What Makes You So Happy?
There are moments when I am so frustrated and upset that I cannot find the words to express my rage. English lacks the musical potency to insult with the same impact as Yiddish, but there are times when even Yiddish fails. (May your bones be broken as often as the Ten Commandments!” is too complicated for someone to understand that he has been insulted.) My wife’s Spanish saves the day: “Sos un idiota, un imbécil y un infeliz!” Ah! I feel so much better. Why is ‘idiota” more expressive than ‘idiot’? How does ‘imbecil’ work so much better than ‘imbecile’? I don’t know, but I can assure you that they really work.
It’s the final insult that carries the day: ‘y un infeliz!’ “You are unhappy!” It doesn’t sound so insulting in English, but in Spanish it is the ultimate insult.
If someone told me when I was a child that I was unhappy, I would have been insulted. Kids are expected, and expect themselves, to be happy. I am ashamed to say that there were periods of my adult life when I would have accepted the appellation of ‘Infeliz” as a sign of my seriousness and maturity. In fact, I regularly meet people who are happy being unhappy. They assume, as did I, that unhappiness indicates the perspective of years. Some believe that suffering brings us closer to God. I say to them: “Sos un infeliz!”
Succot is Z’man Simchateinu – The Time of Our Happiness. There is a Mitzvah to be happy. We step away from all the surface things that make us happy and search for our inner joy: the happiness that comes from being ourselves, appreciating our potential, and celebrating the possibilities of life. When we step outside our homes into the Succah we reject the label of ‘Infeliz’ and redefine ourselves as, well, forgive me, Simcha.
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