stronghold.” Everything God does, since He is perfect, is always for good.

Inner strength lasts under all circumstances and is never extinguished; true joy comes to a person who lives a life connected and influenced by the spark of God within — the soul. Only by living a soul-driven life can a person be truly joyous and happy.

Chapter 27

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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