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Be Happy ;-)

"Don't get so upset!"

"Put a smile on your face."

"Sha, sha. Don't cry. Everything will be okay."

It's hard to keep track of what the latest trend is in expressing or suppressing one's feelings or how deep one should (or must) dig in order to get to the essence of what one truly feels.

So what's a Jew to do when the Jewish month of Adar begins and we're told that the standard "Serve G-d with joy" and "It is a great mitzva to be continually joyous" is supposed to be intensified?

Fake it!

Yes, you read correctly, pretend as if you are really happy. You'll be amazed at the results.

A Chasid wrote to the Tzemach Tzedek (the third Rebbe of Chabad) and told him that it was difficult for him to attain a level of "joy."

The Rebbe answered: "Thought, speech and actions (the three 'garments of the soul') are the three main parts of a person's behavior, and he was given control over what he thinks, speaks and does according to his desire.

"A person must guard what he thinks, thinking only thoughts that cause joy; he must keep away from speaking about matters that are sad and depressing; and he must act as if he has a full and joyous heart, to show joyous mannerisms even if that is not how he feels at the moment. Ultimately it will be this way in actuality."

In a similar vein, a Chasid came to the Alter Rebbe asking how he could help a fellow Jew who made out as if he were pious but was actually quite a sinner.

The Alter Rebbe declared: May the words of the Mishnah be fulfilled upon him!"

The Chasid was taken aback. He had hoped for some practical and pleasant advice. Not what seemed to be a curse!

Then the Alter Rebbe explained: "The Mishna says that a person who pretends to be a pauper but is not will ultimately become a pauper. So, too, this man who pretends to be pious but is not should ultimately become pious!"

As indicated in both of these stories, the initial step to being happy is even to go so far as to pretend we are happy even if we are not. Eventually, the play-acting will no longer be acting but actual.

This "put on a happy face" attitude encompasses our religious duties but extends to our interaction with others, as well.

Judaism teaches "Receive all people happily" and "Receive all people with a cheerful countenance." Receiving people happily is an inward expression of one's feelings. Even if we aren't inwardly, genuinely happy to see someone, at least we should greet them with a cheerful countenance, an external expression of joy.

"Even if your heart does not rejoice when someone visits you, pretend to be cheerful when he arrives," a great Sage once taught.

So, be happy, it's Adar. And even if you don't feel happy, fake it until you do!

   
 

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