Monday, August 19, 2013

Who's Really Rich?

Would you rather be happy or rich? Most people will respond, "Happy!" However, do we work more to be happy or rich? Most people work at being rich far more than they work at being happy. Perhaps deep down we think -- even though we know better -- that happiness comes through being rich. There are enough unhappy rich people to disprove the notion. There is more to happiness than wealth!
And how do many people pursue happiness? They strive for physical acquisitions and indulgences -- and then wonder why a nicer car, a nicer house doesn't make them happy.
The Secret to being happy. It is simple. It just isn't always easy. All one has to do is to focus on what he has. The secret for misery is focusing on what one lacks or thinks he lacks.
However, a person can know how to be happy and do nothing to increase his or her happiness. It takes effort and that can be uncomfortable. So, we often avoid the effort it takes to be happy.
There is at least one exception to focusing on what you have in order to be happy. If you pursue something meaningful and important, as a bi-product you will likely have happiness. Perhaps by doing something altruistic and accomplishing, the pleasure comes more easily. It doesn't take the effort required to focus on what we take for granted.
Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory, the founder of Aish HaTorah, loved using the following scenario to drive home the secret to happiness:
Imagine standing on the 70th floor of the Empire State building. Suddenly, a man opens a window and says, "I'm going to jump!" You call out, "Stop! Don't do it!" And he replies, "If you try to stop me, I'll take you with me!"
The guy is 6'5" and weighs 260 pounds, so you say, "OK... but any last messages? Perhaps there's someone I should notify?" He says, "You seem like an intelligent, friendly person. I'll give you 15 minutes to try to dissuade me, but first let me tell you my troubles so you'll understand why I want to jump."
For hours you listen to him tell you about the most horrific misfortunes and tragedies. You've never heard stories like this. By the end, you're crying your eyes out. Finally, he turns to you and says, "I'm miserable. Why should I go on living?"
What can you possibly say? Suddenly, you get a flash of inspiration! "Sir, if on top of all your troubles you also happened to be blind, would you be more or less miserable? He replies, "Certainly, more miserable!" You then continue, "So you would then definitely jump?" "Of course!" he replies.
Now, imagine that you're leaning out the window about to jump and suddenly there's a miracle. You can see! You see people, the sun, clouds, birds flying in the sky! Would you jump ... or would you wait a week to look around?"
The man answers, "I suppose I'd stick around for a week." "What about all of your troubles and miseries?" you ask. "So, what? Now I can see!"
If a person really appreciates that he can see then all of his miseries are nothing. On the other hand, if you take everything you have for granted, nothing you'll ever receive in life will bring you lasting happiness. The secret of happiness is to really appreciate what you have.
Appreciating the pleasures we have is a simple and effective means to happiness. Every evening when you sit down with your family or a friend, discuss five pleasures each of you experienced that day. Incorporate this into your daily ritual -- especially if you have children. Eventually, those around you will be focused throughout the day on what pleasures they had so that they can share them with you.
(This post is copied from Rabbi Kalman Packouz's Shabbat Shalom Weekly Newsletter)


  1. Beh. It all sounds nice and wonderful, lets sing koombaya and all that sort of stuff. At the end of the day, money is all that counts. Its what makes the world spin, its what brings happiness and metaphorically grants life. Unhappy rich people are unhappy because they dont use their money right.

  2. Anonymous - I don't think Shlomo Hamelech sang kumbaya. He said it very clearly: when you have 100, you want 200. In other words, the one who has a lot just wants more.
    I grew up surrounded by many "wealthy" people and families, and trust me, money didn't solve anyone's problems. They weren't what I'd classify as "happy" people.
    I've seen very few rich people using their money wisely. And in fact, as one guy (was in Shakespeare? :D) put it, mo' money, mo' problems.

    Of course, there are rich people who are tremendous baalei chessed and very happy, but like I said, with my experience, that hasn't been the case with most whom I've met.

    The only key to being happy is being happy with what you have and knowing that it's all from HaShem.
    DH and I are personal examples of this, as we have experienced both ends, and at the end of the day, no amount of money will help a sick person who doctors can't help, a couple who has shalom bayit problems, etc.

  3. Midrash Rabah, Kohelet, chapter 1, paragraph 34:

    Rabbi Yudan taught in the name of Rabbi Aybu:

    "No person leaves this world with even half his desires fulfilled."