It’s the month of Adar. Purim is less than a week away. And we are instructed to increase our joy in this month.
Actually, the Torah commands us to be happy all year round. In fact, in the book of Devarim, Moshe tells the Jewish people explicitly that much of the suffering they endure is a consequence of not serving G-D with happiness.
But doesn’t that seem unfair? Am I really responsible for my mood? I’ve got to work late after being stuck in traffic for half an hour. My boss screamed at me for 10 minutes. My day went downhill from there. Why do I deserve to get punished for shouting at my kids after such a disastrous day?
In Parshas Tetzaveh, the Torah continues discussing the Mishkon (tabernacle). It talks about the clothes for the kohanim (priests), for the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) and the regular priests, the oil for the Menorah, and the Ketores (incense) offering brought on the altar.
And each of these is discussed in great detail. The clothes require exact measurements, from the hat to the trousers (‘pants’ for my US readers!). The oil needs to be as pure as possible. And the Ketores needs to be sweet smelling.
Why were all these details so important?
The Torah tells us that the kohen’s clothes were designed for ‘honour and dignity’. The Rambam and the Sefer Hamitzvos write that this was the reason for the oil and the Ketores as well.
But why are dignity and glory so essential?
Because it inspires us. It sets the mood.
But it required action. A team of kohanim had to sew the clothes, construct the vessels, prepare the oil, maintain and coordinate everything…
The Sefer Hachinuch teaches an idea that suggests that ’emotions are created by actions’. The actions of beautifying the tabernacle create an atmosphere that inspires others.
The principle comes into play when one does a mitzvah. As Chazal teach us, one mitzvah causes another. Doing good things motivates us to do more good.
So yes, one can change one’s state of mind.
By forcing ourselves to do things we might not want to do, we create the mood that motivates us to continue. However bad your day was, if you force a smile long enough you can change your emotional state for the better (another scientifically proven fact!). It’s a case of ‘faking it till you make it’.
Don’t wait for your mood to change. Change it yourself!
(As heard from Rabbi Nissan Lifschitz. Click here for the original lecture. Special Thanks to Rabbi Binyomin Denderovicz for his contribution)