Happiness, Maimonides writes, is a great way of serving your Maker. Well, that’s one translation. The words in Hebrew are “avodah gedolah”—and that can also mean “huge labor.”

That gives us a clue to what real happiness is. Real happiness is great. It feels great. It connects you to the Infinite Creator of the universe. But it doesn’t come easy. If it does come easy, it isn’t real. Because real happiness is a great labor of love.

To help you out with this labor, here’s a collection of short but deep thoughts, mostly culled from talks of the Rebbe, about what it really means to be really happy.

If you enjoy them, try subscribing to The Daily Dose of Wisdom. You’ll be happy you did.

1. Fear of Happiness

People are afraid of joy. They are afraid they’ll get out of hand and lose control.

These people haven’t experienced real joy—the joy that comes from doing a mitzvah with all your heart.

Where there is that joy, the Divine Presence can enter. Where there is that joy, there are no pits to fall into, and all obstacles evaporate into thin air.

The great Kabbalist, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, said that the gates of wisdom and divine inspiration were opened to him only as a reward for his joy in fulfilling a mitzvah.

2. Just Happy

The Baal Shem Tov taught that true happiness is the high road to G‑d.

“Serve G‑d with happiness!” sings the Psalmist. And the Baal Shem Tov explained, “The happiness itself is your service of G‑d.”

3. Suddenly Happy

Because you did not serve G‑d your G‑d with joy and gladness over the abundance of everything. (Deuteronomy 28:47)

Imagine you were just bequeathed a treasury containing most of the world’s wealth.

Imagine the thrill coursing through your veins, the celebration you would throw.

That is the joy of a single mitzvah.

Rabbi Isaac Luria, the Ari.

4. Take the High Road

Two rivers take you home: One flows with bitter tears of remorse,
the other with sweet tears of joy.

For most of time, the principal path of travel was the bitter one. Only once soaked in those bitter waters could you rise to embrace your G‑d with joy.

But now we have experienced more than our fill of pain. That which our people suffered in lands across the ocean has purged every stain, bleached every garment of our souls, refined us and lifted us high.

We have cried enough bitter tears. Now is time to return with joy.

Maamar Margalia B’Fuma D’Rabba 5746. Blessing on Erev Yom Kippur 5750.

5. Working With the Body

It used to be that the soul fought with the body, until one conquered the other by force.

Then the Baal Shem Tov came and taught a new path: The body, too, could come to appreciate those things the soul desires.

In the place of self-affliction and fasting, the Baal Shem Tov showed his students the way of meditation and joy. Every need of the body, he taught, could provide a channel to carry the soul high.

Hayom Yom, 28 Shvat. 16 Tamuz 5716. Igrot Kodesh, vol. 6 page 157. Ibid, vol. 10, pg. 240.

6. Joy Breaks Barriers

There are many kinds of barriers:
Barriers between people.
Barriers that prevent you from doing good things.
Barriers of your own mind and your own hesitations.
Barriers from within and barriers from without.
There are barriers that exist simply because you are a limited being.

Joy breaks down all barriers.

7. The Happiness Strategy

Learn to be happy and you will find reasons to celebrate.

Approach a mountain with joy and you will climb over it.

You will break down every wall, you will melt every stone heart.

Happiness is not an outcome; it is a strategy for life.

8. The Highest Happiness

True happiness is the highest form of self-sacrifice.
There, in that state, there is no sense of self
—not even awareness that you are happy.

True happiness is somewhere beyond “knowing.”
Beyond self.

All the more so when you bring joy to others.

Likutei Sichot vol. 16, pp. 365–372.

9. Open Wide

You are Heaven's child.

Whatever good you are capable of receiving is given to you.

Open wide.

10. Childish Joy

Our natural state, the way G‑d created us, is to be happy.

Watch a child and you will see.

11. Squeeze Hard

Carrying a burden of guilt and inadequacy, you’re not going to be too happy. And where did you pick up that load? From a delusion that you are meant to be perfect.

If you were meant to be perfect, your soul would have remained in its heavenly womb. But no, here you are on earth,
a divine soul that has infiltrated across the boundary of worlds,
compressed into a body of meat and blood,
wrestling each day with the biochemistry of an upright animal,
struggling to bring some light into a cold and dark world, to squeeze even a single moment of pure goodness out of the beast
—because even one altruistic moment in an entire lifetime makes it all worthwhile.

From your every small victory, the world is transformed. The heavenly angels glow in admiration, for this is a feat even the highest of them could never achieve.

G‑d Himself laughs and says, “See what my child has done with the world I have made! For this I brought the universe into being!”

Whatever good you’ve managed to squeeze out of your time on earth, chuck your worries and cherish that. If the One who made you celebrates, so should you.

12. Delighted To Be Here

Before the beginning, the Talmud tells, the Creator consulted each of His creations. He asked, “Would you enjoy existing?”

Meaning: G‑d shares His delight with each of His creations. Just as He delights in bringing each of His creations into being, so each creation delights in being just what it is.

It turns out that everyone at the party is happy. So why aren’t we celebrating?

Simchat Torah, 5746.