This article is being written the day after Rosh Hashanah, the anniversary of the day upon which God created man, the same day upon which God had man exit the paradise of the Garden of Eden and enter the world as we know it today.
From that day on, man was destined to work hard, “By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread” (Genesis 3:19).
In the book of Job, the human condition is described as “Adam L’amal Yulad – man was born to toil.” Life was not meant to always be easy. Survival and success require work and life is filled with challenges and setbacks. It is only by working through these difficult situations and growing from it that we earn success, that we achieve enduring and meaningful happiness and enjoy true quality of life.
This idea is captured and represented by the design of the shofar that we heard on Rosh Hashanah.
The shofar is narrow on one end where the mouthpiece is and wide on the other end from where the sound escapes. In fact, right before the shofar is sounded, we recited the verse: “Min hameitzar karatee Kah – From out of the narrow [from my distress], I call out to God, Anani bamerchav kah – God answers me with broadness and abundance.” From the very constraints, the challenges, the difficulties and the struggles of life come the relief, the satisfaction, the victory, and indeed the happiness of life.
In almost every study that was done on human happiness, the conclusion is invariably the same: The most important predictor of happiness in life is “earned success.” This involves sustained, difficult effort to surmount setbacks in life. We each have the God-given potential to overcome our challenges and thereby chart our own course and shape our own destiny in life.
A Chasidic teacher I had as a child used to tell me, every human being is a musical instrument and God wants each one of us to create our music in the world’s symphony.
Music is a very interesting phenomenon. It always requires force. The drum is a skin stretched to its tightest, which you pound away at with the drumsticks. The guitar and the violin are these strings pulled tight, which you then pick or strum at, or draw a bow across, exerting pressure on the right string. The piano works more or less the same way, with strings being stretched and then hit. The music created by the flute or the clarinet is a blast of air from the musician’s breath pushed through a constrained and narrow space, causing sound to escape through an opening at the end. Ironically, it’s the pressure itself that creates the beautiful sounds.
We are all called upon to make our own music in this world. When we are faced with stresses in life, we can either buckle like a guitar string that snaps under pressure, or we can channel that tension into creating beautiful music.
Whatever our individual circumstances in life may be, let us not see our challenges as impediments to our achieving a true sense happiness and fulfilment in life, but as opportunities to propel us to newer and greater heights.
May this year 5777 be one of beautiful musical creations by each and every one of us.