Gateway to Happiness
by Jo Diamond
Dedicated in loving memory of my mother-in-law Shirley Diamond
What makes me happy you happy and all of us happy will be very different from person to person. Happiness isn’t given either, especially in times of hardship grief and difficult moments. Which is why happiness is at the end of a path or journey that we take on a daily basis.
We always think we know what is going to make us happy, and quite often when we do make a decision and realise that it might not have been the right One, we have to accept the outcome, and if there are any consequences, we just move on. This is life. This is how we learn and how we grow and this is what commences the journey to happiness. We end up filtering out the bad things and learn to question our freedom of choice.
It’s this time of year when I think of Megillah Ruth. She was poor and went on to have huge material wealth, becoming the Princess of a wealthy kingdom when she married the son of Elimelech and Naomi who were considered an aristocratic family both in terms of wealth and leadership.
When Elimelech died - his widow Naomi was left destitute and she told her daughters in law (Ruth and her sister Orpah who also married into the family) to go back to their respective kingdoms. After a few tears i am sure...Orpah remains. But despite Naomi's cajoling Ruth to do likewise, Ruth insists on joining Naomi, her mother-in-law, on Naomi‘s trek back home.
The Meghillah shares with us Ruth's beautiful words emanating from her heart, she says “where you go, I will go… Your people are my people… Your God is my God…‘.
Together Naomi and Ruth make the long journey back.
It wasn’t an easy trip.
Just think, today we take an airline trip, sitting in a comfortable seat, and it still knocks us out. In contrast, Naomi and Ruth crossed a hot desert without any GPS to guide them, or rest areas or coffee stops along the way.
But there was no complaining, no begrudging their difficult journey.
They had each other and it was enough.
Ruth gave Naomi the ultimate gift. She gave of her very being - herself
She showed kindness, respect, love and understanding, staying by her mother-in-law's side.
For Ruth, it was a journey to the unknown.
Would she ever be accepted by the people of Bais Lechem (Bethlehem)? Would she ever remarry? Where would her new life take her? Ruth left everything she knew behind, and was ready to live a Torah life.
The way I see this is that Ruth truly loved and admired Naomi and Ruth’s journey to happiness was motivated by a desire to grow.
A journey of discovery. A journey reaching new spiritual Heights connecting with HaShem and his Torah.
A journey she felt compelled to embark on.
The Meghillah doesn’t share with us any deep religious, spiritual or philosophical discussions between Ruth and Naomi, but it is was how Naomi lived her life that inspired Ruth to be part of Am Yisroel. Ruth understood that it was the ethical and moral teachings of the Torah that guided every facet of Naomi‘s life. A life that Ruth wanted for herself.
Meghillah Ruth is a book of life wisdom. It portrays her father-in-law, a man who was the leader and whose decision to leave Bais Lechem, affected not only himself but his children and those around him. In contrast we learn of Ruth, who although being a Moabite rose above the lifestyle and comfort zone she had been raised in, to become a paradigm of kindness. A mother of royalty.
A woman whose choice not only changed her life, but that of her future generations.
Ruth, a book of contrasts, is a book teaching us that decisions matter.
We should all take a leaf out of the book of Ruth… We tend to think of challenges as handicaps, disabilities, a lacking in one’s life.
But Meghillah Ruth teaches us otherwise.
Even ones G-d given gifts of talent intellect or prosperity, can be challenging.
What we do with the blessings in our lives is our test.
Will we share with others, will we utilise them to better the world?
When faced with a difficult situation or choice to stay with Naomi, Ruth makes the choice of relationships of value and doesn’t choose to go back to the wealthy kingdom. At that very moment she somehow gained perspective. Was content, happy and fulfilled with what he felt was more important than wealth. The love of a good family.
In a world of social media we can’t escape what our family, friends, neighbours and the world is up to…Many people spend a lot of time thinking about all of the things they don’t have. Why can’t I have that type of phone, clothes or friends they think to themselves unhappily.
People have been making this terrible mistake ever since the first man was created! G‑d put Adam in a beautiful garden and said, “You may enjoy the delicious fruit of all trees here, except for one.” Instead of enjoying the fruit that was his to eat, Adam chose to concentrate on the forbidden fruit. The story of Adam teaches us that the secret to happiness is learning to enjoy the gifts that G‑d has given us (“Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot.” Pirkei Avot 4)
As human beings, we seem inherently desirable and inquisitive of the unknown. Like children. Tell them not to do something (often to protect them or prevent them from harm) they then do exactly what they’re told not to do! Often with a consequence. But how do we then learn to accept boundaries regulations and rules … do we simply become more knowledgeable with age and can see that every action has a reaction?
We should aim to accept what we have and be happy with that and not dwell on what we don’t do or don’t have
So as in the garden of Eden, Eve, desiring this wisdom, she eats the forbidden fruit and gives some to Adam who also eats it. They become aware of their "nakedness" and make fig-leaf clothes, and hide themselves when God approaches. When confronted, Adam tells God that Eve gave him the fruit to eat, and Eve tells God the serpent deceived her into eating it…whose taking responsibility here? According to the book of genesis “The L‑rd G‑d commanded man, saying: Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat. But of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil—you shall not eat of it, for on the day that you eat thereof, you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16–17)
But what does this tell us…we are all in the garden of Eden most of our daily lives since we often find ourselves faced with the challenge to either make a decision one way or another…but If we knew that the outcome of our choices/actions would be bad for us (ie...eat the apple and you will die) then we certainly would avoid making and taking that kind decision…
This is where the idea / concept of free choice comes in - if we were to know the outcome we wouldn’t really have free choice - free choice enables us to constantly stretch our muscles and try and do the right thing without knowing if the outcome will be good or bad
Our sages teach us to be better people for example the teachings of the “ Ethics of our fathers”…and the counting of the Omer is what teaches us to be happy with what we have. Make the most of any given situation . Be it good bad sad or happy. The period between Passover and Shavuot is a period of self-refinement and character improvement. We want to strive for perfection.
I will end on this: Kindly provided by Gila a quote from Victor Frankel - “Always stop and instead of reacting - pause take a moment to reflect and then make a proactive choice" - This is our journey and gateway to happiness ...