with Rav Avigdor Miller
The Guide to True Happiness
Part I. Happiness in the Torah
Talking About the Weather
When we read the pesukim that describe the departure of the Am Yisrael from Mitzrayim, we note the interesting fact that the time of the year, the spring-like weather, plays quite a significant role in the story.
As they gathered to leave Mitzrayim, Moshe Rabbeinu told the people: “זָכוֹר אֶת הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר יְצָאתֶם מִמִּצְרַיִם … הַיּוֹם אַתֶּם יֹצְאִים בְּחֹדֶשׁ הָאָבִיב — Remember this day that you came out of Egypt …Today you are leaving in the month of spring” (Shemos 13:4). Now, you know that in the Torah, weather is not a subject that is usually discussed. It’s strange that Moshe Rabbeinu should make a big deal about it. There were many things he could have told theAm Yisrael as they gathered together to begin their journey toward freedom. I myself could think of some very important yesodos that Moshe Rabbeinu could have given over at this most opportune time. But to point out the weather conditions?! After all, he wasn’t a meteorologist
And if it was cold and rainy, would it have made a difference?! They were going out to freedom! Ask the man who is released from prison after fifty years if he cares about the temperature on the day he left; he doesn’t remember and he doesn’t even care to remember! He’s free at last!
Perfect Weather for Freedom
And yet Moshe Rabbeinu did say, הַיּוֹם אַתֶּם יֹצְאִים בְּחֹדֶשׁ הָאָבִיב — You’re leaving today, and look outside! It’s a beautiful spring day. And Rashi asks: Didn’t they know it was spring? אֶלָּא כָּךְ אָמַר לָהֶם, רְאוּ חֶסֶד שֶׁגְּמַלְכֶם — So what was Moshe Rabbeinu telling them? “Pay attention to the kindness that Hashem is bestowing upon you, שֶׁהוֹצִיא אֶתְכֶם בְּחֹדֶשׁ שֶׁהוּא כָּשֵׁר לָצֵאת — That He took you out in a month that is fitting for departure, לֹא חַמָּה וְלֹא צִנָּה וְלֹא גְּשָׁמִים —not too hot, not too cold, and not raining” (Rashi 13:4).
Now, we should take a peek at Shir Hashirim (2:11-13), at Shlomo Hamelech’s description of Hashem speaking to His people on that great day of Yetzias Mitzrayim. “קוּמִי לָךְ רַעְיָתִי יָפָתִי וּלְכִי לָך — Arise, My love, My beautiful one, and go forth from Mitzrayim, כִּי הִנֵּה הַסְּתָיו עָבָר הַגֶּשֶׁם חָלַף הָלַךְ לוֹ — Because now the winter has passed, and the rains are gone, and the traveling through the wilderness will be much more pleasant. הַנִּצָּנִים נִרְאוּ בָּאָרֶץ — The days of spring are here when the trees begin to produce their flowers, and those who travel delight in their colors and fragrances. עֵת הַזָּמִיר הִגִּיעַ וְקוֹל הַתּוֹר נִשְׁמַע בְּאַרְצֵנוּ — The time of birds singing and chirping has arrived, which adds the additional joy of sweet sounds for those who travel in the spring. קוּמִי לָךְ רַעְיָתִי יָפָתִי וּלְכִי לָךְ — And so, My beautiful beloved,” says Hashem to the Am Yisrael, “now is the time to arise and leave Mitzrayim”.
Scheduling for the Chirping Birds
So we see that Hashem made a point of bringing out the Am Yisrael from Mitzrayim davka then, during the days of spring. Not only that, but the Torah also tells us that the entire scheduling of the year is dependent on the yom tov of Pesach falling out during the spring to commemorate this event: “שָׁמוֹר אֶת חֹדֶשׁ הָאָבִיב … כִּי בְּחֹדֶשׁ הָאָבִיב הוֹצִיאֲךָ ה׳ אֱלּוֹקֶיךָ מִמִּצְרַיִם — You must guard the month of spring … for it was in the month of spring that Hashem your G-d took you out of Egypt” (Devarim 16:1).
Chazal (Rosh Hashanah 21a) explain this verse to mean that the month of Nissan must always fall out in the spring, and that sometimes the Sanhedrin must even add a month to the calendar just to ensure that Nissan will not begin while it’s still winter. And all this, so that we will remember and commemorate that we left Mitzrayim in the spring.
It’s a big question: What difference does the spring make for a nation that is escaping two hundred and ten years of bondage? The month of chodesh ha’aviv, the season when the grain ripens, would certainly be a joyous time once they would enter Eretz Yisroel. But as they departed from Rameses, they were far from the promised land and had no benefit at all from the ripening of the grain. What difference is it to such a people, escaping slavery, loaded down with riches, that birds are chirping in the branches? So what that the flowers are blooming on a beautiful spring day? We’re talking here about real happiness — the excitement of escaping to freedom and great wealth — and you’re telling me about chirping birds?!
The Alter’s Chiddush
This isn’t my question, by the way. I heard this said over in the name of the Alter of Slabodka when I was in Europe. And because the Alter’s answer is a foundation for how we are supposed to live successfully in this world, so we’ll spend some time understanding it.
The Alter said that the spring weather, with all of its varied pleasures, was chosen purposefully by Hashem to enhance the occasion of Yetzias Mitzrayim. Even in their mountain-high joy of liberation, and even though they were loaded down with the wealth of Mitzrayim, they were expected not to overlook the weather, the budding trees and the chirping birds.
And why not? Because it was so important for the Am Yisrael to learn — right then, when they were leaving the bondage of Mitzrayim to become avdei Hashem — that the happiness of a true servant of Hashem doesn’t come from the great events of life. The great jolts of good fortune, the ecstatic moments of great happiness — a new car, a new baby, even Yetzias Mitzrayim — won’t make a person truly happy. It’s only the small gifts of life, like a balmy spring day or a bird chirping in the trees, that are the true happiness of life.
Of course there is joy in those things, too. It’s a big simchah when you have a child. And it’s an even bigger simchah when you marry that child off. You won the lottery? It’s a simchah! You got the job you wanted? You finished a mesichta? Those are all big simchos and a good reason to rejoice. But those aren’t the things that will make you a happy person! It’s the day-to-day simple pleasures of life, like nice weather, that Hashem is always bestowing on you, all of those small things are supposed to make you a happy person.
Rosy Glasses Are Nothing
Now, you can’t just tell a man, “Be happy; learn to see the good things in life.” It’s like saying nothing at all to him. This subject of happiness is a science, and like any important subject, its study takes effort on your part. If you’ll say to someone, “Just put on optimistic spectacles and look at the world through rosy eyeglasses,” you’re not helping him a bit.
There’s work to be done besides for putting on those rosy spectacles. What work is that? Every little pleasure you experience is an obligation upon you to appreciate and become a happy person. A person becomes happy because of the small things in life. Now, don’t say that your experience contradicts this — because it’s not true, you don’t have the experience. You never even tried it! It’s necessary to dedicate your lives to the study of all the details of happiness that you have in your life, in order to become the happy servant of Hashem that He expects.
And so we’ll begin our career of happiness by reading together the words of a mishnah; it’s a mishnah that most of us say, but almost none of us fulfill. אֵיזֶהוּ עָשִׁיר — Who is a wealthy man? הַשָּׂמֵחַ בְּחֶלְקוֹ — Someone who is happy with what he has. Now, everybody knows that; everybody says it. But nobody practices it.
The mishnah is telling us here what Hakodosh Boruch Hu expects from us — that we should practice it and fulfill it. Hashem wants us to become wealthy. Otherwise, why did He tell us that? Why did He say אֵיזֶהוּ עָשִׁיר? Just some more information for us to file away? No, it’s because that’s what you’re expected to become. Hashem wants you to become that ashir who is samei’ach b’chelko!
Now, it’s important to point out that samei’ach doesn’t mean that you’re satisfied with what you have; it means that you’re happy, that you’re full of joy. Hashem wants you to enjoy Olam Hazeh, to be a person overflowing with happiness, and it’s an art that you have to get busy learning.
Now, before we begin, the first thing you must get out of your head is the idea that prishus means to be unhappy. No, prishus means to be happy without luxuries, to be happy with all the multitude of pleasures of just living life. Hashem says that the one who does that is the wealthy man.
We have to open our eyes, apply our minds, and be willing to put effort into finding the real happiness of life. If we would do that, the happiness within us would begin to well forth, and life would be full of fun. It would be endless fun and happiness — without the new car, and without the trip to the zoo or the amusement park. The details of life itself would make you a happy person.
Study a Variety of Subjects
The joy of life is not the big things; and it’s not one small thing, either. Because what does chelko mean? Chelko means your portion in life. And life is not one thing — life is a combination of things, a sum total of tens of thousands of phenomena — and it’s necessary to make each phenomenon a separate study so that whenever you encounter that phenomenon it will cause you happiness.
If you study how two things make you happy, you’ll have two things that cause you happiness. If you’ve studied fifty things, so fifty things will cause you happiness. The more subjects you study, the more phenomena you appreciate, the more happiness you will get out of life. Like Dovid Hamelech said: “כִּי שִׂמַּחְתַּנִי ה׳ בְּפָעֳלֶיךָ בְּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדֶיךָ אֲרַנֵן — You made me happy with Your work, I sing at the deeds of Your hand” (Tehillim 92:5). When are you happy with His work? When you sing about what you have.
But if you only speak and think in general terms, it’s just devarim b’alma, just words. You can’t be a happy person because of “everything.” Everything is nothing. The path to true happiness is in the details. And when you add together the many small phenomena, you begin to experience the true happiness in life.
Becoming Wealthier and Wealthier
Every day, you can become happier and happier with the simple details of life. Slowly, little by little, you add one more thing and one more thing, and you become an ashir, you become wealthy. And you find that from all sides you’re bursting out with song. You’re walking down the Brooklyn streets, meshuga with happiness!
Once you achieve this wealth, you’ll never be unhappy again. You can’t be unhappy if your life is filled with thousands of small happinesses all day long. Because no matter what happens, you appreciate that you still have air to breathe. All you want. And water to drink, all you want. You still have a roof over your head. You still have shoes to wear. And that’s only the beginning of the list.
Once you become a happy person, you’ll be able to withstand all the nisyonos, all the trials of life. Life is not easy; there are always ups and downs. And if you don’t achieve this wealth of samei’ach b’chelko, so no matter what you buy and no matter how many possessions you have, you will be a fundamentally unhappy person, because you never learned what real happiness is.
The Main Portion Is … Life!
And therefore, the first thing we must do is clarify what it is that we’re supposed to be happy about — what does chelko mean? What is the first aspect of chelko that all of us sitting here right now have? “Your portion” means, first of all — that you’re alive! You never thought about that pshat, did you? You were thinking that it means that when you finally make five hundred thousand dollars, so then you’ll be happy. You’ll be samei’ach b’chelko, even though you don’t have two million dollars yet. No, that’s not what chelko means. Chelko means you’re still alive — that’s already your portion that you’re expected to be full of joy about.
Because there is no happiness like being alive! The happiness of being alive is an intense experience, only that we’re so accustomed to it that we ignore it. Let’s say a person would enjoy the fact that he is alive. Oh, yes! How lucky you are that you’re alive! Don’t say it’s nothing. It’s everything! A millionaire would give up all of his property to stay alive.
There are plenty of people you once knew, some of them even your age, who are not alive anymore. I myself look back to when I was a boy. Some of my chaveirim passed away early. There was a fourteen-year-old friend of mine who passed away. And a twenty-year-old friend of mine passed away when I was in the yeshiva.
Walking on Clouds
Do you know what fun it is to be alive? Here’s a man who’s going to a specialist because his physician found something. And he’s afraid he’s going to hear some terrible news. So the specialist gives him a complete series of tests — blood tests and scans and everything else — and then he goes home for a few days and waits for the report. For those few days, this man can think of nothing else except for the phone call he’s expecting from the doctor. What is anything worth if his life is about to end? And finally the doctor calls him into his office and sits him down and tells him, “I’m sorry to tell you that there’s nothing wrong with you!”
Now, when this man walks out of the doctor’s office, he’s walking on clouds. He’s the happiest man in the whole city. Because now he’s enjoying the sweetness of life. How sweet it is to be alive! The happiness of walking down a Brooklyn street, knowing that you’re alive, is unequaled by all the pleasures of the wealthy.
The Quick Landing
Only, what happens? He walks on clouds from here to Avenue P (two blocks away from the shul),and then before you know it, he’s back on the ground again. He’s back to walking on the sidewalk again, because he forgets. And that’s a tragedy, because the happiness, merely of being alive, is something that should keep you walking on clouds all day long.
Of course, after a while your mind becomes stultified. If you haven’t studied this subject, then you won’t even appreciate it. Like I told you earlier; you need to create a program for happiness. It won’t come merely because you came here to the lecture and listened to me. Because if you don’t get busy making yourself happy, all this talk here is a waste.
The Funeral Parlor
You have to learn how to be samei’ach in your cheilek of being alive. So when you pass a funeral parlor — on Coney Island Avenue, there are a number of them — as you pass by one you say, “Boruch Hashem, I’m on the outside!” I’m not joking; I’m very serious now. And when you pass the next one, “Boruch Hashem, I’m on the outside.” There are three of them there. So by the third one also, “Boruch Hashem, I’m still on the outside.” Say it with your mouth, again and again.
To be outside of the funeral parlor is a simchah. Inside, it’s a funeral home. A “home,” they call it — so you might think that it’s comfortable, and there’s music for the meisim, and they serve lunch for the meisim. No, he’s in a box and that’s all. But you’re outside! “Boruch Hashem, I’m on the outside!” Say it!
Being alive is a happiness ad ein sof, no question about it. But you have to expand on that happiness, because there is much more than life itself. Because not only are you alive, you also have functioning kidneys. I know a man who has no kidneys — it’s already years and years that he’s on the waiting list to get a kidney. Three times a week, he has to go to the clinic for special treatments. It takes hours and hours each time, and it’s expensive. But he’s happy to be alive; he’s happy to have a machine that keeps him alive. Because he knows that it’s a ta’anug to be alive. And if he could just get one kidney, how happy he’d be. He wishes he could be you! He’d be delirious with joy!
A New Kidney
And here’s a man who finally was able to get a new kidney. He has one that he “borrowed” from his sister who was kind enough to give him one of her own kidneys. So now he’s a “transplant man.” You think that’s so simple? This man cannot take certain medicines because they might upset his system. He takes a regimen of medicines to suppress his immune system, so it won’t reject the new kidney. After all, the kidney is not his — it’s foreign matter inside his body — so the tendency of the body is to reject it. And so he’s always taking medicines to suppress the rejection apparatus.
And there are some medicines that are sometimes vital to a person — maybe he gets an infection and he needs antibiotics — but now this man cannot take them because they would interfere with his anti-rejection medications. So this person may become subject to infections that he cannot combat because he can’t take medicines. And so for the rest of his life he lives precariously with his one kidney.
Now, how does this man look at the same world that you look at? If he sees somebody who is glum and downcast, you know what he thinks? He’s thinking, “That man is crazy! He has something to be sad about?! He has his own kidney!” Your own kidney is a great happiness! A natural one that fits in exactly where it’s supposed to be! It’s suited to everything in your body. When this man sees you on the street, he doesn’t understand how you cannot be ecstatic — not only do you have your own kidney, you have two of them! You’re not just a millionaire, you’re a multi-millionaire!
Gaining an Optimistic Attitude
And now we see how silly all of mankind is that they don’t sing because of what they possess. Frequently, as you walk down the street, you should bestir this happiness in your mind — how lucky you are, how convenient it is, how comfortable it is, how wealthy you are.
Now, the more you learn how to be happy from all these things, the more it grows on you; it becomes part of your personality. Little by little, an attitude of optimism grows upon your mind and you become a happy personality. “I’m so happy to be alive, to be on this side of the cemetery gate.” That’s what you should think about when you walk past the cemetery. “And not only am I alive, but I have kidneys!” That’s a wealth!
The Delicious Cocktail
So now we begin to see that it’s important for us to dwell on details. You have to take one thing at a time; maybe one week you’ll work, let’s say, on enjoying air. Enjoying the pleasure of breathing. The truth is that when you walk outside tonight, you should take a deep breath. “Ahhh!” you should say. “It’s really a ta’anug.” No cocktail that you could buy in the store compares to the cocktail of fresh air. Drink it in — it’s free of charge, and it’s healthy. Fill your lungs. It makes your blood become red immediately, the fresh air.
So let’s say you’re walking to the beis haknesses and you tell yourself, “Isn’t it a wonderful thing that there is air to breathe?” Now, at first it’s a chiddush gadol. Air?! I’m afraid that even if you tell it to a talmid chochom, it would be a big chiddush. You tell him, “Yes, air is vital. I’ll prove to you that it’s what you need more than anything else. You can get along without food for days and days. Without water, for a shorter time, but you can get along without water, too — for a few days maybe. But without air you can’t survive at all.
“Half Hallel” Is Not Enough
It says in the Medrash on the possuk כֹּל הַנְּשָׁמָה תְּהַלֵּל יָ-הּ , that עַל כֹּל נְשִׁימָה וּנְשִׁימָה תְּהַלֵּל יָ-הּ , for every breath you have to say Hallel. And my rebbi said it means gantz Hallel! For every breath, you owe Hashem a fullHallel. Now, you don’t have time for that — you’re too busy breathing — but at least you should know that that’s how delicious it is!
When a person is a little bit dejected, discouraged, it’s a good idea to go to the window and breathe deeply. Air is like a drink of very strong medicine. We don’t realize. It comes into your lungs, and the oxygen unites with your blood and makes your blood more red. It’s a fact. As you breathe, your blood becomes more invigorated with oxygen. The iron in your blood that makes it red, the hemoglobin, unites with the oxygen, and it carries the oxygen on its path through all the blood vessels everywhere in the body to invigorate all the cells. The whole body is different because you breathe. And therefore, it’s a good idea to practice breathing just for the feel of it, just to appreciate that great gift of air.
Two Hundred Miles of Chessed
Now, air is not just a single substance. It’s a cocktail mixed exactly with the right ingredients to make it not only beneficial to us but pleasurable, too. It has about twenty percent oxygen, while the rest is mostly nitrogen and inert gases because you need something with which to carry the oxygen. If the air was all oxygen, you’d become drunk. If you would breathe oxygen alone, you would get dizzy, you’d become intoxicated. So you have to have the nitrogen to dilute the oxygen; and a little bit of carbon dioxide is essential because it’s an incentive to your lungs to breathe more deeply. And then with traces of a few other gases together, it forms a combination of the perfect material that’s suited for human beings.
You know what we are? We’re like fish in the bottom of an ocean. We’re in an ocean, an ocean of air. The ocean is two hundred miles high. We’re like fish living in this ocean of air, and we love it. That’s our element. If we were to change places with a fish, we wouldn’t be happy, just like a fish wouldn’t be happy if he took our place. And therefore let’s enjoy this ocean while we have it.
So practice up on this. On the way home, you’ll walk out of here onto Ocean Parkway — it’s a beautiful street, a parkway with trees and bushes. Now, after the rain they exude a fragrance, and the combined fragrance of different kinds of shrubs and trees, combined with the city odors — they’re a pleasure, those city odors — and they combine to give a certain cocktail that you don’t drink; you draw it deep into your lungs, and you can learn to enjoy it.
You think a summer home in Maine and a winter home in Florida is going to make you happy? No, that’s nothing. What good would the home be if you were strangled without air, if you were suffocating for air. Breathing is a real simchah! Some people have difficulty breathing. You know that some people have difficulty breathing? (The Rav took a deep breath). Ahh! It’s a pleasure to fill your lungs. Mamash a ta’anug! Don’t laugh at breathing — it’s a great happiness to breathe.
Be Queer and Be Happy
So we’re beginning to see now that in order to be a samei’ach b’chelko, you have to be a queer kind of a fellow. You can’t always share your feelings with other people; they’ll laugh at you. “בְּאָזְנֵי כְסִיל אַל תְּדַבֵּר — Don’t speak into the ears of a fool”. ”כִּי יָבוּז לְשֵׂכֶל מִלֶּיךָ — He’ll make light of these ideas and cool you off” (Mishlei 23:9).
They’ll say, “There’s a fellow over there, down Ocean Parkway, who’s happy that he has two kidneys! Ha!” Try to tell people that you’re filled with joy, that you’re mamash b’simchah because breathing is fun, they’ll think you’re wacky. But they’re the wacky ones because they’re missing all the happiness of this world. And don’t tell me that enjoyment and happiness is not for tzaddikim. Oh no, you big tzaddik, you don’t want to enjoy the sun and the wind. He’s eating his chocolate cake and ice cream, but to be happy with the sun, that’s too much.
Don’t be misled! Once a frum tzaddik said to me, “You’re teaching people to enjoy life?! The purpose of life is ta’anugim?! To be rodef ta’anugim, torun after pleasures?!” He was upset at me. I looked at him and said, “Look, you have a wristwatch. I don’t have a wristwatch. You drive a car when you come to the yeshivah. I walk to the yeshivah. Who is running after pleasures, you or I? You’re running after it, but you don’t have it. I’m not looking for pleasures. They’re coming to me. As I walk in the street with my “Rolls Royce” — my two shoes, that’s my Rolls Royce — and breathe the air of Hakodosh Boruch Hu, I’m enjoying life. I walk past the cemetery on Ocean Parkway, and I’m filled with happiness that I’m on this side of the gate.” That kind of kosher ta’anugim is a chiyuv, it’s a mitzvah gedolah to enjoy life that way.
“G-d Made” Earphones, Speakers, And Cameras
Who needs places of entertainment to be happy when you have all the happiness right here! Look at yourself! “I’m alive, Boruch Hashem.” Look at your feet — “Boruch Hashem, two of them! And both the same size!” Look at your ears — “Boruch Hashem!” They’re “earphones” hanging on the side of your head — and you don’t have to buy them in the store.
You have teeth: slicing teeth in front and grinders in the back. Boruch Hashem! You have a functioning tongue that’s busy all day long in your mouth. You have a “speaker” in your mouth — vocal cords. Boruch Hashem! And eyes! “Cameras” in your head. Boruch Hashem! You can walk, Boruch Hashem! That’s some trick you have there, being able to balance yourself as you walk. Boruch Hashem! And that’s only the beginning.
You have to learn how to be happy with your clothing. It’s not enough to say the brachah of Malbish Arumim in general and patur yourself. You have to study the details of your clothing in order to become a happy person. The pockets and the buttons, everything. Study it.
The Shoes in the Treasure Chest
Study your shoes. Shoes are a happiness. Did you ever think about that? You know that in some countries, people don’t have shoes. Only one man wears shoes, the king of the tribe. And not every day. Once in a while he puts on shoes, when a visitor comes from outside, a tourist. He wants to show off so he puts on shoes. Otherwise he doesn’t put on shoes. Shoes are a big luxury. A shoe is a treasure.
Let’s say a colonel from the American Air Force lands on that island, so the king takes his shoes out from his treasure chest, and he puts them on, and he marches with his short pants covering his naked body, with some feathers in his head to greet the colonel. And he shows him his shoes. He’s so happy; he’s “an aristocrat.”
We should know that shoes are a happiness. It’s not an exaggeration at all. Just because you live in a country where everyone can afford shoes, should that decrease your happiness in any way?
That’s why we’re expected to say every day, שֶׁעָשָׂה לִי כָּל צָרְכִּי . But we’re lazy; we don’t think. Often we’re not even thinking about the peirush hamilos. But I’m not even talking now about the “formality” of making the brachah in shul. What about when you’re walking down the street? Take a minute every day to be happy with your shoes. Think about the details. “How lucky I am to have shoelaces that have plastic tips. If there wasn’t a plastic tip, then I’d have a hard job fitting it into the hole. I’d have to spit on it and twist it and try to push it through the hole. Boruch Hashem, I have plastic on the tips of the laces.” Did you ever think about that?
Appreciate the roof over your head. Did you ever stop to appreciate the happiness of a warm house? Now, that’s a chiddush to most people. A warm house? Yes, a warm house is a happiness. It’s not easy to have a house that’s warm.
When I was a boy, we didn’t have warm houses. It was only warm in the kitchen where the coal stove was. You had to put coal in the stove. When the coal burned out, you had to take the ashes out of the stove. That was the only room where there was warmth. If I wanted to read, I would lie down on the floor in the kitchen. I lay on the floor all day, all night, in the kitchen by the stove. The rest of the house didn’t have any warmth. We didn’t have any radiators. No such thing. The house was cold. If you wanted to warm a house, you put a kerosene stove in the rooms. The kerosene stove had to have fuel there, and sometimes it didn’t work. When you got up in the morning, the whole room was black, including your face; it made everything black, the soot from the kerosene stove. This luxury of having a warm house is something that modern people have to realize.
Ahhh! What a pleasure it is to have a warm house. So when you walk in with your children in the wintertime from the beis haknesses, say “Chaim’l, isn’t it good to have a warm house?” Rub your hands together. He looks at you like you fell off the moon. He doesn’t understand you. “How silly adults are,” he thinks. Never mind. That’s the way to bring up children, and eventually he’ll thank you for that.
The Miracle of the Faucet
When I was in Slabodka, nobody had running water in the house. You had to go half a block away to get water. And you couldn’t drink it; it was dangerous to drink well water. You had to boil it first. And here in your house you turn on the faucet and water comes out, pure water fit to drink! What a wealth, what a happiness that is! And even hot water! Hot water coming out of a faucet! It’s a luxury upon luxuries. Once upon a time hot water came only from springs, hot springs. If you didn’t have hot springs, you couldn’t get any hot water unless you boiled it. Think about that every time you turn on the faucet, and you’ll start becoming a samei’ach b’chelko.
You have to talk to yourself about your home. As you walk on the steps, you should whisper to yourself, “Isn’t it good we have steps?” You know, I have steps upstairs, and many times I think about how in the times of the Gemara they didn’t have steps. They had a ladder, a darga. Try climbing a ladder to go upstairs; it’s not so simple. Now, even a ladder is a very good invention. Otherwise you would have to go up with a rope; you’d have to pull yourself up. But a ladder is not so safe. So steps are a luxury. Imagine a man enjoying his steps. His life is full of fun, full of happiness.
Becoming a Millionaire Takes Work
Little by little, you learn. Of course, it’s a career. You have to put in work. For five minutes a day practice enjoying air. Five minutes a day the next week practice enjoying walking. Five minute a day practice enjoying clothing. Little by little, you’ll gather up wealth in your bank account, and little by little you’ll become a happy man of many riches, many treasures.
But you have to do it. Just hearing me say it is not enough. It takes work even to be a fake millionaire, so to be the true millionaire of “hasamei’ach b’chelko” surely takes time and hard work. You have to make up your mind that you’re going to pursue this career of happiness and that you’ll always be saying, “I thank You, Hashem.” Always, “I thank You, Hashem, for giving me this breakfast. I thank you, Hashem, for being able to go to the bathroom.” And don’t rely on the brachos you make. You must say it with your mouth in your own language. Always. And then, הַמַּחֲשָׁבָה נִמְשֶׁכֶת אַחַר הַדִּבּוּר — your mind will be transformed because of your speech, and you will become a happy man. At first it won’t work. You won’t feel so happy. But you keep thinking and talking, and these ideas will settle into your mind.
Rav Miller’s Guarantee for Happiness
That’s what the Mesillas Yesharim says: הַחִיצוֹנִיּוּת מְעוֹרֶרֶת אֶת הַפְּנִימִיּוּת — The outwardness bestirs the inwardness. Even if it’s not sincere at first — you’re not really so happy about breathing. But keep it up, and little by little from the depths of your neshamah real happiness will eventually come out. Little by little, you’ll add more things. And after a while, all the things start adding up and you become a real millionaire. After a while you’ll have forty, fifty things. And that’s still nothing yet, because there’s so much more than that. But with forty things you’ll be happy, and you’ll be a rich man already. And if you’re a young man yet — even a young man of sixty — and you keep on this path, this career, until you’re in your nineties, you’ll be a very wealthy person.
I guarantee that if you do it, you will become happy. And you will become a servant of Hashem and a great man. Not only will you become a happy person, but you will also become a great person.
Hashem Taught Us the Path to Happiness
Now, there is a lot more to be studied on this subject — I have many more things listed here that I wanted to talk to you about, but I’m already way past time. But at least we began studying the subject. It’s a science that must be studied and practiced, but at least we know that there is such a thing as happiness the way Hakodosh Boruch Hu expects it, and it’s available to all of us.
And don’t ask me: “Why don’t I hear this from my rebbe, from this person or that tzaddik?” Don’t believe it; the real tzaddikim know that this is the pathto true happiness in life. Because it’s the path — the way of happiness — that Hashem set down for us on the day we left Mitzrayim. הַיּוֹם אַתֶּם יֹצְאִים בְּחֹדֶשׁ הָאָבִיב — that it is the beauty of a spring day and the thousands of other ordinary details of our lives that are supposed to be the real source of our happiness.
Have A Wonderful Shabbos
The Step by Step Guide to Happiness
Hashem made sure to emphasize that Yetzias Mitzrayim took place in nice weather because it’s not the big things that make us happy but the seemingly insignificant details is where happiness lies. When we focus on the happiness caused by many small details we go through life happily.
This week, I will bli neder thank Hashem in detail for one of the many benefits He gives me. I will reflect on how unhappy I would be if some of the blessings I take for granted were taken from me. And I will express it out loud. Little by little I will begin appreciating the joys of life and I will rejoice with Hashem.