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EXPLORING THE DUAL NATURE OF LAUGHTER: ITS BENEFITS AND PITFALLS IN SPIRITUAL AND SOCIAL CONTEXTS

בס”ד

Develop yourself to the best of your ability

Introduction


In Mesillat Yesarim, it is noted that laughter is a factor that leads to a decrease in vigilance, which is striking because laughter initially seems healthy. This raises questions about the relationship between laughter and vigilance. Let’s delve into the dual nature of laughter, examining both its benefits and pitfalls in spiritual and social contexts.

The Benefits of The Power of Humor

We see in Tractate Shabbat that Rabbi Judah HaNasi clearly understood the benefits of the power of humor, as he always began his lessons with a joke. He did so because he knew that humor can have a positive influence on our mood and our ability to better absorb the teachings of Torah material.

The importance of a joyful heart is further emphasized in the Talmud, which mentions that prophets could come to prophecy when their hearts were cheerful. An example of this is found in the story of Elisha, who became cheerful from music and thus felt the hand of G-d come upon him (2 Kings 3:15).

Laughter is also important for our overall health and well-being, as it helps us to better cope with life and to deal with the inevitable challenges and frustrations.

The Ramchal emphasizes the importance of a positive attitude and suggests that expressing joy and making humorous remarks awaken our inner selves and give us a more positive outlook on life.

Rabbi Golombeck notes that Hashem created us to be happy and encourages us to do exercises to feel good, such as simply smiling.

The Pittfall of Vulnerabilty of Humor

However, while humor can make us laugh and give us a good feeling, we must be aware of the impact of bad jokes on others. Bad humor can easily lead to feelings of shame and humiliation for those targeted by the joke. When jokes are used to ridicule or hurt others, this can cause serious emotional pain and even lead to long-term damage to relationships. Moreover, bad humor can easily lead to lashon hara, or evil speech. Jokes that ridicule others, spread gossip, or reinforce negative stereotypes contribute to an atmosphere of gossip and slander that is harmful to individuals and communities. Spreading such negativity goes against the ethical values of respect, kindness, and compassion that are central to Judaism.


By Angelique Sijbolts

See also the blog: Humour on an Ocean Liner

Inspired by:

Mesilat Yeserim with Commentaries chapter 5
Article Breslov: The Best Medicine by Dennis Rosen

Sefaria Tractate Shabbat

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