Jewish tradition views Purim as the happiest holiday of the year, going so far as to label the holiday the source of an entire year's happiness. But what exactly is happiness and its counterpart, joy? One Israeli magazine devotes its latest issue to answering just that question.

Mayanotecha, whose name in Hebrew translates to "your wellsprings," is published by Torat Chabad L’bnei Hayeshivot, a Chabad-Lubavitch organization that organizes lessons in Chabad philosophy for high school students and young adults. A wealth of articles in its just-distributed quarterly issue examine different perspectives on happiness.

An installment from Ayal Lugasi repeats the oft-referenced story of a Chasid who wanted to know how to fulfill the Sages’ dictum, "Just as one blesses [G‑d] for the good, one should bless for the bad."

The Chasid traveled to the Maggid of Mezeritch (second leader of the Chasidic movement started by the Baal Shem Tov and the spiritual mentor of the first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi) to ask him how one could bless the bad. The Maggid told him to visit Rabbi Zusha of Anipoli to find out.

When he arrived to Rabbi Zusha's, the man was greeted by what seemed to be a horrific site. The rabbi's clothes were torn and his home was bare, and he was sitting and learning Torah in his sorry state. The chasid asked the Rabbi Zusha how one could be happy when things are depressing.

"I would be more than happy to answer you," replied Rabbi Zusha, "however, I cannot because nothing bad ever happened to me."

In another article, Aharon Bronshtein instructs readers to do some good to bring happiness into their lives.

"Don't just sit there," he writes, "and stare at the wall. If you leave space for laziness, gloominess and heavyheartedness, what do you expect?

"And hey, do me a favor," he continues, "don't be depressed that you are depressed."

But if one should always be happy, what exactly does it represent? An interview with Rabbi Adin Even-Yisroel Steinsaltz presents a Chasidic analysis of the emotion.

"So just what is happiness," is the question the editors asked Rabbi Adin Even-Yisroel (Steinsaltz), Talmudic scholar and author of a myriad of books and articles on Chabad philosophy.

A teen reads the new issue of Mayanotecha.
A teen reads the new issue of Mayanotecha.
"Happiness is when an individual is in his natural condition," says Steinsaltz, an author of myriad books and articles on Chabad philosophy. "When one is sad or in pain, [he] shrivels up and becomes introverted.

"The essence of happiness is going out of that condition," he continues, "and coming to one's inner completeness. Even when someone is cutting tomatoes and the individual does it with joy, then things are going good for him."

So how should a person respond to what appears to be a horrible situation? First of all, counsels Steinsaltz, don’t resort to depression.

"There are two issues," he explains, "one, that you are in a horrible situation and two, that you are depressed. This way you receive a double beating.

"If depression would take away life's problems, then maybe it is worth it, however it never helps the situation. It is like scratching a wound: The more you scratch, the worse it becomes.

"If an individual feels that he is sinking into sadness, he should do anything [he can] at that very moment. Go for a walk. The worst thing is to be depressed."

"Being unhappy comes from not recognizing who we are," explains Menachem Eitan in another article based on a teaching of the first Chabad Rebbe in the Tanya. "When we recognize that life, as it is, is good and that we do not need anything more, then we will be happy. When we think that we are deserving of all the great things in the world, and we need everything that we see, but cannot obtain it all, that brings us to depression."

Concludes Eitan: "We need to recognize who we are and what our mission in life is."