Trying to make sense of life and to learn living it happily.

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Monday, June 13, 2016

How Less Freedom Can Make Us Happy: The Story of Shavuot

What makes us happy? It is different for different people. But there is one common attribute to ALL the things that make us happy – our attitude and perception toward what is happening.

It’s Shavuot, the time when Jews around the world rejoice in the receipt of the Torah.

Image from betamshalom.org (Pinterest)
I took a JLI (Jewish Learning Institute) class about it, and the teaching rabbi pointed out that before the actual receipt of the Torah Jews already knew it prophetically and kept commandments  - not because they had to, but because they wanted to. It was voluntary, out of the love and devotion to God. But once we had received the Torah on Mount Sinai, Jews became obligated to live according to the God’s law. In other words, Shavuot marks a loss of freedom. And isn’t freedom one of the most precious values for many civilized societies?

This invites the question: Why would Jews happily give up their freedom and celebrate it every year?

By the way, it still happens today. A major example of willingly and happily giving up our freedom is marriage. Why do we do that? Especially today, when the society does not require it any longer. How should parents explain the merits of marriage to their young sons and daughters? (Honestly, I’d love to hear your opinion about that.)

The rabbi proceeded to explain that the fact that God decided to mandate the Torah commandments means that it was very important to Him, otherwise He would keep things the way they were. And God entrusting this important task to the Jews makes us significant to His plans, important and special.

Image by Daf (Pinterest)
That is why it is celebrated – because every time we remember it, we also remember that we are special to God, and it makes us happy.

And that is also how a marriage works. It is a way to show to our beloved person that they are so special for us that we are willing to limit our freedom and take extra responsibilities for them, and they – for us. It is a declaration of love and significance.

When we have extra responsibilities, such as having to keep commandments, do our share in marriage, etc., we have the choice of perception. We can lament the loss of freedom, and feel gloomy or angry. Or we can focus on our significance, specialness, and loving relationships, and feel powerful, enthusiastic and happy!

This week, every time you do a chore, practice feeling happy about it by focusing on why you do it, whom do you do it for, and how it makes you special in the way you affect the lives of others!

Happy Shavuot!

More practical tips on how to become happy here: http://goo.gl/LNLUrd

Happiness the Jewish Way: 
A Practical Guide to Happiness Through the Lens of Jewish Wisdom


  1. Beautiful point. I love that u give a practical way to shift from "I have to " to "I choose to".
    Thank you!!

  2. I love how you you framed the Shavuos story and then gave a beautiful take away. Its amazing how intention can elevate anything.

  3. Thanks for this Olga! And yes, I totally hear that larger question of what we're going to tell our kids about the sanctity of marriage and why we bother with it. Would love if you'd do a blog post specifically on this issue.

  4. Hey Olga it's Chaya Sara u wrote so beautifully wow! I never saw any of ur stuff this is the first..! I like how it's so clear and short to truly feel it! So cool how u compared marriage to the giving of the torah! Also Im so into how u could take a situation and if u change ur perspective u could change the whole picture! So powerul!! I will work on that!!