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Happiness: The Three S’s of Sukkot

October 10, 2016 | by Rabbi Eli Held

Three tools for attaining more happiness.

Judaism places a big emphasis on happiness. In fact, the holiday of Sukkot is centered around the concept of happiness. No wonder it is called “the time of our joy,” a time where we are supposed to be filled with happiness and thanksgiving.

Here are the three S’s of Sukkot for lasting happiness.

1. Stop Chasing It

On Sukkot we leave our comfortable, expansive homes and move into the flimsy confines of the sukkah. The temperature can soar into triple digits or plummet below zero depending on which part of the globe you live in. The wind could blow down your sukkah in a moment. How can living in such exposed and uncomfortable conditions be such an integral part of this holiday of happiness?

Many people make the mistake of thinking that the more you have and the more comfortable you are the happier you will be. We think that if we spend our lives pursuing happiness we will find it. Judaism teaches that happiness has nothing to do with how much you own or how comfortable your life is. In fact, if you chase it, you will never find it.

What is happiness and how do we get it?

The Jewish word for happiness is simcha which is directly connected with the word tzmicha, or growth. Happiness is the pleasurable experience that results from engaging in meaningful work and in progression towards meaningful goals.

Where there is meaningful growth, progress, expansion, there can be happiness.

On Sukkot, we leave the world of comforts and immerse ourselves instead in a world of growth. We spend these seven days with God, singing His praises and basking in His presence. We have festive meals with our families and friends, learning, laughing and gaining so much from each other. We shift our focus from being comfortable to being growth-oriented and we become uplifted in a world of happiness.

2. Stop and Appreciate

We are so busy. We run from one thing to the next, feeling like we could be accomplishing so much more.

Happiness is not just dependent on growth. Equally important is making the conscious choice to valuing that growth and focusing on the progress made.

We have a hard time living in the present moment. So often we focus on what we are not doing or what we could be doing instead, negating that which we are doing. We rob ourselves of the happiness right before us in that present moment.

A startling saying comes to mind,

"First I was dying to finish high school and start college.

And then I was dying to finish college and start working.

And then I was dying for my children to grow old enough for school, so I could return to work.

And then I was dying to retire.

And now I am dying...and suddenly I realize I forgot to live."

Don’t let your goals, dreams and ambitions crush the beauty and relevance of the lives you are living now.

On Sukkot, we stop and reflect on the growth of the past year and the exciting opportunities for the New Year. We have been blessed with so much, we have grown so much, and we need to make time to stop and appreciate that. Sukkot is that time.

3. Show Gratitude

One of the greatest obstacles toward achieving happiness is our feelings of entitlement. Our feeling of deserving what comes to us undermines our sense of gratitude. Instead we need to foster the humility to recognize that everything in our lives is a blessing from the Almighty. We need to show sincere gratitude for all the blessings in our lives.

On Sukkot we sing the special, full edition prayer of Hallel, giving thanks to God for all that He has bestowed upon us. We set aside these days for gratitude and thanksgiving to Him and to all that have enriched to our lives.

Sukkot is the time to learn the skill of happiness. It’s not going to happen by itself. Instead of being bothered by the weather, the bugs or whatever else is uncomfortable, be growth-oriented, stop and appreciate, and show gratitude. You will begin tasting the sweetness of a happy life.


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