Choose to Be Happy
Yael Eckstein | October 13, 2022
Be joyful at your festival—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns. —Deuteronomy 16:14
Throughout this week, my family and I will join Jews around the world in celebrating Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. Please enjoy these devotions, which were prepared for you in advance, about this joyous holiday that immediately follows the High Holy Days.
Did you know that smiling is good for you? I recently read that studies show that when we smile — even if it’s a forced, fake smile — certain chemicals are released that actually make us feel happier, more confident, and less stressed.
When I first read this, it didn’t make any sense to me. I mean, isn’t smiling the result of being happy? Does it really make any sense that just by smiling I can become a happier person?
We tend to think that we aren’t responsible for our emotions. If we’re happy, sad, worried, or relaxed, the common belief is that how we feel is a reaction to our situation. But what if the opposite is true? What if we can actually choose how to feel?
The rabbis in the Mishnah, over 2,000 years ago, taught “Who is a rich man? One who is happy with his lot.” The rabbis were not merely teaching us that if someone happens to be satisfied with his lot, the result is that he’ll be happy. Maybe they were teaching us that we must adjust our attitude, that we can make ourselves happy by changing our perspective.
Choose to Be Happy
There is one place in the Torah where we are commanded to be happy. We read, “Be joyful at your festival—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns.”
This verse is referring to Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. And there it is, crystal clear. A commandment to “be joyful.” It’s interesting that of all the biblical festivals, only Sukkot includes this instruction. Why? What is special about Sukkot that makes it the only time in the Bible that God told us to “be joyful?”
I think the answer lies in what Sukkot celebrates. God protected the children of Israel and fed them every day of their forty-year journey in the desert. They were exposed to the desert heat in the day and cold by night, but God protected them with His clouds of glory.
And this is the lesson of Sukkot. When we adjust our attitude and remember that God provides exactly what we need on our journey, we can rest easy, smile, and choose to be happy.
Do you worry about your finances? Your health? The future? Choose to be happy in the knowledge that God is in control and He gives you exactly what you need.