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Woman To Woman

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Woman To Woman

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Woman To Woman
Practical advice and classic stories on life's goals and aspirations
By Aviva Rappaport
Mesorah Publications, Ltd.
ISBN: 0-89906-381-0

Chapter 13: Happiness, from Woman To Woman


Happiness is not a destination -- it’s part of the journey. We are the people who create happiness, making ourselves happy by making others happy around us. The more moments of happiness you create, the happier you will be.

Happy people are creative. And making a home is one of the most creative jobs there is because a homemaker has to know something about everything -- she has so many different roles and tasks.

Happy people are committed to their work, and their commitment makes them feel needed and useful. Be committed to your home.

Happy people don’t ever want to be somebody else. They appreciate themselves for who they are. Never want to be somebody else; be you to the best of your ability, for happiness is within your reach.

Happy people use their talents and potential to the fullest. Most people in the world use only about 20 to 30 percent of their potential. They put the remaining 80 percent of their potential in a suitcase, lock it with a key, and write on it: “Not For Use,” and store it in the attic. Make use of your potential to the fullest -- you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish.

Happiness and creativity will add an extra dimension to every task you do in your home. Practice feeling happy and grateful when you do even the most routine chores, like making the beds, preparing meals, or sending the children off to school. Instead of complaining to the whole world that you have to make the beds again, thank Hashem for giving you the opportunity to care for your home. Those who spend their days sighing and complaining -- “I’ve never had a good day in my life” -- are missing the point. Each day has its moments of joy. Gan Eden isn’t something you’re waiting for -- it begins here and now.

Some people think that happiness is something “out there,” something you have to go looking for. They think, for instance, that buying a new dress every few weeks will make them happy. They find, though, that once they’ve bought the dress they again feel an emptiness inside.

There are those who search for happiness by continually redecorating their home. The minute they finish with the floors, they redo the bathrooms. When they finish the bathrooms, they order a new kitchen, and on and on, never satisfied.

Others are unhappy in their work. They think they’ll be happy if they change jobs, so they go from one job to the other, yet happiness eludes them. Those who feel dissatisfied with where they live are always moving in a continual search for happiness.

Happiness does not lie in fleeting pleasures, it lies within us.1 It’s not something you “work on” for fifty years only to find you’re still looking for it. What is commonly considered pleasure is nothing but an illusion. Even those items you feel you want very much -- will buying them really give you permanent happiness, or will it just make life easier for you?

Many women are unhappy because they’ve been fed the wrong kind of information. They’ve been told that they have their rights, that they should be “liberated.” Don’t worry -- there isn’t any religion that gives as many rights to a woman as the Torah does. If you approach your work in the home with love and joy, then the work just flows. But if you feel it’s awful and a chore, and you’ve been brainwashed with “emancipation” and “woman’s lib,” and you feel there should be equality of the sexes, and wonder why you are washing dishes -- “My husband should be doing the dishes instead of me! I’ve got a degree!” -- then you’re never going to love your home.

But if you feel that it’s a great challenge to be a woman and a tremendous challenge to be a wife and a mother, and you love your home and your work in it, and you love bringing up the children, then you’re going to enjoy homemaking. You’ll have a wonderful time because you won’t be “wasting” your life, you’ll be living it!

We sing: “Ki b’simchah tetzeyu -- you go out with simchah.” Our Sages explain that happiness takes you out of every difficult situation. Others have adopted the wrong attitude, copied from the outside world, which says that only money and material possessions bring happiness. This leads to a never-ending race to acquire more and more. We know, though, that true happiness comes from giving others happiness. When a woman who loves being a wife and mother cooks a meal, she puts her heart and soul into it -- just like our grandmothers used to do. If you cooked a beautiful meal which your children enjoyed and they ate it all up, that’s a moment of happiness. When they all say, “Mommy, it was wonderful. Thank you,” that’s a moment of happiness. When you’ve straightened up the house -- even if you know it won’t stay that way -- you get a feeling of pleasure and satisfaction from a job well done.

If you’re doing your job as a wife and mother, love it! Everything you do in your house, as a woman, as a mother, as a wife, is a mitzvah. You are busy with the very first mitzvah of the Torah, populating the world. Whether you’re changing a diaper, cooking, washing, ironing, cleaning -- it’s all a mitzvah. Do it with joy, and your reward will be multiplied many times over.

Bring yourself happiness by learning to see the good in everything. Instead of letting problems make you feel depressed, look at them as a challenge to help you grow spiritually. No matter what, be busy thanking Hashem, from the minute you wake up in the morning until you go to sleep at night, for the gift of life itself.

Once there was a couple who were married for ten years and yet had no children. They went to one of the Tannaim and told him they wanted to get a divorce. The Tanna said, “When you got married, it was a joyous occasion. Get divorced the same way. Go home and make a beautiful meal, and then come back to me.”

The husband and wife went home, and the wife prepared a delicious, elegant meal. She and her husband sat down to eat. They cried together, they drank some wine, and the husband said to his wife, “My dear, you may take the most valuable item in the house and go home to your father.”

“Thank you,” she replied with a smile. She plied him with more wine and he soon fell asleep. Once he was sound asleep, she instructed the servants to place him in his bed and then carry him with the bed to her father’s house.

In the middle of the night, the man woke up and cried out, “Where am I?”

“You’re in my father’s house.”

“What am I doing here?”

“Didn’t you tell me to take the most precious item for myself? Well, you’re the most precious item in the whole house.”

They returned to the Tanna and told him what had happened. “How wonderful” he exclaimed. “Such a couple should not get a divorce -- you ought to be blessed with a child!” A year later they were blessed with a child.

Happiness is understanding that your husband is the most precious thing you have. Do you know how to guard this treasure? Sometimes out of carelessness a wife can be hurtful and cause so much pain. Be careful not to spoil what you have. Nurture your husband, don’t break or destroy him -- he’s the most precious thing in your life.

Happiness is also courage. To live and be happy, you must have the courage to risk anything, and never to be afraid. Fear is unhappiness.

Happiness is also being realistic. A person who lives only in a dream world, never dealing with reality, is a very unhappy person. He is unhealthy mentally because instead of living his life he is escaping from reality. If you’re a dreamer, make your dreams into a reality. That takes courage too. The Jewish people wouldn’t have crossed the Yam Suf if Nachshon ben Aminadav hadn’t jumped into the water, so jump into the water. If you do, Hashem will help -- your trust in Him creates the reality.

If you want to be happy, make your dreams come true:

To laugh is to risk appearing a fool.

To cry is to risk appearing sentimental and soft.

To reach out to another is to risk involvement.

To show and expose your feelings is to risk exposing your inherent self.

To place your ideas, your dreams, your desires, before people, is to risk their laughter.

To love is to risk not being loved in return.

To live is to risk dying.

To show strength is to risk showing weakness.

To do is to risk failure.

The greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. The person who risks nothing gets nothing, has nothing, is nothing. He may avoid suffering, pain and sorrow, but he does not learn, he does not grow, he does not live, he does not love. He is a slave, chained by safety, locked away by fear. Because only a person who is willing to risk, not knowing the results, is free. -- anon.

It is up to us to create our own happiness, to convert each day into a song of happiness. Every day has its moments of happiness. You will be happy every day if you work on being happy every minute. Each day, wake up and decide that for the next two hours you’re going to be happy. Give thanks to Hashem, and smile at your husband and children and to everyone with whom you come into contact.

Then do it for the next two hours, and the next, all through the day. Give warm smiles -- your eyes should be shining. Make other people happy and by the end of the week you’ll be much happier too!

Used by permission, ArtScroll Mesorah Publications

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