Monday, July 22, 2013

Why Don't we Pray for Happiness?

It's a good question and one that I never noticed much about before.  Except for on the High Holy Days, when we say "Simcha b'Artzeka" asking for 'Happiness in our land', there aren't too many places in the siddur where our tefilla requests happiness.

Someone on Mi Yodeya asked the same question and there are several good opinionated answers there, including one that points to the special nature of Yom Tov that has a joyous element to it.

To this point, I once heard a great idea by Nechemia Coopersmith who asked, what is the opposite of happiness?  Most people immediately suggested pain or negativity as paradoxical emotions.  I remember, now 15 years since I heard this, how he eloquently argued the natural opposite of happiness is the inability to feel anything, total numbness.  A marathon athlete or anyone who has a drive or passion for a sport or activity pushes through a difficult period of pain, frustration and negativity.  This is a (healthy) part of the process to growth and the exultation of happiness upon crossing the finish line or succeeding to launch a venture is the highest of emotions.  Having no feelings is to miss out on emotion, the highs and lows, and to be indifferent to the context and climate around you - a very scary reality.

Perhaps this is why our tefilla exclude a notion of happiness.

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