Friday, April 26, 2019 -
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What is the secret to happiness?

Dear Tzviling,

I recently came back from my first trip to Israel. It was truly fascinating, especially the time I spent in Safed (Tzfat).

In Tzfat I noticed that everyone faced south during the prayers, instead of facing east, the way I’m used to here in Canada. Actually, in my synagogue, some people face southeast, while others face northeast. Why the different directions?

Morty, Hampstead, Que.

Dear Morty,

Your question tells me you’re pointed in the right direction. It’s really quite simple.

The Talmud tells us we should face Israel as we pray to G-d (particularly during the Amidah prayer).

What direction does a Jew in Israel face?

Toward Jerusalem.

In Jerusalem, one faces the site of the Holy Temple (especially the “Holy of Holies”). That is why we in America face east, while the Jews in Tzfat (which is north of Jerusalem) face south.

Why do we notice some people facing southeast, and others northeast?

You see, the north side of the Holy Temple housed the table with its 12 “showbreads,” representing the constant presence of G-d’s blessings in our material life — like our food.

The seven-branched Menorah stood on the south side. The Menorah, illuminated with olive oil, served as the paradigm for spiritual blessings in general.

If someone is more in need of material blessings, they face northeast.

For spiritual needs (wisdom, etc.) it would be southeast.

Dear Tzviling,

I am hoping you can help me.

I enjoy an affluent lifestyle in a beautiful house with all my favorite gadgets — iPhone, iPod, GPS and a computerized robotic servant.

But I don’t feel happy with my life.

My friends are envious of my wealth, but little do they realize how miserable I am.

Tell me, what is the secret of happiness?

Sam, Far Rockaway

Dear Sam,

I’m happy to hear from you.

Happiness is not measured by what we have. It’s not about money. It’s what we do.

The best way to receive is by giving.

Here is what you do: Every day, make sure to do a favor for another person. Help someone in need. Make them happy, and you will notice a big change.

You will be happy.

Let us tell you a story.

Many years ago, “Larry” lived with his wonderful family — a supportive wife and eight beautiful children. Earning a livelihood proved difficult, and he decided to travel to a far away country to make money and support his family. He would be away from his family for a few years, but he had little choice.

Larry traveled to this distant country and was surprised to discover that cash and jewels had very little value there.

But chicken shmaltz, this was a different story.

Shmaltz commanded a great price, and people were actually paid in chicken shmaltz. After a few years, Larry had accumulated quite a number of barrels of shmaltz, and chartered a boat to travel home in eager anticipation of a schmaltzy lifestyle.

His wife and children anxiously awaited his arrival, only to be greeted by this lofty odor.

In great disappointed, the husband realized he went to earn money, and exchanged that opportunity for something of no value.

Sam, this story is about you and me. We were sent to this world to earn our “wealth” and return with “wealth.” What is the “wealth” we seek?

Mitzvos, good deeds, kindness — this is the currency our soul was sent to earn. But like Larry, we often mistakenly believe life’s currency is all about money.

More letters in this week’s IJN. Order your copy from Carol at (303) 861-2334 or

Send your questions to, to be answered with wit, wisdom and humor by identical twins Rabbis Yisroel Engel (Denver) and Shloime Engel (Montreal) who share their combined 100 years of experience.

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