Enemies of Our Own Happiness
Rivka Olenick
"The Almighty created man straightforward, but they invented many calculations." Koheles 7:29 What does it mean: "The Almighty created man straightforward" God created mankind to live the best existence with everything necessary given in the greatest abundance, e.g. air, water, food, etc. All of these things take very little effort to acquire yet they are always taken for granted. What if there wasn't enough air, then we would die. But there is plenty of air. What if we had to search for water? We don't, it is also plentiful and fortunately, we don't have to search for food either. Listen to what the Rambam says: "The more necessary a thing is for living beings, the more easily it is found and the cheaper it is; the less necessary it is, the rarer and dearer it is." Air is found more easily than water, water is found more easily than food. All three are plentiful. God gave us the strength, capacity and motivation within our nature to pursue our livelihood, to provide for oneself and family without tremendous burdens. In addition to God providing us with the means for physical sustenance in life, we were also given a guide that teaches us how to live the kind of intelligent life most appropriate for our nature. This guide is called the Torah, given to us so that we could live our lives based on truth, emes by acquiring knowledge. This is the only reason we were created, to seek and obtain knowledge in order to live the correct life. Living an existence where there is a priority in life. This priority is to live "straightforward" and live a life straightforward in emes, because this is what makes a person truly happy. Truth is the meaning of "straightforward." Living a simple, contented life in the middle path that revolves around the service of God, which is God's will for His created beings. This kind of "straightforward" life can produce satisfaction and fulfillment and gives a person the strength to face the many challenges of life. "All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth." Psalms 25:10 The Rambam says: "All of the evils to which individual persons are exposed are due to the defects existing in the persons themselves. We complain and seek relief from our own faults; we suffer from the evils which we, by our own free will, inflict on ourselves and ascribe them to God, who is far from being connected with them!" Guide For the Perplexed pg. 268.
What are the underlying ideas in: "but they invented many calculations?" It seems that "but" implies a change, or an opposition that we insist on creating for ourselves. We push ourselves in a different direction that is contrary or opposite of straightforward. People create and "invent" many calculations, deviations or different ways not to proceed straightforward in life. People spend their entire life pursuing unlimited, clever ways not to live a straightforward life. The Rambam's statement above makes perfect sense. We constantly involve ourselves in things that are unnecessary. Things that are unnecessary usually have no limit, meaning that we fall into the habit of desiring those things that aren't really needed to preserve our life, like the many endless possessions and excessive desires. Unfortunately, the reason these desires become endless is because we are constantly looking for the approval of others. The only way to have the approval of others is by having more things, and better things. Unfortunately, this way of life produces endless envy, jealousy and psychological pain because, there will always be others who have "more and better." These are the traps or the "calculations" that people invent. There are those who make their entire life a career out of this to the point of putting oneself in physical and psychological danger because they see no end in sight. We don't stop, we just "keep going" because to stop implies that: "There's something wrong here.
What, me wrong?" Of course, when things do go wrong all of these "calculations" that we've inflicted on ourselves we automatically and foolishly blame on God. Then we say: "Why has God done this to me?" No, God has not done this to you. We do this to ourselves because we refuse to examine closely the real purpose of our lives. We are in denial. The denial is with regard to the use of our free will, which was given to us to be used appropriately. We leave most "thought and knowledge" in understanding our life and the world to chance. Instead, we make these "calculations" our "priority" in life. We use endless energy to acquire, accumulate and possess so much that is not necessary. But when our situation changes, or a crisis strikes, we complain bitterly and groan: "Why me?" and blame God. We blame God because He hasn't given us relief from our own self-inflicted insanity! Do we objectively use our free will given to us as a "gift" from God or did we misuse it? Do we contemplate life, and reflect on life or do we leave "life" to chance? But, God did create us "straightforward" "but they invented many calculations." Isn't it true? "The many calculations are the enemies of our happiness." Samson Raphael Hirsch from The Wisdom of Mishle pg.160.
So, where do we find the "allies of our happiness?" Hasn't God already given the "allies" to us? We can use our mind in the pursuit of Torah knowledge, which satisfies our intellectual capability. In prayer, in the Shema, we are asked to concentrate and comprehend that God is King, and that He is trustworthy. That everything we are and all that we have is because of God alone, nothing and no one else. He rules, leads and supervises the entire world and everything in it, not man. We petition Him in the Shemoneh Esrei for what we really need as we ask for insight, forgiveness, for health and healing, to restore justice in the world, to be redeemed, for the Messiah, for peace, prosperity and then we give thanks to God and ask that He accepts our prayer. Do we actually focus clearly on what we are asking for? Do we understand why we should ask for insight and why justice should be restored? Insight and justice are the foundations of reality. Insight allows us to understand truth, emes which is what justice is based on. This is what we should think about and reflect on. This is what we should pour out our heart to Him for; that our lives be directed by truth, emes and that the world be restored to that emes which is justice. This is the purpose of Klal Yisroel. This is the goal all Jews should all strive to meet. We use our body as an eved, a servant of God, and what we understand through knowledge we actualize in the performance of the commandments. We are to serve God in our human life with our human life. Each person should ask him or herself this question repeatedly: Do I understand the purpose of a straightforward life? and at the same time try to recognize that these are truly the "allies" of our happiness. Rabbi Eleazar HaKippur said: "Envy, desire and honor drive a man from this world." Rabbi Meir said: "Minimize your business activities and occupy yourself with the Torah. Be of humble spirit before every person. If you should neglect the study of Torah, and you will have many causes for neglecting it confronting you, but if you toil much in the Torah, there is ample reward to be given you." (Pirkei Avos)

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