Judaism's Value of Happiness

Another common time to express gratitude is before and after eating. In the Jewish blessing after meals, the words "v'achalta v'savata uveirachta" (you shall eat, be satisfied, and bless) are recited, teaching that one not only expresses gratitude on eating, but also on the feeling of being full and satisfied. Before we run to fulfill our next desire, we should pause to be full of gratitude and contentment (histapkut).

To be sure, happiness alone cannot be our end point. Toni Morrison, speaking to college graduates, said it best: "I urge you, please don't settle for happiness. It's not good enough. Of course, you deserve it. But if that is all you have in mind—happiness—I want to suggest to you that personal success devoid of meaningfulness, free of a steady commitment to social justice, that's more than a barren life, it is a trivial one. It's looking good instead of doing good." While we should strive to live with joy, we should balance this with other life commitments and values.

When we actively cultivate gratitude and idealism, we can become happier individuals better equipped to change the world and live inspired lives committed to doing good. The Jewish people have much to be preoccupied with, but when we infuse joy into our service and commitment we can actualize to the next level and in more sustainable and enjoyable ways.

4/1/2012 4:00:00 AM