Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Religion or Happiness?

There are some lines that we hear over and over throughout our lives.
     - “Don’t worry, be happy.”
     -  “Live life to the fullest.”

We are also told our whole lives, especially in the Orthodox Jewish community, do everything according to the letter of the law, and keep religion at the forefront.

Well, what happens when these two things don’t meet?

Do you give up happiness? Or do you slowly let religion slip away?

My personal opinion = Live life to the fullest, don’t worry about anything else, be happy, and if you have to bend the laws of religion a little, then so be it.

I know, I know, I’m going to have a lot of you up in arms over that statement, saying that religion has to mean the most, and you need to sacrifice for it…and I agree.

Most of us sacrifice a lot for religion, such as having to go out of our way to get kosher food, which also costs more.  Not working on Shabbos (the Sabbath). At the same time, not hanging out/talking with secular friends on that day (since you can’t text/email/call them).

But at the same time, some things that you are/aren’t allowed to do, make you miserable, and prevent you from enjoying life.

So I wonder: Does religion want you to follow it and be miserable? Or do they want you to follow it, as long as you are somewhat happy?

No one is perfect; we all make mistakes, religiously. And most of the time, some of us regret those mistakes.

Overall, I’m sure most of my readers are religious, and keep most, if not all, of the laws that they possibly could.

But I’m curious how many of them bend the laws once in a while, and which laws those are; and if your anonymity isn’t enough for you to say it, then post anonymously, and not under a pseudonym.

Even the slightest of things, so that we can begin to see what the issues are amongst us, especially since after my last post, people doubted what actions people do/don’t do.

Hopefully I’ll hear enough back, to talk more on these subjects.

And remember, I'm a nobody, and nobody is perfect. Therefore I am perfect.


  1. Yes, being frum requires sacrifice. I have to plan my schedule all the time around having a minyan for davening. And yes, sometimes I have to live off chocolate bars so I'm not eating what I shouldn't be eating. So what? You think religion is about being happy? It's about sacrifice. Sure, it's nice to be happy, and you can try to be. It's all about mindset. And yes, there are times when you CAN'T be happy. When you're miserable. Well guess what? You gotta suck it up! My grandmother, a holocaust survivor, called us 'yankees'. "You yankees wouldn't have lasted even a few hours. You're weak. You have it too good. You feel too entitled." Life is about doing the right thing. If you can be happy, great. If not, well that sucks, but what can you do?

    Or look at it another way: Imagine you're going to an amusement park in a few months, and you've been looking forward to this trip for YEARS, but you can't ride anything unless you lose some weight. So you go on a diet. You can try to be happy on the diet, and either you will be or you won't be, but you'll lose weight and have a great time at the amusement park. Or you can say 'Screw it' eat whatever you want NOW, be happy NOW, then when you get to the amusement park you're forced to sit on the sidelines and be miserable while everyone else is having the time of their lives. Happy now?

    1. Right, but at what is the sacrifice enough, and you just say "Screw this; I'm doing my own things."

      I'm not going to bash on Holocaust survivors, because we don't know, and hopefully never will know, what they went through. But there is no way that you can know if YOU’d hold up under that kind of pressure.

      And no, I’m not happy now, because you didn’t contribute to this post, like I’d hoped people would, by simply stating some things that they do wrong. Because if I’d have to guess, you are human like the rest of us, and do things wrong.


    2. Yes, I do things wrong. I am not perfect. As I've admitted on my blog, there was a time I used to look at porn, (on this blog post: but even when I did, I never made excuses for myself. Heck, I wasn't even happier! I WANTED to stop. And I'm glad I did (though not having a choice due to being in Israel for a year definitely helped). I find religion very important and fulfilling, even the sacrifices. I never think 'Oh, well this is not ok, but it'll make me happy' and do it. Usually if I do something wrong, it's because I didn't know the halacha or because I wasn't thinking, and then I'll beat myself up over it, and do teshuva. The only exception to this rule, is I may listen to music when most say you cannot, but that's only if I find an opinion in a sefer (even a minority one) that supports what I want to do. Yeah, that's not how things SHOULD be done, I know. (Though no where in the Gemara is not listening to music during sfira ever mentioned. It's something that only cropped up a few hundred years ago. Even then, I try to avoid it, only listening to recorded music while working out. In the car or whenever, I listen to the news or a shiur.)

    3. Well, that's clearly a difference between you and me! And difference is good, it's what shapes every individual into the person they are.

  2. Just to let you know people can't comment anonymously on your blog - you haven't made that available in your settings (so change them!!) thanks..

    1. Awkward moment of the night there...thanks for letting me know, and I have changed it, so now hopefully more people will be likely to respond!

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Yes, thank you. You most definitely have contributed, and I hope this is the first of many who do.

      Just a few comments, but not at all judging, because as I've said before, I do my own fair share of things wrong.

      Toilet Paper on Shabbos - If there is nothing else to use in the bathroom, and you need it, you are allowed to rip toilet paper on Shabbos, just preferably not on the preforations.

      Kosher ingredients are not so simple. For example, the ingredients in Life Savers are all Kosher. However, they use pig fat, to line the rollers of the machine, to help it spit out the LSers. Hence it's reason for not being Kosher.

      Time waited in between meat and milk is a minhag, going as low (that I've seen) as one hour, so you aren't really doing anything wrong. But is definitely a bending of a law, exactly what we are looking for in this blog post!

      At times, I have thought about going on a more Conservadox path, and wondering if that would make my life at all happier...

    2. Cereal bars are almost always held together by pig gelatin. So no, it's not simple at all.

  4. "Forgive me Father, for I have sinned".

    This is not confessionals. What good will it do anyone to sit here and reveal all of your transgressions? Besides for the fact that it is probably considered lashon Harah against yourself.

    And notice, WM, how you ask for everyone's dirty little secrets, and yet you share none of your own.

    Oh do tell, what have you done wrong in the name of happiness over religion?

    1. I listed a bunch of them in the previous blog post, and I even said that I do some of the things mentioned, but not all of them.

      The point of people listing here, is because as FrumGeek said over there "No one I know has ever...". Well, maybe they just haven't told him, or you, or any of us. So I am curious what people actually will admit to doing, just so we can understand that not everyone is perfect.

      I don't care who it is doing the deed. Just what the deeds are, so that we can see what flaws might be in our religion, and why they may come about. If enough people list the things they do wrong, maybe we can figure out why it is we do all these things that are anti-religion.

    2. Not flaws in our religion. Flaws in our PEOPLE.

    3. Well no. Some of the issues people have are modern day issues, such as texting. The Rabbanim never expecting these things, because they weren't around. So they are loopholes, that constantly keep getting plugged. Sooner or later, you run out of plugs...

    4. So are you one of those Reform modern day Jews who think the Torah doesn't apply today?

    5. I didn't say that this is how I hold. Just something that needs to be considered.

    6. What needs to be considered? Texting on Shabbos? What next. Driving on Shabbos. There is no mention of modern technology in the Torah. That doesn't mean Torah laws don't apply.

    7. Correct, the appropriate laws apply.

      We don't drive on Shabbos, because you aren't allowed to travel on Shabbos.

      We don't turn on lights, because it has the same characteristics of starting a fire.

      For discussions sake:

      Now, I personally don't text on Shabbos, but what law are you going to place on it?


    8. Just a disclaimer:

      I don't necessarily believe any of the laws are incorrect.
      Nor do I think they should be changed for modern times.
      I am just saying that maybe there is a way we can look at all these things, and find the loopholes that allow them, or make them not as bad, so that we can find the good in others, who make the mistakes, and do these things.

      Isn’t that what Judaism is supposed to look for? The best in others?

    9. I always liked this story which illustrates your point quite well:

      The saintly Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev once chanced upon a strong, young man who was brazenly eating on Yom Kippur. The Rabbi suggested that perhaps he was feeling ill. The fellow insisted he was in the best of health. Perhaps he had forgotten that today was the holy day of fasting? "Who doesn't know that today is Yom Kippur?" responded the young man. Perhaps he was never taught that Jews do not eat on this day? "Every child knows that Yom Kippur is a fast day, Rabbi!" Whereupon Rabbi Levi Yitzchak raised his eyes heavenward and said, "Master of the Universe, see how wonderful Your people are! Here is a Jew who, despite everything, refuses to tell a lie!" The Berditchever was always able to look at others with a compassionate, understanding and benevolent eye.

      And this article,

      Yes, we are not supposed to judge others, we are supposed to look at others favorably. However, that does not mean that we should twist the laws in order to find the good in people.

      Start justifying everything, and that just gives people more reason to sin. Because now they have an excuse.

      If it's wrong, it's wrong. End of story. We can say, this person is not a bad person, even if he did the wrong thing.

    10. Not everything is as clear as night and day.

      Some things are. But some aren't.

      An example, right now during Sefirah - shaving for work, music, etc. Those are all things that everyone holds different. So if one person shaves, and another doesn't, does that make one of them wrong, and another correct?

    11. No, it makes us Jews.

      As it says in Pirkei Avos, "Asei Lecha Rav." Everyone should have a Rav that they trust to ask such questions to, and do as such. I don't feel these things need to be discussed or debated between Jews. For what purpose?

    12. One should always attempt to find heterim for Jews, as noted by the axiom, "Koach d'hetera adifa." As I currently study for Yoreh Yoreh, I am constantly trying to find loopholes to be Mattir "transgressions." While I don't plan to use these loopholes, at least I should be able to think that so and so is following the letter of the law.

  5. Guys, give WM a break. If you have a problem with his idea of a confessional, just don't comment on the post! It's not nice to be rude. Bloggers have feelings too...

  6. The only thing i want to say, is that religion has never made me miserable. It may be inconvenient, it may be difficult but that does not mean its miserable.

    Anything worth pursuing is going to be challenging and require sacrifice. Im in PA school. Is it easy? Is it fun? No! Its hard, requires discipline and requires sacrificing hours and hours of sleep. Do I give up? no. Yes, sometimes i am more disciplined than others. We are all people. We are all fallible. Just today, I mistakenly ate at a place with less than stellar hechsher. I slipped. It happens that's why teshuva exists. G-d does not expect perfection of us. He expects us to try. Thats all we can expect of ourselves.

    1. I commend you for doing PA school, it's not easy.

      Do you think you'll enjoy the outcome from it?

      And if not, why do you continue to do it? Instead of finding something fun and enjoyable.

    2. I hope to have a fulfilling job at the other end yes.

      I'm not sure what that has to do with your post. Being frum requires sacrifices, but we do it because we believe that its the truth and that there is an after-life and no one wants to burn for eternity (excuse my fire and brimstone)

      Life is about finding meaning and depth. Fun is important too in moderation, but that's not the prioroty

  7. I didn't read all the comments so I apologize in advance if I sound repetitive, but first you have to define happiness. What is happiness? True happiness...not the ephemeral type...

    Think of a moment when you have been truly happy. Not happy for a minute, day, or week. I'm talking about the sensation of fulfillment and pleasure that comes with having meaning in your life. I wrote at length about happiness, you can feel free to check it out:

    Bekitzur, if you define happiness properly then you will see that there is no contradiction between being frum and being happy. On the contrary, "ivdu et Hashem be'simcha." Obviously there is a HUGE difference between halacha and chumras (though unfortunately the line is blurred as you move to the right), so with that in mind, I'll end with: There is no black and white in life (pun intended)--life is about finding YOUR shade of gray (within the context of halacha).

    1. I forgot the posts on happiness, I'll only put three, though you can search on my blog for more:

    2. Do you have a link to that blog piece you wrote?

      And are you suggesting reading Shades of Gray? Just kidding, but yes, it is all about finding your specific shade in this world.

    3. All three were very good reads. Thanks for sharing!

    4. Haha, very witty comment. He is great, I'd definitely suggest reading some of his blog!

      I think the most important part about happiness is finding meaning in what we are doing and feeling connected to something greater. I think religion, Judaism, is about is about finding our purpose in this world, fulfilling it, and getting closer to Hashem (the greatest source of light/clarity/happiness).

      I'm glad you liked them, B"H


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