Avraham Tzvi Schwartz
“What would you rather be:
rich or happy?”
you’ll ask, “can’t I be rich and
“You’re right. So
let’s rephrase the question. What would
you rather be: rich and miserable, or poor and happy?”
you’ll say, “no one wants to be miserable. What
are you saying?”
“Firstly, I am saying,
there are people who choose to be
rich and miserable.
“But more importantly, we
should note, that just as we are
ready to put effort – thought and even money – to
enrich ourselves, so we
should be ready to put effort – thought and even money
– to be happy. Happiness
is not free. We have to work to achieve it. We may strive to enrich
but we must also strive to be happy.
Now, the great question becomes: What
would you rather be, spiritually
rich, or just happy? Would you rather be a lofty Torah personality, an
important supporter of communal causes, or simply happy living in this
This question however, contains a
mistake. For, there is no
such thing as spiritual growth without being happy. Even a prophet
receive prophecy unless he is happy.
To make progress, real progress, we must be joyous.
Moreover, and all the more so, our
sages teach that a mitzva
done once in pain, with effort, is worth a hundred done
And since it costs us effort to be happy, it follows that a mitzva
with joy is worth a hundred times more than a mitzva
done without joy.
To be rich, we must be happy.
What would you rather be: popular or
Normally, a happy person does attract
friends, but not
always. Many times, he must perform all sorts of tricks to gain laughs,
backslaps. Now, to bring joy to others is an act of kindness, but this
what we really look for. Our baser nature does not seek to give.
wants the pleasure, the thrill of receiving admiration, applause and
We need to remember, though, that
being popular makes us
happy only for a while. For, the animal we call our ego is insatiable
cannot feed him enough. As much as he consumes, he wants more, he
Therefore, we should separate our
happiness from our
popularity. Our good mood should not depend on how loved or hated we
are. We need
to be joyous without outside help. Then, when an opportunity to be nice
others, to give pleasure to others, comes along, we will perform this
waiting for praise and a pat on the back.
We must be happy, no matter our
situation. And if the
heavens see fit to have others like us, admire us, love us, we will
gift gracefully. We will say thank you.
What would you rather be: wise, or
There is a certain bliss in being
ignorant – “with more
wisdom is more anger, and he who gains knowledge, hurts more.”
For instance, can
we enjoy our children when we know they must die? Can we enjoy our
health, when we see it diminish? Can we enjoy life when we envision
tragedy, lurking on each corner, waiting at every turn?
Still, this applies only to the
wisdom, the technology and
philosophy of a finite world, a world that rusts, rots, dies. Higher
however, knows that the soul is infinite, that there is life after life
Hashem rules all, with justice, with mercy. Such knowledge leads us to
To be happy we need true wisdom, true
perception. And to
achieve this we must strive to do good, great acts and to please
“to the person He regards as worthy, He gives wisdom,
See also Happy Thoughts