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Yom Kippur: Guaranteed happiness in 5783?

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How can we all guarantee that we’ll be happy in 5783?

Our Yom Kippur Kol Nidrei evening service commences with a verse from Psalm 97:

“Ohr zarua letzadik, uleyishrei lev simcha.” “Light is sown for the righteous, and happiness for those who are upright in their hearts.”

So here’s the answer! We should be amongst the ‘yishrei lev’ – people who are upright and just, who do the right thing, and that will bring us simcha – constant happiness.

Does this really make sense? Do we not know numerous people who are outstanding, righteous individuals and yet they have a lot of misery in their lives?

Such a difficulty with this message of the Psalms arises out of thinking that happiness is what is known in Hebrew as ‘sasson’. Sasson is elation. Sasson is when you’re laughing out loud, or beaming with a smile. But the verse is speaking about ‘simcha’. And what is simcha?

The answer comes in the Ethics of the Fathers 4:1:

“Eizeh hu ashir? Hasameach bechelko.” – “Who is truly wealthy? It is somebody who has simcha, happiness in their portion.”

A further verse is brought to support this as it says,

“Yagia kapeicha ki tochel, ashreicha vetov lach.” – “When you eat the fruits of your labour, you are happy and it is good for you.

So the message here is that in order to attain happiness, two things need to happen: First of all you need to eat the fruits of your labour. Do a lot. Achieve much. And that inner joy can never be taken away from you – even if you’re miserable for other reasons, internally you will have simcha arising out of what you have attained.

In addition, when you know that what you have done is right, you will always have simcha. Even if you’ve become a bit unpopular because of it. Even if some people dislike you for what you’ve done. If you have stood by your principles to guarantee that the right thing has been achieved, you will feel a lot of simcha. You’ll be at one with yourself and able to sleep at night.

That is why at the beginning of Yom Kippur we say ‘uleyishrei lev simcha’ inspiring us hopefully during the coming year to do two things: First of all, to achieve much, to be constructive, to be productive so that as a result we’ll feel good and secondly, to always do what is right and if that’s what you achieve – uleyishrei lev simcha – may you indeed be blessed with constant joy.

May this coming year be one of joy and happiness, much achievement and productivity for the entire Jewish people and may all of our world be blessed with happiness and peace.