Rabbi Berzansky - Ki Savo
Happiness is Dependent on Our Attitude, Not Our Situation
"וְשָמַחְתָ בְכָל הַטֹוב" (כו, יא)
"And you shall rejoice with all the goodness that Hashem… has given you."
The bikkurim ceremony during the times of the Beis Hamik-
dash was something quite extraordinary. The Mishnah
describes how the farmers brought their bikkurim in deco-
rative baskets, overflowing with luscious fruits.298 Farmers from all
over Eretz Yisroel filled the streets. Everybody was eager to bring
up their first fruits as an expression of gratitude to Hashem for His
bountiful kindness. There were flutes and bands playing music, and
horns of oxen were ornamented with golden embroidery to make
it such a joyous and auspicious occasion. They were days of sheer
happiness and delight.
Why then, asks R. Mordechai Gifter, does the Torah have to com-
mand the people who brought their bikkurim to be happy and rejoice?
Why wasn’t rejoicing a natural outcome of the situation itself?299
R. Gifter understands from here that even the most perfect sit-
uation, like the bikkurim ceremony, cannot guarantee happiness.
Despite all the potential joy that accompanied the ceremony, the
Torah still had to command the person bringing his bikkurim to be
happy and rejoice.
The Chovos Halevavos gives us the insight into understanding why.300
He explains that since man has an inclination to always want more,
he does not appreciate what he already has.301 This inclination can
blind a person to the degree that no matter what the situation has
to offer, his wanting more causes him to become dissatisfied with
what he presently has. Therefore, regardless of the circumstances,
no situation can assure happiness, because one is likely to find dis-
satisfaction in it.
Similarly with the bikkurim ceremony, even amongst all the ex-
citement and festivities lies the potential for a disappointed farmer.
Despite his overflowing basket, he still might be inclined to think,
“Why is his basket prettier than mine? Why is the fruit superior to
mine? Oy, I wish my field would have produced better fruits!” This at-
titude can turn a potentially joyous event into a gloomy experience.
The Torah, by commanding these farmers to be happy, is teaching
us that situations do not bring happiness and joy; it is our attitude
that brings them. Statements like, “If I only had this, then I would
be happy,” or “All I need is that, and then everything will be fine,” not
only steal from a person the happiness that he could have acquired
from his present situation, but blinds him from seeing all the other
goodness that he now possesses.
The Chovos Halevavos tells us that with the proper attitude one
can find joy no matter what the situation302 — be it a burnt cake,
a missed phone call, or not finding a parking space. The right atti-
tude can turn any situation into a positive experience. This attitude
is found in the Torah’s command to the farmers: “You shall rejoice,
with all the goodness, that Hashem has given you.” One should find
his happiness with all the goodness that he already has, and not let
the constant yearning for new and improved things blind him.
There are individuals that have it “all” — a wonderful home, a good
job, a healthy family and more — yet they still feel they have noth-
ing, while there are people that seemingly have nothing, but they
appear as if they have everything. The explanation is that happiness
is dependent on one’s attitude, not on one’s particular situation or
One should not wait for the ideal situation to deliver the happiness
and joy because it may never come. The potential for happiness is
dependent upon us and our attitude.
Let us try and adopt the attitude of appreciating what we have,
thus finding the good from within, as opposed to letting the thought
of what we could have had or should have had darken our day.