The current October 2017 Harvard Business Review (HBR) reports that there is a common dissatisfaction within the workplace where “many professionals who are free to shape their careers are just that: disengaged, unfulfilled, and miserable.” This professional malaise is not limited to the office. HBR cites an American Psychological Association study published this year that concludes, “Americans are reporting more stress than ever owing to politics, the speed of change, and uncertainty in the world.” Dr. Ilene Strauss Cohen postulates in the May 2017 Psychology Today that most people are engaged in a constant pursuit of happiness that is ironically a source of discontent!
The real problem with happiness is neither its pursuers nor their books; it’s happiness itself. Happiness is like beauty: part of its glory lies in its transience. It is deep but often brief (as Frost would have it), and much great prose and poetry make note of this. Frank Kermode wrote, “It seems there is a sort of calamity built into the texture of life.” To hold happiness is to hold the understanding that the world passes away from us, that the petals fall and the beloved dies. No amount of mockery, no amount of fashionable scowling will keep any of us from knowing and savoring the pleasure of the sun on our faces or save us from the adult understanding that it cannot last forever. (From Amy Bloom, The Rap on Happiness. www.nytimes.com, January 29, 2010.)
We previously explored The Unrequited Search for Happiness. We demonstrated how many people have tried, yet failed to discover the elusive formula for the happy life. We concluded that Judaism offers a blueprint to bring happiness and genuine meaning to one’s life. Today, we’re going to take the framework for happiness even one step further. We’re going to share a seemingly unfathomable promise – that it’s possible to experience one entire, non-stop, full week of happiness. Such a money-back guarantee you will not find, not in Disney, Great Adventure, or Yosemite. Also not in the Galapagos Islands, Mt. Everest, nor even from one week of free, unlimited purchases on Amazon.com – drones included!
Life itself comes and goes in a blink – few of us graduate life beyond 90. Judaism in general and Sukkot in particular address these themes. By leaving the comfort of our homes and moving into a sukkah for a full week, we come to understand that life in this world is transient. Paradoxically, the festival of Sukkot, which underscores the transitory nature of life, is characterized as Zman Simchaseinu – it’s the very time and paradigm of happiness!
How can this be? Furthermore, the Talmud declares that whoever did not witness the Sukkot Simchat Beit HaShoevah, the Water Pouring Ceremony at the Beit HaMikdash (Temple), never experienced true joy! So, today, without the Temple, is there even a possibility of experiencing “true” happiness?
These themes and more are explored in depth in the following three Morasha shiurim addressing Sukkot:
Wishing everyone a Chag Someach!