The Happiest Days of the Year
This week is the happiest in the Jewish calendar. It is so happy that, Simcha - "over abounding joy", is mentioned in the prayers associated with the days and Simchat Torah even has happiness in its name.
But What is Happiness?
What makes a person happy? I have a friend who feels that to be happy he must have a lot of things. He wants a new car, a new house, and a boat. Each acquisition is only preparation for the next. The Audi is replaced by the Beemer, which will be replaced by the Lexus, and eventually the Bentley. He is not alone. He and many others have the bumper sticker, "He who has the most toys wins"
But, is winning happiness?
There is Research
Dr. Martin Seligson, a University of Pennsylvania psychologist, studies happiness. In an article featured in USA Today, he says, "The happiest people surround themselves with family and friends, don't care about keeping up with the Joneses next door, lose themselves in daily activities, and, most importantly, forgive easily." This seems to be in line with the Mishnah that says, "Who is rich? He who is content with their portion" But, does feeling rich translate into happiness?
Jewish Tradition supports the research
What does the holiday of Sukkot have to tell us about Happiness? It is very interesting, traditionally the happiest part of Sukkot was the water libation. Water was poured on the altar in the Temple. About this ceremony it is said, "One who never say the water libation in the Temple never experienced true happiness"
This is strange. How could pouring water on a firepit engender feelings of happiness?
The secret is in the water. Normally, wine was poured on the altar. Wine has a taste. It can be good wine or great wine. For any wine that you drink, there can always be one better. But, water has no taste. When you pour water on the altar you know that it is the best experience possible.
This idea is in line with Dr. Seligson's research.
In the end, be like water
One must strive to be like water. There is no better vintage of water, no aquatic vineyard with a famous taste. Every water libation is perfect. When we come to understand that every moment that we are presently experiencing is the best ever, we will have reached true happiness.
Be like a Sukkah
That is the beauty of Sukkot. There are no granite countertops in a Sukkah, no flat screens or halogen lighting. The true beauty of a Sukkah isn't in the decorations, it is in the guests, family, friends, and community members that visit.