[First posted at The Times of Israel: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/happy-prophets/]
Ibn Ezra Genesis: Vayeshev
“An ounce of cheerfulness is worth a pound of sadness to serve God with.”
Jacob’s sons convince their father that his favorite son Joseph is dead. Jacob falls into an inconsolable grief. Ibn Ezra (on Genesis 37:35) adds that Isaac, Jacob’s father, shared in the grief for his missing grandson and that both Isaac and Jacob were no longer able to commune with God because of their sorrow.
Ibn Ezra learns about sadness cutting the ability to communicate with God from the story of the prophet Elisha. Elisha the Prophet (see II Kings) had been sad ever since his master, the prophet Elijah, had passed away. Elisha called for a minstrel to play a tune to cheer him up, which then allowed him to talk to God.
Similarly, as long as Jacob and Isaac were sad, they would be unable to receive any prophetic messages. Hence the dictum that one cannot effectively contact God if one is in a poor frame of mind.
May we always strive for happiness and thereby more readily reach God.
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukah,
To the Comedy for Koby comedians who just completed their 2012 Israel Tour. May they continue to bring good cheer wherever they go.