Better to be happy
On a recent road trip I organized with some friends in Northern Israel, it became all too clear that executing the entire itinerary was a far-away dream. At first I was torn. Should I push everybody to keep moving or just go with the flow, and accept that we won’t reach all our destinations?
Similarly, an observant Jew who follows the legal code of the Shulchan Aruch must recognize that he will find himself in many situations where he is unable to uphold to his ideal standards of mitzvah observance. For example, traveling may often present an obstacle. There isn’t always a synagogue to pray in when we’re on the road. In business dealings as well, we can find ourselves socializing with people whose moral and ideological values threaten us. Even in our own homes too, sometimes our families’ needs temporarily prevent us from meeting our personal standards. These circumstances are an every day part of our life.
The problem usually isn’t the situation that arises around us, but rather how we respond to it. Yes, our intentions of accomplishing are respect-worthy, especially in Divine Service, but everything comes at a cost. Do we become madmen when it seems like things aren’t going to work out like we wished they would have?
Most of us are familiar with Rebbe Nachman’s famous words (Tinyana 24):
מִצְוָה גְּדוֹלָה לִהְיוֹת בְּשִׂמְחָה תָּמִיד
“It’s a great mitzvah to always be happy”.
I was thinking about this statement today and I made a simple inference. The Rebbe didn’t say, “It’s a mitzvah to be happy”, or “It’s even a mitzvah to be happy”. He said, “It’s a great mitzvah to be happy”, meaning it’s a very important and worthy mitzvah to strive for. Maybe sometimes when we’re feeling bad about ourselves because of the circumstances that surround us, or even situations that we ourselves are responsible for, we should remember those holy words and say, “the bigger mitzvah is to be happy now”. Ok, so on Thursday when you got the call to have Shabbos guests and you declined, it was because you were overwhelmed, and now that it’s Shabbos you wish you would have consented. But maybe it’s a greater mitzvah to overlook the regret and be happy now, than to have had the guests in the first place? It’s not just a simple mitzvah to be happy, said the Rebbe, it’s a great mitzvah! Let’s try to remember its paramount importance more often and wear a smile on our faces.