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In order to find happiness and fulfill our inner selves, we ought to ask what we ought to be and do. Am I actualizing my God-given skills and talents? Am I fulfilling my responsibilities? Am I being true to my Divine being and values? Am I performing Mitzvahs, today more than yesterday, yet much less than tomorrow?

Rabbi Allouche

“If he’s happy, I’m happy!”

A friend shared these words with me recently, as he was describing his cousin’s relationship with a lady that he was dating. He didn’t think she was a good fit for him, but he dismissed his feelings with this lame excuse.

It wasn’t the first time I had heard this sentence. Many of us utter it, or different versions of it, to excuse all sorts of behaviors. And we convince ourselves that as long as we are “happy,” almost any behavior is legitimized – from dating the wrong person to engaging in self-destructive habits.

But what do we really mean by “happy”? Can we be truly happy when we engage in conducts that are opposed to our values, and purpose?

The answer is a resounding “no.” A behavior that stifles our self-growth and engaging in actions that squash our infinite potential, may bring us temporary pleasure, but it will not engender long-term happiness. For genuine happiness can only come about when we dedicate ourselves to the vocation of our inner self and its values, and to the Divine calling of who we are asked to be.

The famed psychoanalyst Viktor Frankl, whose book, “Man’s Search to Meaning,” has become the second best-selling book of all times (after the Bible), shares a similar perspective on the secret to happiness:

“Happiness, cannot be pursued,” he wrote. “Happiness must happen, and you have to let it happen by not caring about it. Instead, one should dedicate himself to actualizing his highest self; only then, will true happiness ensue.”

Perhaps, this is the reason this week’s portion tells us that only after we have settled our land and worked hard to fulfill our purpose of bettering our part of this world, then, and only then, will we “rejoice in all the good things G-d has given you and your household (Deuteronomy 26:11).”

As a young teen struggling to find my purpose in the vastness of our world, I recall seeking the advice of my dear mentor, world-scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. His poignant words have stayed with me until this very day:

“You ask a good question,” he told me. “But instead of asking what you want to be, ask what you ought to be and do. And if you ask what you ought to be and do at all times, your life will be happy, purposeful and satisfying to your inner ‘I.’”

He was right. In order to find happiness and fulfill our inner selves, we ought to ask what we ought to be and do. Am I actualizing my God-given skills and talents? Am I fulfilling my responsibilities? Am I being true to my Divine being and values? Am I performing Mitzvahs, today more than yesterday, yet much less than tomorrow?

If we can answer an affirmative “yes” to these questions, it will then be easy to find happiness, and we will then each be blessed with a good, sweet, and happy year!