Parsha Emor begins exhorting the Cohan not to be defiled by death. The Cohan is not to come in contact with the dead. The Isbhitz quotes a parable: A king tells his chef, “Don’t even look at a dead person.” Your job is to make me happy and how can you succeed in making me happy if you see the dead.
Clearly the cook is a metaphor for the Cohan. The same way the cook serves the king and his duty to is to bring the king joy, so to the Cohan serves Hashem and the people of Israel and the Cohan’s mission is to bring joy.
The SD has a question on this parable: What does the king care if the cook is happy? The cook has a job. If he does not succeed in pleasing the king, the cook can be replaced. The cook’s job is to please the king regardless of his own feelings, emotions or mental health.
The SD would like to weigh in. This is exactly the point. Hashem requires us to serve Him, his creations and other beings. But part of that charge is that we derive pleasure, benefit and happiness from our service. We cannot let our service be marred with unhappiness. The same way the king does not want the cook to look at a death or be sad in his service, so to Hashem does not want us to be sad. The Cohan cannot come into contact with death because he is charged with bringing joy into the world with his service in the Temple or to Israel.
The lesson or take away for us is intensely personal and quite difficult. Really it is not so easy to be happy. It is not so easy to avoid “death” or the challenges, obstacles and frustrations of life. We face daily hurdles which bring us down and slowly wear us down. The challenge is serving Hashem like the parable. Be the chef and be happy in your service to Hashem and His creations. That is the true challenge.