Friday, May 23, 2014

What does Judaism mean by happiness?

Happiness in Premodern Judaism Virtue, Knowledge, and Well-Being

by Hava Tirosh-Samuelson
Properly understood, I contend that in Judaism happiness does not mean possessing material goods, having fun, feeling content, or enjoying physical pleasures, although some of these elements may be part of the happy life. 

Happiness is not a subjective feeling manifested in a given moment or for a short period of time. Instead, it means flourishing, thriving, and experienc­ing well-being appropriate to human beings. It is an objective state of affairs that pertains to human nature and to the quality of a human life as a whole,from the perspective of its entire duration.

Moreover, the intrinsically good life is inseparable from a set of religious beliefs, the most important of which is that God, the creator of the world, has a special relationship with the People of Israel, to whom God revealed His Wisdom and Will in a form of law: the Torah. The challenging question, then, is not "How can Judaism be concerned with happiness?" but rather, "Can the notion of happiness in Judaism make sense independent of the belief in Torah and the life that flows from it?" I answer that question in the negative. Until Baruch (Benedict) Spinoza in the mid-seventeenth cen­tury, all premodern Jewish thinkers held that Jews could flourish only if they lived the life of Torah and devoted themselves to fathoming God's Wis­dom. Nonetheless, their views were not all struck from one mold. Over time, those thinkers gave different answers to the basic questions "What does Torah mean?" "How does the Torah ensure human happiness?" "How does Torah relate to Wisdom?" and "What results from following Torah and pursuing Wisdom?

1 comment :

  1. There is an intrinsic link between serving HaShem, Joy (happiness) and material abundance.
    Deut 28: 47 because thou didst not serve the LORD thy God with joyfulness,
    and with gladness of heart, by reason of the abundance of all things;
    The anti-materialism of post Biblical Judaism is a reaction to Galuth and severance from HaShem.


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