a) Happy with one’s portion
b) Happy with one’s obligations to God and man
To be happy with one’s portion can be broken down still further into
a) The conviction that what I have is enough
b) Getting pleasure from what I do have
These two aspects of happiness relate to the kabbalistic concept that love and fear of God are two wings that elevate everything we do to a transcendent level, so that despondency, inertia and despair don’t weigh us down. If I feel that what I have is enough and I don’t need any more I certainly won’t be envious of what anyone else has
This sense of “enough-ness” is not resignation, as if to say “What can I do? This is the way it is so it will have to be enough. I’ll have to settle for less.” We shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking if we are resigned to what we have we are saying we don’t need any more. Saying what I have is enough means it’s really enough! It doesn’t even occur to me to want more.
We struggled a bit to make sense of this in our study group. One person said she can think of it as feeling that right now at this moment I have all that I need. That answer didn’t feel entirely satisfying to me because why should I then ask for anything else?
Another person brought the example of someone she knew who couldn’t enjoy his vacation because all he could think about was a different, better experience he could be having right now and he couldn’t just enjoy what was. This moment could be pleasurable if only he wasn’t thinking about all the other possibilities and missing out on his experience now.
A third person brought a different perspective on the sense of having enough. She said this attitude can be compared to the way we relate to our water supply. We don’t keep a vat of water in the house. (There might be a necessity to do this in case of a drought but we’re talking here about behavior that stems from an attitude of trust.) We trust the system to provide water and for that reason we don’t amass water. Similarly we trust God to provide for our needs as the need arises. Just as a child calls to its mother and the mother experiences a let-down response of milk, so the bounty is ready, like the milk and like the water tap. The child learns to trust in the supply of its needs. Similarly we can learn to trust and when we trust, the bounty opens up for us.
We find the example of this trust in the story of Yaakov (Jacob) meeting Esav (Esaw). Esav said “I have very much” and Yaakov said “I have everything.” The sense that I have a lot and I want to amass more and more is not a happy attitude. Esav is interested in quantity. Yaakov is interested in quality. When Yaakov said he had everything he meant that he truly had everything.
The feeling that I truly have everything leads me to take pleasure in everything I do have.
The idea being expressed here is very closely related to Frankl’s assertion that happiness cannot be a goal. It cannot be pursued. When we discover meaning, then happiness ensues. In this case the meaning is the value felt in the focus on quality rather than quantity. This is the pleasure we find in things when we are not looking for something else somewhere else but appreciating what is right in front of us now.