The opposite of love is not hatred; it is indifference. The opposite of happiness is not sadness; it is self-preoccupation.

Rabbi Allouche

Here’s a fun exercise: Next time you see a friend, ask him the following two simple questions. Question one: What is the opposite of love? Question two: What is the opposite of happiness?

Many people will tell you that the opposite of love is hatred, and the opposite of happiness is sadness. But I beg to disagree. Love is a strong emotion of attachment, but so is hatred. When a person hates, his feelings of hatred attach him to the person he hates. This is why Elie Wiesel once wrote that “the opposite of love is not hatred; it’s indifference.” When I stop caring, when my heart ceases to seek any connection, good or bad, love then ceases to exist too.

The same is true with happiness. The opposite of happiness is not sadness; it is “self-preoccupation.” Because the more self-proccupied we are, the less happy we’ll be. How so?

Just take a look at a young child running around and enjoying life (-I am blessed to have a few of those at home :)). Now try this: sit that child on your lap and ask him or her: “So tell me, dear child, do you feel good about your identity? Do you feel valued? Are you happy?” The child will most likely gaze at you strangely, and think to himself, “What do you want from me? Stop bothering me. Who’s thinking about me? I’m busy living!”

Sadly, as we grow, things change. Life’s challenges and disappointments crush our joie-de-vivre, and our childish contentment gradually disappears. Before we know it, we find ourselves reading books about happiness and going to seminars to learn about “positive thinking” and “joyful living.”

So why do adults have such a hard time finding happiness while children find it so easily and so naturally? No, it’s not just because adults also have bills to pay and mouths to feed. The principal reason is that children are not self-absorbed. They are not yet aware of themselves, and the way others may (or may not) look at them, so they are free to enjoy life, and just be happy.

Sadly, as we grow, we become more and more self-preoccupied. It’s not our fault; after all, we must take good care of ourselves, of our education, of our profession, and of our lives. But some of us get stuck with the “I.” All some people think of, is me, me and me — my problems, my wishes, my dreams. But this self-focus quickly turns into self-preoccupation which turns into self-absorbedness, which turns into moans and cries on how miserable life is.

Self-proccupation is therefore the opposite of happiness. For the more we forget about what we need, and instead focus on what we are needed for; the more we step outside of our me-zone, and instead reach out to the you-zone of our surroundings; the more we become purpose-oriented instead of me-oriented — the more happy our lives will be.

“When Adar comes in, happiness is increased,” the Talmud famously states. Interestingly, this month is also a month in which we focus on giving. This Shabbat, for example, is coined “Shabbat Shekalim,” in which we remind each and all of the duty to give charity. In two weeks, we will celebrate the festival of Purim that focuses on acts of giving, such as giving food baskets to friends, donating tzedakah to the poor, and sharing a meal with family and guests. For Judaism has forever understood, that in order to be happy, we must come out of our shells, and do good for the other, and give, give and give!