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Finding joy in your true purpose – The Australian Jewish News

Researchers have recently studied the advantages of added happiness in our lives.

Usually, we view happiness as a worthy goal in and of itself. The research however shows numerous side benefits to our daily lives. Happy people tend to be more productive in their jobs, have more flexibility and ingenuity in their thinking, they’re physically healthier, live longer, earn more, and are more likely to stay married. What is it about the trait of joy that produces so many positive benefits?

This weekend we celebrate the last days of Pesach. The central theme of the days is commemorating the splitting of the sea. On the seventh day after leaving Egypt the Israelites found themselves trapped between the Egyptians on one side and the raging sea on the other.

The vague command “Speak to them and they shall travel” (Shemot 11:15) meant that nobody was clear on what to do about the situation they were in. One man, Nachshon Ben Aminadav, stood up and bravely jumped first into the sea, which “broke the ice” allowing the rest of the nation to follow. The Sages teach us that in the merit of Nachshon’s self-sacrifice the sea then split for all.

Nachshon did not know that the sea was going to split, the Midrash relates that at the time, he was mere seconds from drowning before the miracle occurred.

However, he knew that God took them out of Egypt with a plan and believed it was not to drown in that sea. He wasn’t planning to be brave and show off his sacrifices for the nation. To him the most logical thing was to walk through the sea, he only saw the end result.

Nachshon was the epitome of humility; he was so focused on the mission, his only thoughts were “what can I do next?”

The trait of humility has a deep relationship with joy. In Chassidic thought we see a great parable for this symbiotic relationship. Usually, we don’t focus on each part of our body, if our thoughts are suddenly focused on one limb it is usually not for a good reason.

When we sense our own existence in a spiritual sense, it is also an illness. Long serving Melbourne Chabad personality Reb Arel Serebryanski OBM used to call it the “I” infection, the definition of arrogance. A spiritual person does not sense themselves. The humble do not view themselves as topics for discussion and analysis.

The parts of our body are great and wonderful, however, we don’t analyse them, we simply use them. Similarly, the humble fail to understand the need for self-analysis their focus is just on the mission.

The humble person is living life for what it was meant to be. Humans are not “needy” people but people searching for meaning. When a person aligns themselves with the meaning of life, they will be truly happy.

Many recent studies have shown how participants received a boost of happiness from events spent focusing on others and/or doing acts of self-sacrifice. Such as one notable study, succinctly titled “Money can buy you happiness, when it is spent on others.”

Too often we get discouraged from the setbacks in life, maybe we dream of a new house, a new life, a new job, or different friends. Perhaps though, we are just letting our “I” infection get the most of us. We might be overweighing the importance of whatever we are focusing on right now. We live in a period where the “self” dominates. But it might be time to move towards a more purposeful existence.

Nachshon teaches us that people are at their best when their focus is on what they are needed for as opposed to what they need. Thinking only about ourselves is counterproductive because happiness comes directly through fulfilling our purpose.

Cairns-based Rabbi Ari and Mushkie Rubin head Chabad of the Great Barrier Reef – North Queensland.


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