The Maharal in his commentary on Avos (6:1) says that happiness flows from completeness, just as grief is the result of loss and deficiency. One of the things that make us feel complete is connecting to the people in a community. I spent last Shabbos out-of-town and the degree of connection among the members was palpable. In an out-of-town shul or community each person’s contribution is needed more, leading to a greater sense of connection. This is a great benefit of an out-of-town community.
Connection and happiness can be improved in any community. Rav Itamar Shwartz, the author of the popular Bilvavi and Da Es seforim, teaches the goal of chesed is to increase our connection to others. There are many opportunities to give in our Shuls, on an institutional or personal level. In my morning minyan, there is a gentleman who moves the talaisim from storage to each person’s seat. This act creates an unbelievable bond between him and the members. We can all look for opportunities to do these acts of chesed, thereby increasing our connection to others.
In addition to acts of kindness, we can also create connections in our minds and hearts. On the flight home, I was on a small 240 seat plane and there were 11 orthodox Jews who all happened to be sitting in the last 3 rows. As we took off I observed several of them saying Tehillim and/or Tefillas HaDerech. At that point I felt a strong connection to a group that was collectively acknowledging our Creator. As the Ramban at the end of Parsha Bo writes “the purpose of raising our voices in prayer and the purpose of Shuls and the merit of communal prayer is that people should have a place where they can gather and acknowledge that G-d created them and caused them to be and they can publicize this and declare before Him, ‘We are your creations’”.
Our purpose in life is to connect to G-d and to connect to other people with our thoughts, emotions and actions. In the process, we increase our happiness and more importantly take a step towards that day when “Hashem will be One and His Name will be One”.