CREATION: A RECIPE FOR HAPPINESS (1:1)
Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man’s bed was next to the room's only window, the other’s was not. They talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, jobs, and where they had vacationed.
Every afternoon, when the man by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing all the things he could see outside. His roommate began to live for those hours when his world would be broadened and enlivened. The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Graceful swans glided on the water while teenagers sailed their model boats. Young children played amidst flowers of every color.
Days and weeks passed. One night, the man by the window died peacefully in his sleep. As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other fellow asked if he could be moved to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone. Slowly he propped himself up to take his first look at the real world. He looked out the window. It faced a blank wall.
The man asked the nurse what could have compelled the deceased to portray and create a make-believe world. The nurse responded that the man was in fact blind. “Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.”
There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situation. Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared is doubled. If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can't buy. Today is a gift; that is why it is called the PRESENT.
According to a recent survey, the number one thing that people lack is happiness. Why is it so hard to be happy? How come so many find life impossible to cope with? Imagine for a moment, that someone gave you a unique, priceless, gift. You open it, you start using it, and you begin to discover its features and abilities. You barely glance at the small paperback manual that comes bundled inside. You might skim it, but like most you throw it away or put it on a shelf.
After a while you start to notice that things are not working perfectly. In fact, it’s getting worse. You go to a specialist to fix up your life, put it all back together and regain joy. He shows you a copy of that small forgotten manual. You read it and for the very first time you find clarity and direction.
This week we start reading the Torah from the beginning. How many times have we heard its first words and really understood the phrase, “In the beginning, G-d created heaven and earth.”
The Torah is much more than a book of instructions or laws; it's a MANUAL OF LIFE. G-d could have just listed the commandments, making sure that we are getting them done. But G-d also wants us to add flavor and depth to our lives, hence His introduction.
What is the secret to happiness? It should be simple: We are happy when life works out how we want it to. If I want to go to Israel and I arrive at Ben Gurion airport, I will be happy. If I end up having to stay at home, I will be unhappy. Unhappiness is a result of our desires conflicting with reality. We become angry and upset when our hopes or expectations are dashed. So here is the ticket to happiness. We don't have much control over the universe, but we do have the ability to select our wants and desires. So you want to be happy? Have realistic expectations. You want to be a millionaire? Ask yourself whether it is realistic.
Let’s be honest. One person might believe that winning the lottery is realistic, another might still believe that he will find the unattainable woman. Reality is not how we would like to define it. Reality is defined by Torah. If you set your expectations according to the MANUAL OF LIFE, if you define your reality in accordance with that true reality, you will never know of fear or worry in your life. G-d wrote the Torah not just as a guide for us, it’s the blueprint for all life and the entire universe. Reality, nature and Mazal follow the Torah, not the other way around.
In His very first words, G-d shares a critical, and often overlooked, detail of creation. G-d purposefully created a dichotomy, heaven and earth. Two different realms: good and evil, truth and falsehood, the physical and the spiritual. And though these forms seem complete opposites, they are not in conflict, for G-d and the universe do not contradict themselves.
In regards to these contrary domains, He created the heaven first in order for it to rule the earth. We therefore might translate the opening verse as, “G-d first created the spiritual heavens and only then the physical earth.”
In Torah there are no contradictions. If life ever seems to diverge from your being happy, if we are ever anxious or experiencing stress, it is because we have forgotten the opening line of His manual. We have forgotten that our physical existence is subservient to our spiritual lives.
This is the foundation of everything. Chassidus tells us that in truth the physical world is only a veneer of reality. G-d’s creative energies have to continuously compel the fragile framework of physicality into an illusion that it is a more powerful entity than the spiritual energy that gives it shape.
All stress in our lives is a result of having an erroneous perspective and unrealistic expectations. In order to live a happy and fulfilled life, we must set our expectations to the blueprint of the Torah. We must put heaven before earth, we need to fit our lives into the reality of the Torah rather than trying to fit the Torah into our physical lives.
There is another lesson we should learn from the opening words of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to Life, the Torah. Every so often a company like Microsoft launches another version of Windows. But before it is finished it is in the Beta stage. Beta is when a company sends the unfinished product to many individuals, who test it, send feedback, and help them fix all the problems. If you would take a closer look at your Life’s manual, you would notice that our world too has the words ‘Beta’ written all over it. The universe G-d created is not the finished product.
The second Torah passage reads, “The spirit of G-d hovered above…” If you were building a home, wouldn’t you enter it? Wouldn’t you go and live it in it? Yet He hovers above it. Why? Because His world was incomplete. He is waiting for us to finish the job. How can we improve that which He has personally created? By testing the world and identifying its bugs so that it is perfect for it’s big launch, the coming of Moshiach and the completion of creation: Universe 1.0
Until then we do our job...happily.