It’s been said that we need to practice happiness in order to be happy. I never agreed with this. How can we practice an emotion without an authentic feeling? Our Torah teaches in the three part priestly blessing, “God should shine God’s countenance upon you.” I have heard this blessing recited thousands of times, at the Shabbat table and at baby naming, B’nai Mitzvah and weddings. Yet, it was this week that I understood this teaching in a deeper way.
Rabbi Zelig Pliskin explains that if we are created in God’s image, then there is no excuse to greet our fellow human beings without a smile. The story is told of a Rabbi during the Holocaust who worked two years in order to keep a smile on his face. Even within ghetto walls, his external emotion was a smile. While some may argue this reaction is fake and emotionless, our tradition allows us to choose a way of hope and optimism.
As children learn when they come crying to a parent, “Turn that frown upside down!”
After reading this blessing once again this week, I have changed my mind. Practicing happiness is exactly what we need. It does not mean that sadness and pain are not present. Rather, it emphasizes the fact that under these challenges, an opportunity awaits.
It is easy to find a complaint and a kvetch. It is much harder to express a compliment and a blessing.
May we be gifted the opportunity this Shabbat to be happy, to find a reason to smile and to bring God’s light into our lives.