> Weekly Torah Portion > Beginner > A Life Lesson

Happiness Secret Finally Revealed

V'Zot HaBracha (Deuteronomy 33-34 )

by Adam Lieberman

In this week's Torah portion - the very last one in the Torah - the Torah says that not only was Moses 120 years old when he died, but also:

"...his vigor has not been diminished." (Deuteronomy 34:7)


Moses certainly lived a very long life. But in mentioning how Moses felt when he died - that his vigor had not been diminished - the Torah teaches us something just as important as the number of years a person lives. And that is how he lived these years. The happiness and contentment someone has during these years are just as important as the length of them. A person's age when he dies - while quantitative - isn't the sole measure of how a person lived. Rather, it's his years he lived plus his vigor and passion he had while living those years.

People will disagree on many things. But there's one thing that universally everyone agrees on: we all want happiness. While we might have different vehicles we use to get happiness, nonetheless we all want the exact same thing. And right here, in the last Torah portion, God is telling us that the secret to true happiness is looking how Moses lived his life so we can have the same passion and vigor in ours.

To understand how Moses had vigor, passion, and happiness, let's first look at a segment of the population that generally don't have it: celebrities. Many people look at Hollywood stars with complete awe and child-like excitement. These famous people have the endless attention and admiration of millions of devoted fans. The obsession is so great that Internet sites are flooded when an Academy Award winner's discarded gum is about to be auctioned off.

But some of these very same celebrities commit suicide (either directly or slowly through non-stop destructive behavior) or simply go on to have unhappy, unfulfilling, and empty lives.

Why does it seem that fame and fortune has the potential to make people so miserable, especially when most of them have spent most of their lives day-dreaming, praying for, and working towards the very "success" they now have?

The answer is found in basic self-esteem math which states that a person can only feel good about himself when he gives selflessly to others. When someone gives to others, he's automatically happy and feel energized about life. But if one takes from others, and essentially did nothing to earn what one is taking, then he will inherently feel like a fraud. It's that simple.

Some celebrities are miserable is because they're takers. They're constantly being told how good-looking and talented they are. But these traits were given to them by God and they did nothing to earn them.

Imagine for a moment that in your hometown it was just announced that this coming Sunday, Main Street will be closed for a huge parade complete with massive floats and a marching band. And the reason for this unbelievable gala event is because of only one reason: The town wants to honor you! The police barricading the streets, the politicians in attendance, the news media carrying it live ... the entire event is taking place for all of the great and amazing things you've done for your state and country. This Sunday is going to be your day! There's one small detail, however, that's known only by you. And that is, they actually have you confused with someone else. The accolades being showered onto you are for things you never did. How would you feel as you waved to all of your admirers from atop the lead float? Probably like a complete and total fraud. Outwardly, you'll play the part; but inwardly you'd feel like a fool.

Celebrities cannot walk down a street without being mobbed by countless fans who will do most anything to get within a few feet of their heroes. But what specifically did they do to earn this inexplicable admiration?

The Torah teaches us that "The reward is in proportion to the exertion" (Ethics of the Fathers, 5.26). If someone exerts little effort for something but then revels in the lavish praise he receives from it, it can lead to low self-esteem and a sense of emptiness.

The surest and most direct path to happiness, fulfillment, vigor, and passion is to give selflessly for others and not take credit for anything you haven't earned yourself. This epitomizes exactly how Moses lives his life. While there are certainly many activities a person could engage in that will bring them pleasure, many of these experiences are as fleeting as a good night's rest. But giving selflessly permanently elevates your soul and therefore will provide you with an eternal "happy feeling" that you cannot lose.

This is the surefire way always to feel great and never to have your vigor be diminished. Whether you're a celebrity, businessman, or homemaker, take the unique gifts that God gave you and use them to give selflessly to others. It will make you feel like a real movie star.

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