Rabbi Herschel Shachter
Rabbi Herschel Schachter

Happiness and Humility

Everyone desires happiness but only few know how to find it. Dovid Hamelech says (Tehillim 27:4) that there's really only one thing that he's searching for, i.e. that will lead to happiness: to spend the rest of his life in the presence of Hashem. The Talmud (Chagiga 5b) records a tradition that there is no sadness when one is in the presence of Hashem. The Torah often expresses the mitzvah of simcha as "and you should rejoice in the presence of Hashem". The implication is that being in the presence of Hashem leads one to be happy (see Nefesh Horav pg. 314). On the occasion of Maamad Har Sinai, when the entire Jewish people was in the presence of the Shechinah, our tradition tells us that they were in a state of utmost simcha.

Throughout all the generations when one would have authentic divrei Torah the Talmudic expression would be that the occasion "would be cheerful just like when the Torah was given at Sinai" (see Medrash Rabba to Shir Hashirim 1:10). We assume that whenever we learn Torah, we are in the presence of the Shechinah. Hashem learns together with us bechavrusa (see Tamid 32b), just as he learned bechavrusa with Moshe Rabbeinu (see Rashi to Shemos 31:18). So in effect, a recommended method to attain happiness would surely be to learn Torah.

When one realizes that he is in the presence of Hakadosh Baruch Hu, he must become humbled (see Shemos 3:6). Whenever we learn, we must become humbled with the realization that we are lifnei Hashem. But more than that, we believe that the entire Torah, in addition to being a collection of mitzvos, is also a description of Elokus (see Maharsha to Berachos 21a). And when one gains some new insight into the Torah, in effect, that person is coming closer to Hashem, by virtue of the fact that he has gained some new insight into Elokus[1]. Arrogance and great Torah knowledge are simply incompatible[2] for those who believe that the Torah is "a description of Elokus" (see Rashi to Shemos 21:13).


[1] See HaAdam Vo'olomo, by Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, pg. 210 - 212

[2] See Rambam Hilchos Talmud Torah 3:9, and HaAdam Vo'olomo pg. 215

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