By Jeff Clark
In this week’s Torah portion, Chayei Sara, Sarah dies and Abraham begins settling the details of her burial. In the process, the Torah tells us that Abraham was blessed with everything.
Many interpretations exist about what constitutes “everything.” Possessions? Family? Power? Discipline? God?
I offer that Abraham was blessed with everything he needed to be happy. And I believe all of us are as well.
I can’t even recall which internet rabbi it was that changed my life, but a few years ago I learned the secret to happiness from watching a YouTube video on my phone. The answer is gratitude.
The rabbi said the root of all unhappiness is a sense of entitlement; expectations beyond what we already have. If I feel that merely existing is a blessing, and I am grateful just to be here on this Earth having experiences, then everything else is supplemental. Only when I decide that in addition to the gift of life I deserve to be clothed, fed, loved, supported, or free of pain or strife, do I open the door to disappointment and unhappiness.
We’ve all been told to count our blessings. I am grateful for my wife and our family. I am grateful for my health, my house, and my job. But when listing all of the things I love about my life, it is easy to get caught up in what is missing from or imperfect about the list. I love my home, but I would love a bigger one that doesn’t need new windows. I have great friends scattered around the globe, but wouldn’t it be nice if they were closer and I was able to see them more often? I love my job, but wish it was a little less stressful. I take medicines that help me live more comfortably, but they are expensive and it is frustrating to schedule appointments to have the prescriptions refilled or adjusted.
All of those statements equate to, “I am grateful, but…“ and therefore, “I am happy, but…”
See how quickly that sense of “I deserve more” can creep in? In the name of trying to be grateful and happy, it is easy to inadvertently create a list of things that make you unhappy. All of that is failing to truly appreciate simply being alive and surrounded by innumerable blessings.
Let this Torah portion serve as a reminder that we are eminently blessed to be alive, and as we learn from our Patriarch Abraham, we have “everything” we need to be happy in this life.
Jeff Clark is the Executive Director of Temple Beth Zion. He is a lifelong Buffalonian and fifth-generation TBZ member.