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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Dec. 16, 2008 / 19 Kislev 5769

The Gift of Joy

By Jonathan Rosenblum

Those rare individuals whose simchas hachaim (joy of life) never deserts them play a vastly disproportionate role in our society


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Each of us knows at least one. I mean someone who inevitably makes you feel happier, more inclined to do something nice for the next person you meet, just by spending a few moments in their presence. Someone who radiates simchas hachaim (joy of life).


Simchas hachaim bears no resemblance to the hale-fellow-well-met jocularity of a successful politician — an external garb. It is a quality that wells up from within and is incapable of being contained within one body, but must burst forth and be shared with others. It is expressed in a warm smile, a natural inclination to judge others favorably, optimism, and a strong desire to help others.


Take my former optician Mr. Rosenberg, for instance. I never saw him without a gentle, knowing smile on his lips. And he never showed any sign of pressure, even when someone who had not purchased glasses from him came in looking for a tiny screw to hold the earpiece. He would just take out his plastic box containing hundreds of such screws and patiently try one after another until he found the right one. Then he would inevitably waive payment, even though fiddling with a series of tiny screws would be an ordeal even for someone whose fingers were not in their seventh or eighth decade.


Those rare individuals whose simchas hachaim never deserts them play a vastly disproportionate role in our society. Like a rock hitting the water, they send off waves of positive energy in every direction. Social scientists have begun to confirm this insight. A new study in a leading British medical journal describes how much of our emotional state is collective — i.e., determined by the emotions of those around us, even those from whom we are two or three degrees removed. One person's happiness triggers "an emotional riot," says Dr. Nicholas Christakis of Harvard Medical School.


Those who radiate simchas hachaim also serve as constant reminders of a vital lesson: Simchah (joy) is a condition of the soul, not the product of our external circumstances.


There are Holocaust survivors and others who have experienced terrible personal tragedies whom one would assume upon meeting them for the first time had lived idyllic lives. And there are those who can barely function if they have a hangnail. Neither the happiness of the one nor the irritability of the latter can be explained by the circumstances of their lives. The more we recognize that the external events of our lives do not have to determine our emotional state the less likely we are to fall into the role of passive victims.


I NEVER MET MRS. SIMCHAH VAKNIN. I first heard of her only when she was killed in a tragic car accident, when a young Arab driver plowed into the car in which she was accompanying her daughter-in-law to the hospital to deliver a baby. (The mother and baby survived.) My sister-in-law Channah had, at that point, worked for three months in the health clinic in Jerusalem's Ramot Dalet neighborhood, where Mrs. Vaknin was the head nurse. And after Simchah's sudden death, she felt a tremendous need to talk about her to overcome her deep sense of loss.

Channah's first three months in the clinic should, in the normal course, have been ones of high tension. She was starting her first job, after having gone through nursing school in middle-age and with a large family. But instead they were the months of her greatest personal growth because of Simchah's example.

Simchah was always available to consult and advise both patients and co-workers. And a new nurse had plenty of questions. When called at home, she invariably assured the caller that talking was no inconvenience, as she was just hanging up the laundry and could carry on while talking.

Simchah truly embodied her name. Despite the pressure of a busy clinic, she was incapable of losing her good cheer.. When people came after the scheduled hour for taking blood tests, she might offer a mock scolding, but it was inevitably followed by a big smile and the blood being taken. She had no fear of being taken advantage of, and was not.

Her forgiving nature extended not only to patients but also to those who worked under her. If a patient complained that one of the other nurses wasn't "nice like you," she would immediately sing that nurse's praises and assure the disgruntled patient that any gruffness he or she had experienced was totally out of character and surely the result of extenuating circumstances.

She created an atmosphere that every visitor to the clinic immediately sensed. Channah is constantly being approached by strangers, who ask her, "Aren't you a nurse in Simchah's clinic," and want to share some story of a kindness Simchah did for them.

A story told by her sister at the shiva house captured Simchah's positive approach to everything. The sister lives on the ground floor of an apartment building, directly underneath a very rough family. The upstairs neighbors have an unpleasant habit of throwing their garbage out the window, into the sister's garden. Every time that would happen when Simchah was visiting, she would immediately attribute the behavior to young children who did not know better. Then no matter how distasteful the garbage, Simchah would rush outside to pick it up, before her sister exploded and invited the neighbors to come downstairs and clean up their mess.

The impact of even brief contact with Simchah could be life-changing. "The most important lesson I learned from her," my sister-in-law tells me, "is that you don't lose by giving. Everybody is always afraid of being taken advantage of or not being professional. Simchah didn't have that fear, and she was the happiest person I ever met."

"What would Simchah have done?" Channah finds herself asking all the time — most recently when a family of nine trooped in for flu shots ten minutes before closing, after having been told the closing time and that the nurse must remain with the patient for half an hour after the shot.

And when Channah arrived home a half an hour late with the car that my brother was waiting for, she was surprised to find him completely calm. Even though he never met Simchah, he too has learned to ask the question: "What would Simchah have done?"

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JWR contributor Jonathan Rosenblum is founder of Jewish Media Resources and a widely-read columnist for the Jerusalem Post's domestic and international editions and for the Hebrew daily Maariv. He is also a respected commentator on Israeli politics, society, culture and the Israeli legal system, who speaks frequently on these topics in the United States, Europe, and Israel. His articles appear regularly in numerous Jewish periodicals in the United States and Israel. Rosenblum is the author of seven biographies of major modern Jewish figures. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago and Yale Law School. Rosenblum lives in Jerusalem with his wife and eight children.






© 2008, Jonathan Rosenblum