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Surreptitious Happiness

August 22, 2013


How often I have heard people say, “all I want for myself and my children is for them to be happy.”  Our Jewish tradition looks at life from a different perspective.  According to Judaism, every child is born with a purpose.  On the eighth day, a child is not magically granted happiness.  Instead of happiness, the child enters into a covenant with God, to repair our broken world, which becomes our central purpose.  Most people look at life differently, trying to achieve happiness through a series of goals:  achieving the best grades to go to the best schools and to have the most significant careers, which will lead to status and maybe result in happiness.

 In our tradition, when King David died, his young inexperienced son, King Solomon, dreamt that God offered him one wish.  He did not dream for happiness or wealth, rather he chose wisdom.

 The truth is clear:  happiness is to be found not in its pursuit, but as an unintended consequence of right living.  In fact, the Hebrew Bible has no word for happiness.  It speaks of being joyful, content, and fortunate.  But the wisdom of Judaism has learned through thousands of years that satisfaction in life is found through the immersion in community and finding something bigger than ourselves.  The great teacher, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, spoke of the “ineffable delight of sacred deeds.”  This is Judaism’s path of fulfillment:  finding sacred community; nurturing a peaceful home; hospitality to strangers; righteous living; Jewish learning; visiting the sick; acts of kindness; benevolent goodness; perfecting a broken world.  It is a long list, but it is one if followed surreptitiously can bring about happiness.   



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