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On Happiness

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Here’s a thought that came up in a conversation one night after our broadcast Bais Chana class:

The simple truths in life are what brings happiness. This means focusing on simple realities: life is good, being a Jew is good, having my family is good, etc. This enables you to be happy. However we need to distinguish happiness from contentment. To be content is different from being happy in the following ways. Contentment must be earned – happiness is free. Happiness is related to gratitude – contentment is related to satisfaction. Happiness is the absence of doubt – contentment is the successful resolution of doubts.

Therefore, simple truths will produce happiness, but only achievement will bring contentment.

So I am happy to be what I am, to be included in G-d’s vast eternal plan. A part of the chosen people, able to serve Him at any time. But if I don’t actually serve Him and accomplish some good in my life I will not be content. Contentment is measured by effort. The harder I try the more content I will be.

What do you think?

Toxic Thought

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“Have you ever stopped to think – and forgot to start again?”

Have you ever had someone ask you a question and you try to answer but they don’t seem to be available to your response? Sometimes, people ask philosophical questions but before you can give the answer you first have to help them think. They were not brought up to think; they were never taught to think.

A healthy mind can consider any subject objectively, unless one has been bribed. Then, those who can see clearly become blind and the righteousbecome twisted.

Tanya says, “The mind governs the heart by nature.” The mind can disagree with its own heart and rule against the heart’s desire.

The mind can disagree with its heart! That’s a good description of a healthy person. But a toxic person has toxic thinking as the addicted person has addictive thinking.

In toxic thinking, though, the mind can be defied in a number of ways. Let’s use this scenario: A woman is told, “The man is old enough to be your father. He has been married four times. He abuses women. He has no job and will take all your money!”


Toxin A – Will vs. thought:

“I don’t care. I want to marry him!” In this instance the mind is silenced by the will.

A willful person is governed by his will, and “nothing can stand in the way of will.” Our will is a dictator, a bulldozer. It does not tolerate interference, not even the interference of thoughtful logic.


Toxin B – Opinion vs. thought:“The man is old enough to be your father, he’s been married four times etc.”

“You don’t know him. I know him. His previous wives didn’t understand him. I do. I know what I am doing!” The mind is fixed on an idea and can’t think further.


Toxin C – Love vs. thought:“The man is old enough to be your father, etc.”

“But I love him. I can’t live without him! My heart will break if I can’t marry him!” And tears flow copiously. Emotion overwhelms the mind.


Toxin D – Compassion vs. thought:“The man is old, etc.”

“I know, but he is so lonely. He has no one. Everyone judges him and rejects him. I’m the only one who can help him!” Here pity cancels logic.


In each case, when challenged, the response will be moral indignation:

“Are you telling me I can’t have what I want?!”

“Are you calling me stupid? Don’t you think I know that?!”

“How can you ignore my love? How can you be so insensitive?!”

“You don’t care about people like I do. You are too judgmental.”


And in each case the thinking has been shackled. The mind must agree with the demands of will and emotion or risk being dismissed altogether.


The mind can also be poisoned or drugged:

“There is nothing wrong with an older man – everyone gets old anyway.”

“He is not abusive – he hits women only when they deserve it.”

“He never hit his third wife – she hit him first.”

“He is not lazy. It’s just impossible to find a job under this corrupt government. We’re moving to Canada.”


Here the mind is not ignored: it is toxic. The mind is thrall to the bias of the heart, or addicted and inseparable from the feelings.


A healthy person should be able to think:

My heart tells me one thing but my mind does not agree.

I like this but should I do it?

I think I should, what do you think?

I want to go but maybe you don’t want to go.


This independence of mind from heart is what parents and teachers should be giving their children and students.


When a child says, “I don’t want to” and the mother says, “But you have to do what you have to do” she is helping the child free his mind from the immature emotions that govern a child’s behavior.


“You don’t feel like playing now but your friend is here and wants to play, so be nice.” The mother is showing the child that he can be bigger than his moods; that he can think beyond his impulse and actually consider another opinion, another’s option.


Without this training the child’s thinking will be addictive and toxic, and as an adult incapable of a relationship with a spouse.
By the way, we are all guilty of some toxic thinking. It’s just a matter of finding it in ourselves and detoxing.