Rabbi Manis Friedman talks about gratitude, tradition, and why having a higher purpose makes him happy
“If we have to look for things that make us happy, we’re a little bit in trouble. Life is happy, unless something ruins it. The trick is to not let anything ruin the natural joy of life.”
The joy of life comes from the feeling that you are making a different. Knowing that you are making an effect brings joy. If the effect is a positive one, that brings joy.
Gratitudeâ€”believing that anything good we get is more than we deserveâ€”brings happiness. If we take everything for granted, we can’t be happy about life. Modern life is very self-centered; that shadows gratitude, and therefore makes it harder for us to be happy.
It’s very surprising that with all the wealth and knowledge our generation has, we are not quite happy. It’s the “me” generation, so it’s hard to find reasons to celebrate. When asked if we have hope for the current generation, Rabbi Friedman states that we have no other choice.
Another thing that kills joy is doubt. When we are not sure about who we are, how do we know how to live? Tradition is important for mental health and to know who we are, and knowing where we belong helps a lot.
It doesn’t matter how much or how little you practice a religion, tradition and knowing where you belong helps. You don’t need to be pious, just know where you belong. While Rabbi Friedman focuses on Judaism, he believes this is true of traditions from every culture.
Culture has its own traditions, and it also has its own experimentation of these traditions. Not every experiment will lead to improvement; if it doesn’t improve stop and look back at tradition. If you try to embellish and it doesn’t work, go back to the original.
Rabbi Friedman states that we like tried-and-true, and we reject new and uncertain. We can definitely embrace modern technology, but we need to keep an eye on tradition. When asked if the rules of Judaism should be updated he responded that if new technologies bring in new sins or moral issues, then it should be revised, but he believes that while technology has changed life hasn’t. Sticking to tradition helps us fulfill that which we are needed for.
Every person has a different way of expressing gratitude, but the key is feeling thankful for life. And people will be attracted to you when the feeling of gratitude is present in you.
While most people think the planet belongs to the future or the past, Rabbi Friedman states that the planet belongs to its creator. We are welcome guests in his world and we must be good guests. If I’m here, it’s because I’m a part of a bigger plan, and that is exciting because that means we are needed. Being appreciative of the hospitality is a form of happiness.
Often times we do things that we wouldn’t do if we were asked to do them. Not having the option to choose, we do them and then realize that we have accomplished better and bigger things than we would do if we pick and choose. If we don’t accept these missions we become indulgent and it makes things dull and boring. Knowing we need to fulfill a mission makes things exciting.
Rabbi Friedman says that if we help someone, if we improve their condition, we know we are needed and we know that we made a positive impact, and that is fulfilling and brings us joy. If we only take care of ourselves, we get bored and we don’t know why we are here. For each step that we reach we want to accomplish more and share the good things with others. Unlike animals, human beings are constantly trying to become something more.
Rabbi Friedman was invited to talk for the BBC and was asked to give a relevant an meaningful message to 800 million people in just 5 minutes. His answer was that when every company pays their employees, they pay a symbolic dollar to charity; that way each employee gets their payment and can eat, but they can also help someone else and help another person and think about helping others.
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