Rav Efrem Goldberg writes poignantly about the centrality of being content and pleased with living a Torah life. The following is an excerpt of his thoughts about this matter:
Disney World’s slogan is “The Happiest Place on Earth.” Perhaps the greatest part about the Magic of Disney is not the souvenirs, the rides, the characters, or even the memories. To me, the most magical part of Disney is simply how nice everyone is to one another and how happy everyone seems.
It is hard to think of another place where such a large quantity of people all seem so courteous, kind, pleasant, and polite. Generally speaking, one doesn’t find pushing or shoving, short tempers, a culture of criticism, or impolite and impatient people at Disney, despite having to wait on lines, pay large fees, endure the hot sun, and spend hours on one’s feet.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if our Shuls and Jewish communities could be more like Disney? Wouldn’t it simply be incredible if Orthodox synagogues and communities were known as the happiest places on Earth, and that guests to our buildings couldn’t wait to come back and to visit as often as they could?
How does Disney do it and what could we learn for creating a culture of happiness? A few years ago, I had the privilege of participating in a behind-the-scenes tour of Disney arranged by Yeshiva University. The design and layouts of the parks, the placement of vendors, and the timing of the shows are all meticulously and brilliantly strategized and arranged. But what struck me most was the employee culture and how the attitude of the Disney’s tens of thousands of workers impacts each and every one of their guests.
In every employee only area, there are signs listing the Disney credo. It includes: “I project a positive image and energy. I am courteous and respectful to all guests including children. I go above and beyond.” Disney understands a fundamental psychological principle supported by extensive research – happiness is contagious. Just as if one person yawns others will follow suit, so too, if a person smiles, others around him will start smiling as well. A happy disposition, a positive spirit, and a pleasant countenance are simply contagious.
Whose responsibility is it to spread the smiles? Whose job is it to maintain the happiness effect? There are roughly 60,000 employees at Disney World in Orlando. All members of the staff, from custodial and maintenance, to the ride operators and people who wear the Mickey costumes, are referred to as “cast members.” How many of the 60,000 cast members do you think are responsible for picking up the garbage? The answer is all 60,000. How many are responsible for helping someone find directions or return a lost child to their parents? 60,000. How many are required to smile and spread the happiness? That’s right, all 60,000. At Disney, the cast members know that they each have different tasks, but they are taught that they all have the same purpose: spreading happiness.
If we want [our synagogues and schools] to be places that attract and inspire non-observant and disaffected Jews, we ALL need to be leaders in making happiness contagious in our environs.
Let’s taste the sweetness of life, make an effort to always have a smile, and be active members of the Jewish people’s cast, thereby converting our Shuls and communities to the happiest places on Earth.
Adopting a happy attitude and countenance does not serve only to attract non-observant Jews, but it also helps ensure that our children and students wholeheartedly and completely embrace Torah belief, values and observance.
The Gemara (Ta’anit 22a) communicates this idea in a very poignant manner:
Rabi Beroka and Eliyahu HaNavi were walking in a marketplace. Rabi Beroka asked Eliyahu HaNavi who amongst the crowd of people are destined to have a share in Olam HaBa. Eliyahu HaNavi responded that they were few and far between. One of the few people who qualified for Olam HaBa, said Eliyahu HaNavi, were two “Badchanim.” Rabi Beroka introduced himself to the Badchanim and asked about their occupation. They told him, “We go to cheer up those who are depressed. Additionally, whenever we see two people involved in a quarrel, we strive hard to make peace between them.”
Rashi explains that the word “Badchanim” refers to happy people who make others happy. This is the recipe for success not only in outreach but in “in-reach” as well. “Bachanim” ensure that those within the Orthodox community retain their commitment and impart their values to the next generation. The reward is great for those who are happy with Torah life and make others happy and content with living as Jews.
Just as Hashem will reward us for inspiring other Jews, He will hold us accountable for not enjoying our observance of Torah. The Torah (Devarim 28:47) explains that the reason for the calamities which will befall the Jewish People is “Tachat Asher Lo Avadta Et Hashem Elokecha BeSimchah,” our failure to serve Hashem with joy. Contentment and delight in Torah life are not luxuries; they are absolute necessities. If modeling joyful engagement in Torah life was necessary in earlier generations, how much more so is it necessary in our times, when there is an urgent need to demonstrate that the joys of Torah observance are far greater than the fleeting pleasures and immediate but ultimately destructive gratification ubiquitously peddled in western culture?
The core motivation for those who were raised in observant homes to reject Torah values is their unwillingness to abide by the Torah’s limitations and boundaries. The effective way to avoid this is for parents and educators to express how “it is geshmack to be a Yid.” The Torah’s restrictions facilitate a relationship with Hashem, empower the individual, steer people away from toxic behavior and instill a healthy sense of balance and perspective on one’s role in this world. We hope that the insights presented in this series of articles will help make our families and communities even more vibrant and successful.
 The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 65a) describes a potentate named Bar Sheishach who spent his holiday indulging in an extreme form of sensual pleasure. When the Sage Rava brought him a gift on that day, Bar Sheishach tauntingly asked him if there was a pleasure as great as this in store for Jews in the World to Come. Rav unflinchingly responded that “ours is greater than yours.” Our children and students encounter on a daily basis the type of challenge encountered by Rava once in his life. They must be fortified with the familial and educational upbringing to internalize that the pleasures of the Torah lifestyle are greater than the hedonism offered by the ambient culture. Additionally, parents, teachers and other role models must be resolute in their devotion to Torah values, as was Rava.
 It is also crucial not only for parents to love their children but for educators and congregational rabbis to do so as well. Rambam (Hilchot Talmud Torah 5:12) writes that a Torah educator must respect and love his students. Youngsters who are respected and loved by parents, rabbis and teachers who are all thrilled to live Torah lives are more than likely to decide to observe Torah as adults. May we merit the day when all Jewish children are raised in such a manner.