In small-town New England, which was my home up until six weeks ago, signs like this are more often seen in front of local fire departments with messages like: "Spagetti Dinner Fiday Nite, $6 all u can eat." (Yes, the misspellings and abbreviations are all part of the charm).
A few things surprised me about the letter board sign I saw on the way to the synagogue a few days ago, which said, "Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." The first thing that surprised me is that it is not in front of a church. It's in front of the State Farm insurance agency in Palm City, Florida (like a good neighbor). The second thing is that the message is so immediately relevant to this week's Torah portion (Re'eh), and to the central purpose of this blog.
I suppose that truth is where you find it, even if it's on a letter board sign in a Florida beach town.
This week's Torah portion begins with Moses setting out the two big options before the Israelites: "See, this day I set before you blessing and curse—blessing, if you will listen to the mitzvot of Adonai your God that I am enjoining upon you today; and curse, if you do not listen..." (Deuteronomy 11:26-28). That's the simple lesson. The choice is yours to either live a life that is in harmony with what is right and good, or to choose to live a life that disrupts the order. One way leads to happiness and one way leads to suffering.
Moses (and the local State Farm agent, for that matter) does not mean that God will magically bring luxury and comforts to those who obey the commandments and a lump of coal to those who don't. The teaching is more basic than that. We choose our happiness in the ways we live our lives. When we live a meaningful life that is connected to other people, when we make the happiness of others a priority in our lives, we experience our own happiness.
It is a message that is all around us in the choices we make every day. You are the master of your own happiness. The signs are everywhere.