A few years ago, a group called Mishmeres HaShalom (now called Tiferes) sent out a DVD of Rabbi Noah Orlowek on the topic of Happiness. Happiness is a particularly apropos topic at this time of year. We’re now in Adar, and “When Adar enters, joy increases,” as the Sages said.
According to Rabbi Orlowek, people are happiest (animals, too) when they are fufilling that which they were created for. A person should 1) consider their talents and abilities, then 2) use them for the purposes of a mitzvah.
There’s a famous story (I think it appears in the the Gemara) of a gentleman who had a beautiful singing voice. When he would travel on pilgrimage to Jerusalem every year, he’d lead the prayer services. One year, he just didn’t feel like doing so. He was punished by G-d, since G-d had given him this magnificent voice for it to be used in Heavenly service.
When I heard the lecture by Rav Orlowek, I thought about my own talents. At the time, I’d sold a book (it hadn’t yet come out), but had no additional publishing success. I was frustrated about how much work I was doing–writing, researching, submitting–with little to show for it.
I decided to use my writing as a chessed. I sent goofy poetry to relatives. I prepared the newsletter for one of my son’s nursery school. I wrote an article for a local magazine about a community issue that needed attention. I began to think about my writing not just as a way to express myself or a way (I hoped) to make a little money, but as a responsibility.
Maybe we can all think about our talents and choose one thing we do well to bring assistance or joy to others.