In Judaism giving is not just a hobby or part of society's trend of "giving back". Rather, it is a part of what makes us live, like energy, vitality, and oxygen, and it is what makes us happy. Therefore, denying the pauper the obligation to give, is like denying him the ability to live to and to be happy. This is also visibly true: constant givers - like teachers, hospital nurses, and clergy men and women - are almost always happy and 'full of life.' On the other hand, takers are often dissatisfied, frustrated, and upset.Rabbi Allouche
Do you consider yourself a happy person?
Whether you answered yes or no, I would beg you to first define the word happiness.
Most people think of happiness as “the experience of frequent positive emotion, such as joy, interest, and pride, and infrequent negative emotions, such as sadness, anxiety, and anger,” as Psychology Today once put it.
In Judaism, however, there are two types of happiness – one that comes and goes, and the other, comes and stays. They are defined by the two Hebrew words for happiness: “Osher” and “Simcha”.
Osher is happiness that we feel. If someone shares with us good news, for example, then we feel happy. Simcha, on the other hand, is happiness that we do. If we do good, such as visiting the sick, helping the needy, or making that phone call to share a good word with someone else, we become happy.
Osher and Simcha are also engendered differently. Osher – the happiness that we feel – relates to a passive state of being as it completely depends on outside circumstances. Therefore this type of happiness is fleeting. Conversely, Simcha – the happiness that we do – relates to an active state of being as it depends on our ability to get out of bed, roll up our sleeves, and do good. And this happiness thus remains forever, in us, and in the people we have positively affected.
Interestingly, Simcha, the happiness that we do, is also what turns us into G-d’s children.
“When you lend money to my nation…” In this verse, mentioned in this week’s portion, we encounter the commandment to lend and give money to the poor. But the Chassidic masters put a beautiful spin to it: The Hebrew words of this verse, “When you lend money to My nation,” can also be read as, “When you lend money, you are My nation.”
In other words, if we desire to G-d’s nation, we must concern ourselves with the lives of others. Sincere empathy toward our surroundings, unwavering conviction to reach out to those in need, and resolution and creativity to find a way to assist, is what makes us happy people in “G-d’s nation.”
I recall learning, many years ago, a bizarre law in the Code of Jewish Law: “Everyone is commanded to give charity. Even beggars must donate from the charity they receive.” But why? If the beggar donates some of the money he receives, he may not have anything left to eat!
Yet it is here that the Torah re-defines the virtue of giving. In Judaism giving is not just a hobby or part of society’s trend of “giving back”. Rather, it is a part of what makes us live, like energy, vitality, and oxygen, and it is what makes us happy. Therefore, denying the pauper the obligation to give, is like denying him the ability to live to and to be happy.
This is also visibly true: constant givers – like teachers, hospital nurses, and clergy men and women – are almost always happy and ‘full of life.’ On the other hand, takers are often dissatisfied, frustrated, and upset.
So next time you feel deflated, or you sense that your life has suffered a setback, give of yourself, and do good.
Without a doubt, you will then be able to respond with a full and honest heart: “I sure am a very happy person!”