The results for UN’s 2023 World Happiness Report look at the extremely challenging three year period of 2020 – 2022.
After Finland, Denmark and Iceland — Israel was the happiest country in the world… way ahead of the USA (#15), Canada (#13) and United Kingdom (#19)!
Not only did Israel suffer through Covid like the rest of the world, but we were bombarded by terrorists’ missiles from Gaza (13 Israeli civilians were killed in May 2021 alone).
Over 40 people were murdered in terror attacks over the 3 years period and dozens more wounded.
I don’t know how many terror attacks occurred in Finland, Denmark and Iceland during the same period, but you can guess. (actually I just checked… Finland 0, Denmark 0, Iceland 0)
So how could Israelis be so happy when they were locked up because of Covid, businesses shut down and we were under constant threat of terror from Palestinian Arabs and Nuclear War from Iran?
I believe some of the secrets lie in the UN Report itself.
“Social support, or having someone to count on in times of trouble. “If you were in trouble, do you have relatives or friends you can count on to help you whenever you need them, or not?”
In Israel, we all treat each other as family, especially in difficult times of war, terror or the pandemic.
During the Gaza war, I invited families (strangers) near Gaza to come and stay in my vacation rental units in Yavne’el in the north where things were quiet… huge numbers of people hosted family, friends and strangers to give them a break from the bombardment of the terrorists’ missiles.
“Have you donated money to a charity in the past month?” A clear marker for a sense of positive community engagement and a central way that humans connect with each other.
Tzedaka (Charity) and Chesed (acts of kindness to others) are part of the DNA of the Jewish People and in particular in Israel.
A Torah Society is based on “Obligations” not “Rights”
In many countries, orphans and widows have ‘rights.’ By teaching everyone in the society they have rights, you are ultimately encouraging people to get their fare share of the pie in order to be happy.
In contrast, the Torah gives us obligations towards orphans and widows in Deuteronomy 16:14
You are to rejoice on your festival, you, your son, and your daughter, your servant and your maid, the Levite, the sojourner, the orphan and the widow who are within your gates.
Maimonides elaborates in the Mishneh Torah…
When a person eats and drinks [in celebration of a holiday], he is obligated to feed converts, orphans, widows, and others who are destitute and poor. In contrast, a person who locks the gates of his courtyard and eats and drinks with his children and his wife, without feeding the poor and the embittered, is [not indulging in] rejoicing associated with a mitzvah, but rather the rejoicing of his gut.
The State of Israel has one of the highest per capita number of charitable organizations that operate to provide safety nets for the most vulnerable.
Right now, every community around the country is raising funds (Kimcha D’pischa) to provide food to needy families to help celebrate the Festival of Passover. Usually boxes of food are distributed by volunteers in local synagogues.
Happiness is really all about what you give, not what you receive.
As the Festival of Passover approaches, may we all be blessed with Happiness through our giving and support of others.
With blessings for a Shabbat Shalom.