Happiness Hacks

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The Happiness Pill

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If there was a pill that would induce a constant state of happiness, would you take it?
Picture somebody gazing for hours at a trophy.  He is basking in the joy of having received this award, experiencing great pleasure and satisfaction.  But all he can really do is imagine the effort involved, because all he did to be presented with this trophy was to purchase it from a local dollar shop.
Satisfaction from a bogus trophy is no different than happiness induced by a magical pill.  Both are based in fantasy.
Real fulfillment comes through hard work and triumph.  As Ben Hei Hei said in Ethics of our Fathers, “The reward is commensurate with the effort” 
There is a common notion that the opposite of pain is pleasure.  In truth, the opposite of pain is no pain which really is comfort.  Comfort can be a counterfeit that creates the illusion of pleasure.  We may have limited the pain, but we don’t feel genuinely whole.
Our challenge is not to confuse comfort with pleasure.  Life’s complete and enduring pleasures are only attained through effort, when we challenge ourselves to grow beyond our comfort zones and self-perceived limitations to bring out our potential. 
There are no short cuts for this kind of fulfillment and inner sense of worth.  No quick fix.  But as human beings, facing challenges makes us feel alive and attain an authentic and unending sense of gratification. 
As the Talmud says “if somebody tells you, “I labored but did not succeed,” don’t believe him.  If he tells you “I haven’t labored, yet I did succeed,” don’t believe him.  If however, he tells you “I have labored and did succeed,” you may believe him” “

Pesach Hack

To be Free is to be Discontent

The Pesach Seder is arguably the most widely practiced Jewish ceremony regardless of level of adherence to tradition. Its message of freedom resonates today more than ever, despite the thousands of years that separate us from Biblical times.
In the Haggadah there is much reference to the Korban Pesach (paschal lamb or meat offering).  The sacrifice is central not only to the Seder and commemoration of the exodus, but actually played a major role within the exodus itself.
Yet for the most part, it is an element of Pesach that is little remarked on. What is its significance?
For close to 100 years the Jews in Egypt were brutally oppressed.  At last, after ten plagues that devastated the Egyptian Empire, the night of liberation arrived.  In anticipation of that epochal night, Moshe gave detailed instructions to the Jewish people in G-d’s name, commanding the Jews to bring a lamb as a sacrifice.
 There is one detail of the sacrifice that stands out:   “Do not eat of it roasted in a pot, or cooked, or boiled in water; only roasted on the fire its head with its legs and with its innards.”

This puzzling.  While the Torah outlines the complex laws of kashrus, these deal with forbidden foods or food combinations. But for the Torah to dictate to us the method of food preparation is almost unheard of.  As far as the Torah is concerned, it can be in a microwave, a pot or on the grill. As long as food is kosher, feel free to prepare it as you wish. The only exception to this is the law concerning the Korban Pesach. The Torah text is explicit in its instructions that Jews should only eat this meat once it is properly roasted. Why?
The Lubavitcher Rebbe offers a unique kabbalistic answer to this age-old question, and his explanation hinges upon the essential difference between cooking in liquid or by fire alone.
The difference between fire and water is that fire is always rising upward.  The flickering flame is never ‘content’ in its space; it is always seeking to depart from its container and soar to the ‘heavens’.  However water descends and it can be contained in one space.
In the language of Jewish mysticism, fire represents upward striving, yearning, thirst, passion, tension and restlessness.
Water, however, symbolises satiation, containment, tranquillity, fulfilment, calmness and resolution.
Thus, on the human level, fire represents the part in us which seeks change and challenges the status quo, while water represents our ability to make peace with life as it is.
Both are necessary. If we only develop our fire dimension, the result can be harmful. People who are never satisfied have a tendency to make themselves and the people around them miserable. On the other hand, if we are only watery creatures, we can become paralysed and immobile, exemplified by our lack of ambition and narrow outlook. A healthy and productive life is the one that learns how to balance the fire and water elements within the human personality.
But what has all this to do with the roasting of the paschal lamb and the Seder’s message of freedom? Because on Pesach we are taught to make a choice regarding the quality within us that represents liberation - and on this night it is fire alone.
The real definition of freedom is to be restless, moved by the call of the infinite, by endless mystery, by boundless vision. A human being always senses that there is much more to life, to reality, to truth and yearns for it.
To live a free life, able to express your full humanity, means never to be complacent and satisfied with your personal growth and your moral achievements, not to allow even a drop of water to slake your thirst and thwart your quest for the Divine.
When we search for the true meaning of freedom on the night of Pesach, there is no place for the calm tranquillity of water. That will come later.  Now we must experience the liberty provided by the soaring fire.
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