Rav Shlomo Aviner reports on a world wide survey where people in every country were asked a simple question: “Are you happy?” No definition of happiness was given. The answers had to come directly from the heart.
Well, it turns out that the people who live in Israel are the sixth happiest people in the world. The countries ranking higher than Israel are Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland. We have to deal with the constant threat of terror and they don’t but still, we are among the happiest people on earth. Furthermore, Aviner adds, all the countries where Jews, at one time or another, were tormented -- Spain, Portugal, Russia, Turkey, Germany, France, and England -- are way down on the list, among the saddest of the sad.
We, the happy Jews! After 2000 years of torment, we can finally breathe freely in our own land under our own skies. Living here has an effect on you if you are even the most slightly tuned in to what is going on around you.
The greatest contribution to our happiness is our children. Everywhere you go, you see happy children. Gevald, gevald! For the first time in history, little Jewish children can run around in complete freedom and unfettered joy.
Our happiness is one of the ways we walk in God’s ways. Just as God is merciful, we must be merciful. Just as God is forgiving, we too must be forgiving. Just as God is kind, we try to be kind as well.
And just as God is happy in all his deeds (Psalm 104), so must we endeavor to always be happy. But being happy is really not an endeavor in the Land of the Jews, it is a natural outgrowth of living here.
I would say, though, that learning Hebrew is an important part of finding happiness in Israel. The nuances and many brilliant facets of Hebrew words, whether heard on a bus, in a synagogue, or in a cafe, whether spoken in anger or in love, come from a deep reservoir of connectedness -- to land, to people, and to God -- which is what true happiness is all about.
The English poet Lord Byron said that true love, without love of country, is impossible. And I think we can now that true happiness, without connectedness to land, people, and God, is impossible as well.