When I was in my early 20s, I studied in a yeshiva and completed my rabbinical ordination. After many years of full-time Torah learning, I felt I would like to start reaching out and teach. Because there are so many thirsty souls in the world that know so little about the Torah, I felt that I should share what I have learned thus far. But I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do just yet; perhaps I was too young or perhaps I was not learned enough. I decided to ask a Torah scholar, Rabbi Joseph Shalom Eliyashuv, for advice. Rabbi Eliyashuv is considered to be one of the greatest Torah authorities of our generation, and I was a little nervous to meet him. I shared with him my dilemma and asked him, “What does G-d want me to do?”
Rabbi Eliyashuv turned to me and said, “You should sit and continue to learn for a couple more years.” Hearing that, I must have made a very contorted face, like “ugh!” because he asked, “What’s wrong?” Spontaneously I said, “But I’m not happy just sitting and learning. I want to go out and teach!”
“Why, then, are you asking questions?” he asked. I was shocked by his question. It is common for everyone in the Torah community to ask Torah Sages questions.
“I beg your pardon,” I stammered.
“Why are you asking questions?”
“Because I want to know, what is it that G-d wants me to do?”
“Of course, G-d wants you to be happy,” he answered, “and you didn’t tell me you weren’t happy in the yeshiva. If you’re not happy just sitting and learning, and you’d be happier going out and teaching Torah, then do it. Don’t you think teaching Torah is also a commandment?”
Suddenly I realized how I had missed a fundamental Torah truth. I did not understand my happiness was an important or even valid factor in religious law. In fact, I assumed that the more you suffer the holier you must be. Can you imagine my surprise and relief? Had I not made that contorted face, and had the great Rabbi Eliyashuv not been sensitive enough to see it, I would have walked out of his office and sat in yeshiva for years, feeling miserable and thinking that I am such a holy martyr — a true servant of G-d. It may sound crazy, but that was my baggage. I did not think that happiness was a consideration in Torah law. But here was one of the greatest rabbis of our time — a holy gourmet chef — saying, “G-d wants you to be happy.”
If a facet of Torah life is making your unhappy then you need to take counsel with an expert Torah sage to get clarity. Perhaps you have misunderstood the Torah requirements of you or you are misapplying Torah’s directives. But be sure to remember – God wants you to be happy.