Happiness Hacks

Velly's Blog

Want to receive my weekly Blog via email? Let me know! [email protected] or call 0404766759

Tackling Envy

 For an under 2 minute audio version click here 

Envy is one of the Ten Commandments, but compared to the others it gets very little attention.  After all, when dealing with things like murder and theft, a little jealousy hardly seems to be a concern.

But in truth, envy is an everyday emotion that most people grapple with.  Nobody is free from its harmful influence. It is powerful and destructive and it can cripple our wellbeing.

Crucially, however, Judaism teaches that envy can be overcome and be used at a catalyst for personal growth.  Moments of jealousy are opportunities to transcend our current nature and to refine ourselves.

What is the root cause of envy?

Envy results from self-centeredness.  We view the world through our own lenses, seeing everything in reference to ourselves.  This leads to envy.  When one is unable to view others’ success, achievements and acquisitions in isolation, we grow jealous and ask ourselves “What about me?”

We cannot cure ourselves of envy by fighting it head on.  Why tackle the symptom and not the cause? We must strive for selflessness by dedicating ourselves to being more giving, compassionate and humble.

Then when our friend tells us about their promotion, their holiday or nachas from their children, I can truly be happy for them.  I can see their success in isolation and not in terms of myself.  Then it’s my friend’s moment, not mine. 

This character development is not easy.  It entails expanding our perceptions to include others besides our precious selves.

But it begins with crossing a great divide from our instinctive, subjective and egotistical take on our surroundings to a more spiritual and humble perspective.

Vicarious Resilience; A Personal Journey

Am I in the right place?  I have been asking myself tonight.
After all, tonight is Simchat Torah.
Tonight I should be in 770 dancing amongst the thousands of men and women. 

Thinking of it alone, makes beads of sweat run down my face, my heart pulsate and my legs cry out to me to dance.
Still I know how far I am from the vibe and the fervor.    

I should be a part of this.  I was last year and the years before that.
I should be with my friends holding on to one another round after round.
Every circle another melody, every circle another rhythm, every circle another meaning.

But you can't change reality, and reality leaves me to the quietness of a hospital room.  The silence itself can make a visitor ill.

I sit by Zaidy's bedside, oh how I wish we could talk.
But Zaidy's tired.  Still there is so much I wish to ask:  Simchat Torah in his shtetel, did they dance in the streets?  Simchat Torah in the camps, was there any kind of commemoration?  

Suddenly Zaidy turns to my side. 
He confirms tonight is Simchat Torah, and in a low hoarse voice he begins a story.

The war was over. We had been liberated by the Red Army.
But I had no family and nowhere to go.
I felt as if the group of Jews I was with, were the only Jews left in Europe.
We walked around like zombies, trying to find word from family and friends.  But the more news that came, the worse the news got.

The first time I would be back in a Shul would be Simchat Torah.
With barely a minyan inside, the chazzan gave a davening like you can't imagine.  Even before the war I had never heard anything like it.

As the Chazzan's voice echoed in the room, I told myself, after all this pain and suffering and still there is a Jew who can pray to G-d with such love, fear, and compassion.  There must be many other small groups of Jews all over Europe davening just like us.

That moment I knew there was still hope.

Zaidy ends his story by saying ‘And that's why Simchat Torah is so dear to me.’

After hearing his story, my recurring question found its answer.
I was in the right place. I was spending my Yom Tov in the Holy of Holies. 

I drank the words of Zaidy's story, and got drunk on its lesson.  I danced the tune of Zaidy's courage.  I carried the Torah, Zaidy's Torah of hope. 

My grandfather and his family were taken to Auschwitz Passover night.   He was the only survivor.  How could he have ever celebrated a holiday again?
My grandfather’s flame was rekindled on that Simchat Torah night.  Never did he not celebrate a holiday to its fullest.


One of the most controversial subjects in academic research on the Holocaust is the trauma's impact on future generations. A new study carried out by Haifa University argues that Holocaust trauma signs can be identified among third-generation grandchildren.

Genetic changes stemming from the trauma suffered by Holocaust survivors are capable of being passed on to their children, the clearest sign yet that one person’s life experience can affect subsequent generations.

There are many more studies being done on generational transference of Holocaust trauma. The research is fascinating.  I am far from an expert in this field, so I will not dwell on this topic.  But I know we are going to be hearing and talking a lot about this in the years to come. 


On Friday night, September 16, 2006 – I was a 21 years old post Yeshiva student, walking the streets of my home town Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

I passed a group of 7-8 African American teenagers and thought nothing of it.

Pop. I suddenly felt the most unusual sensation to the right side of my face and I was utterly confused.
I put my hand to my face and saw my hand was covered in blood, and blood was streaking down, now turning my entire white shirt red.

I was no longer able to see from my right eye.

I than felt four hands on my shoulders wrestle me down.
Lying on my back I began kicking those four fists that were now extending towards me.
I know I was shouting but I cannot remember what. 

My attackers then fled, one of them was holding a metal baseball bat.
I had been struck with the bat once across the right side of my face.
I instantly suffered 5 fractures to my face, including a fractured orbital.

I would spend a while in the hospital and needed reconstructive face surgery. 
A quarter of my face is now titanium. (And no, I don’t beep when I go through metal detectors.)

I was home from the hospital.  The police started an investigation, but nobody was caught or punished.  I wanted to move on in life, but I was upset, dejected, and angry.  Very angry. I had plans to travel to South Africa to study for my Rabbinical degree.  But my energy was depleted and my heart was not into it.  I felt like I was sinking.

One late night, a picture in my room caught my eye.
It was a photo of my grandfather and me at my Bar Mitzvah.
My grandfather has his hand on my shoulder.  His normally deep and moist eyes are radiant.  He looks immensely proud.

I was transported back to the night my grandfather shared with me his Simchat Torah story.

I once again listened to that memory he shared.  In my mind I witnessed the destruction and his renewal.

I put the picture back on the shelf and I felt the possibility of transcending my current state and working through my pain.  My grandfather’s lesson on resilience taught me to see my trauma as a set back and to attempt to reach a higher place.  I no longer saw myself as a victim and I never looked back.


My choice to become a Rabbi was influenced by my Zaidy. Because of him, I am trying to continue to teach and inspire the Jewish generations. When I pray on a Shabbat morning, I can hear my Zaidy’s sweet and calm voice from when he used to lead the prayers and it gives lift to my Davening. 

When I celebrate in my own Sukkah, I remember Zaidy sitting in his and singing his favorite Yom Tov song “Atah B’chartanu – You have chosen us from among all the nations; You have loved us and found favor with us….“ During the Pesach Seder, I am always transported back to my family Seder of old.  My grandfather’s unique tune for the Haggadah makes one feel absolutely free.

Today, I try to imagine explaining generational transference of Holocaust trauma to my grandfather.

He would most probably look at me, shake his head and say something like “Nunu”.

I try to imagine explaining to him generational transference of Holocaust resilience, and I see him once again put his hand over my shoulder, his eyes radiant and proud.

I argue, if we are inheriting trauma, the flip side is an inheritance of resilience.  The trauma comes automatically.  But resilience needs to be worked on and developed. To be witnesses for the survivors is to constantly see their story and see how they relate to our lives today.

My grandfather, Reb Chaim Tzvi Moskovitz OBM, despite his Holocaust trauma, personified faith, goodness and kindness, study and acceptance of all. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and try to follow in his ways.  His legacy of resilience is a gift I cherish.

I believe that we must study our surviving grandparents’ stories and actively integrate those stories into our lives to strengthen our resilience and help us overcome obstacles.  To grow from our experiences and to become better from our hardships.    

Tell me, is there a better gift that we can give them?

Love vs Respect

Every time a person imposes their self upon others, unhappiness follows. It is an attempt to control the uncontrollable and the result is emotional stress and tension.

Often we have this vision of how other people are meant to be.  Actually the closer they are to us, the surer we are that we know how they should be behaving.  But this is an investment of emotional energy that does not pay off.

The emotion of love drives empathy and concern.  Love is to give.  In Hebrew, love is אהבה whose root is הב, which means to give.  But sometimes, giving when not asked for or not needed is invasive, such as an unwanted opinion. 

Respect, on the other hand, is withholding.  Respect enables us to take a step back and give others the space they need to operate independently, to make their own decisions and walk their own path. For example, respecting another’s opinion even if we don’t agree with it.  Respect is appreciating another’s unique personality and character traits that sets them apart from you.

Love is me going out of my way for you.
Respect is me getting out of my way for you.
Love is something we fall into.
Respect is something we climb into.
Love is me doing what you would like to be done.
Respect is me refraining from doing what you would not like to be done.

Nurturing Respect Exercise

· Identify one relationship in your life, be it family, friendships or workplace, where you can incorporate more respect.

· Reflect on that person’s distinctiveness and strengths and how it can complement you, for at the end of the day, respect is rooted in the sober reality that people are so different from each other and can thus complement each other.

· Think of some practical ways to respect this person’s boundaries. i.e Respecting his or her opinions.  Not trying to control that person. Not judging their actions. Holding back from having disrespectful thoughts of this person.

The key to healthy relationships and interactions, one that avoids disappointment and stress, is to find the proper balance between love and respect.  Because untempered love is smothering and invasive, while untempered respect is distant and uncaring.

“If I am I because you are you, and you are you because I am I, then I am not I and you are not you.  But if I am I because I am I and you are you because you are you, then I am I and you are you; and now we can talk.”
-The Kotzker Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgenstern

Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.