Vayera: The Paradox of Happiness

 Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose. -Joseph Addison 

Based on the biblical accounts, it is easy to imagine the patriarch Isaac as a somber man. This is a great irony, given that his name in Hebrew, Yitzchak, translates as “will laugh.” Isaac’s life is filled with trials: his father is prepared to sacrifice him; he struggles against the farmers of Gerar for possession of wells he dug; his wife and son deceive him, taking advantage of his blindness to steal a blessing; he is disappointed by the wives of one son and sends the other son into exile to search for better wives.

The Sfat Emet in his comments during the year 5643 (1883) digs deeper into the subject of laughter and happiness. He explains that there are two types of laughter and happiness. There is frivolous laughter that is the side-effect of what is at best a superficial happiness or pleasure. Then there is the laughter and happiness of the man who fears God, as Isaac did. When a man fears God exclusively and follows His commands, he fears no man or mortal agency. His laughter is pure and his happiness complete.

May we achieve improved and more meaningful levels of laughter and happiness.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To my mom, Tamara and Tiferet – the birthday girls.

About the Author
Ben-Tzion Spitz is the former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay and a candidate for the Knesset for the Zehut party. He is the author of three books of Biblical Fiction and hundreds of articles and stories dealing with biblical themes. Ben-Tzion is a graduate of Yeshiva University and received his Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University.
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