The Daily Blast

Alex Fleksher
Creative Director
Faces of Orthodoxy

Alex Fleksher says that finding joy in the small things and being content with what we have will set us up for a good year. 

Daily Reading

High Holy Holidays: Chasing Jewish Joy

The National Geographic’s recent article, “High Science,” about the new science of marijuana, features Israeli scientist, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, who was the first to identify marijuana’s psychedelic properties....

Read More

Daily Sources

וְשָׂמַחְתָּ֣ בְכׇל־הַטּ֗וֹב אֲשֶׁ֧ר נָֽתַן־לְךָ֛ יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ וּלְבֵיתֶ֑ךָ אַתָּה֙ וְהַלֵּוִ֔י וְהַגֵּ֖ר אֲשֶׁ֥ר בְּקִרְבֶּֽךָ׃
דברים כ״ו:י״א

And you shall enjoy all the bounty that your God has bestowed upon you and your household, together with the Levite and the stranger in your midst

-Deuteronomy 26:1

בן זומא אומר: ..איזהו עשיר? השמח בחלקו
משנה אבות ד׳:א׳

Ben Zoma says: Who is the rich one? He who is happy with his lot.

יְגִ֣יעַ כַּ֭פֶּיךָ כִּ֣י תֹאכֵ֑ל אַ֝שְׁרֶ֗יךָ וְט֣וֹב לָֽךְ׃
תהילים קכ״ח:ב׳

You shall enjoy the fruit of your labors, you shall be happy and you shall prosper

-Psalms 128:2

Rav Zevid says: Such a person merits inheriting two worlds, this world and the World-to-Come. When the verse states: “Happy shall you be,” it means in this world, and when it states: “And you shall prosper,” it is referring to the World-to-Come.
-Chullin 44b:11

Daily Goals

No “I” in Happy or in Joy

“Together with your households, you shall feast there before your God, happy in all the undertakings in which your God  has blessed you.”

When the Torah mentions happiness, simcha, it is communicated in the context of others. It is what Rabbi Jonathan Sacks calls happiness shared, or collective joy. When we rejoice, it is with others present and others in mind. We share the happiness with our families and with strangers, orphans, widows, and Levites. There is no “I” in happy and the is no “I” in joy.

Not only is simcha presented in relation to others, but as Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik highlighted, it is also bound to being lifnei Hashem, before God. Being in the presence of God both obligates and generates feelings of joy. The experience of transcending the self and experiencing the Divine, provides a framework for true simcha.

This is why there is a commandment to be happy on the Three Festivals when everyone would visit the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the place where the Divine Presence rested. It is also why the Kohen Gadol, who was in the presence of God every day, had a continuous obligation to be happy. Rabbi Soloveitchik developed the idea further, explaining that there is a commandment to be happy on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur as well, since those are both days where we attain spiritual closeness to God.

It is striking that happiness is explained exclusively in the context of the other. It is only before God and it must be shared with other people. Focusing exclusively on the “I” to boost happiness will inevitably fall short. Rather, if we want to enhance our experience of simcha, let us look for opportunities to do for others and to become closer to God.

Today In Jewish History

12 Elul – Hydrogen Bomb – 2003

On this day in 2003, Physicist Edward Teller passed away. Dr. Teller was known as the ‘Father of the Hydrogen Bomb.’ Originally from Budapest, he was studying in Germany when Hitler y”s came to power. Soon after, he left for England where he married his longtime girlfriend. Shortly after, he emigrated to America.

Teller was not the only scientist who fled Nazi Germany for America. He was joined by Albert Einstein whose Theory of Relativity paved the way for investigation into nuclear fission. In 1939 he urged President Roosevelt to build an atomic bomb before Nazi Germany. Leo Szilard, also born in Budapest, helped Enrico Fermi conduct the first controlled nuclear chain reaction. Niels Bohr was the first to apply quantum theory to explain the nuclear structure. Lise Meitner was born in Vienna and became a pioneer of research into nuclear fission. This all culminated in J. Robert Oppenheimer, US-born theoretical physicist, being chosen as director of the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. On July 16, 1945, his team exploded the world’s first atomic bomb. 3 weeks later, 2 Atomic Bombs were dropped on Japan, ending World War II. Most of these Scientists came to oppose Nuclear Weapons later in their careers.

It’s safe to say that while Hitler’s goal was to free Europe of the Jews, he in essence gave America Nuclear Weapons before he could acquire them himself.

Daily Quotes

"Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough."

-Emily Dickinson

"Do not educate your children to be RICH. Educate them to be HAPPY. So, that when they grow up and enter the real world, they will know the VALUE of everything in life, not just the PRICE TAG."

-Victor Hugo

"One is only happy in proportion as he makes others feel happy."

-Milton Hershey

Share It!

Get The Daily Elul Challenge In Your Inbox