Don’t Worry, Be Happy by David Gertler


ויהיו חייך תלאים לך ופחדת לילה ויומם ולא תאמין בחייך 

“Your life will hang opposite you, and you will be frightened night and day, and you will not be certain of your life” (28:66).

Rashi comments that this is referring to people who worry throughout life.  There is a Gemara in Menachot (103b) that divides this Pasuk into three sections: the first deals with one who worries and plans for one year at a time.  The second deals with one who worries and plans from one Friday to the next.  The third deals with one who worries constantly of death and only plans one day at a time.

Rabbi Abraham Twerski explains in his book Dearer than Life that to be in constant fear is extremely bad for one’s self esteem.  It is obligatory to be happy and to do the Mitzvot with happiness.  It says in our Parsha (26:11) “And you shall be happy with all the good which Hashem your God has given you.” And later in the Parsha it tells us (28:47) that one of the reasons for the exile will be because we did not do the Mitzvot in happiness.

The Chafetz Chaim on Parshat Haazinu says that many people look at their ייסורים (troubles) as pains because they suffer in this world for them, but when they go to Olam Habah they will see reward for all of their troubles and will wish they had many more ייסורים in this world.  The Gemara in Berachot (5a) makes a distinction between different types of troubles.  Saying that if one has troubles on a certain part of his body he should do introspection and see which sins he had done with that part of the body.  The Gemara classifies these troubles as “troubles out of love”, because they increase one’s reward in the world to come.  (The Gemara does go on to explain the few types of troubles which can be interpreted as not being out of Hashem’s love.)

It is important to accept all the bad things in one’s life knowing that everything is part of Hashem’s plan.  The Chafetz Chaim says that one should be happy with what he has.  The Gemara in Berachot (54a) says that one is obligated to be thankful for the bad that Hashem gives him.  Rabbi Twerski says that a Talmid asked the Maggid of Mezeritch how one can fulfill the edict of this Gemara.  The Magid told the Talmid to ask a Rebbe, Reb Zushia.

Reb Zushia was a Talmudic scholar who concealed his knowledge of Torah and gave the impression of being unlearned.  Hence, when the Talmid posed this question to him, he responded, “Why do you ask me?  I am not well versed in Torah.”  When the Talmid stated that the Maggid had referred him to Reb Zushia, Reb Zushia shrugged his shoulders and said, “How can I answer that question?  I have never experienced anything bad.”  The Talmid looked at Reb Zushia, who was wearing tattered clothes and was stricken with a painful disease, and he realized that his question had been answered.

A second story about Reb Zushia furthers this point:

Someone asked Reb Zushia, “How can you say the Beracha thanking Hashem for all of your needs when you are so impoverished that many of your needs are unmet?  Don’t you think you are dissimulating when you say this Beracha?”  Reb Zushia responded, “Not at all.  God has a much better understanding of my needs than I do, and He understands that poverty is one of my needs.”

Bereishit Rabbah says that Tzaddikim are able to control their emotions.  It is very important for one to be able to think through his emotions, especially when life gets tough.  Rabbi Twerski uses a comic by Charles Schulz in his book When Do The Good Things Start to explain this principle.  In the comic, Charlie Brown says “It’s very strange, sometimes you lie in bed and you don’t have a single thing to worry about; that always worries me.”  Some people think that worrying has to be a part of life, so much so that if they are ever at rest with their problems, they are worried that they must have overlooked something. 

To be happy is not something to be scared of.  To be at rest with one’s problems, no matter how big they may be, is something to be achieved and not something to be avoided.  Peace of mind about life is the best thing one can do for oneself.  The only fears that we should have are יראת שמים ויראת חטא, fear of Heaven and fear of sin (Berachot 60a).  If it is unhealthy to worry about one’s future, then it is certainly wrong to worry about the past; what was, was (Moed Katan 25a).  Rabbi Jordan Yasgur presented an interpretation of Tehillim 32:6 of how one should react to troubles.  The Pasuk says על זאת יתפלל כל חסיד אליך לעת מצא רק לשטף מים אליו לא יגיעו: a righteous man should pray that the floods of great waters should not come near him.  The explanation of the Pasuk is that one should pray that the flood waters shouldn’t come near him on a psychological level.  Obviously everyone has their troubles, but we should all be careful to take them in stride and not let them “get to us.”

The best plan for life is to take everything that one is given and understand that it has been given to him for a reason.  To worry about past deeds is useless unless one can fix them.  To worry about what will be is useless because one has no control over the future.  Whatever will be, will be, and when life seems to be dragging you down simply remind yourself: “This, too, is for the best.” 

The Serenity Prayer used in the twelve step program states: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

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