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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Oct. 13, 2008 / 14 Tishrei 5769

The Happiness Quotient

By Rabbi Yonason Goldson


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What the World Values Survey Association could have learned from the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkos)


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Citizens of Denmark are the happiest people in the world. Puerto Ricans are second, followed by people in Colombia. Residents of the United States rank 16th.

These are the conclusions of the World Values Survey (WVS), published this past July in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. "Researchers measured happiness [in 97 nations] by simply asking people how happy they were, and how satisfied they were with their lives as a whole."

Based upon survey results, researchers concluded that happiness derives from increased personal freedom, prosperity, and social tolerance. Evidently, it is the acquisition of wealth and the opportunity to use it as one wants without social criticism that makes us happy.

Upon reading these results, Anton Kaiser wondered if something was not rotten in the state of Denmark. The retired career army officer did some research and reported his findings in the Dakota Voice: "Denmark, Puerto Rico, and Colombia are highly literate democracies (98%, 94%, and 93% literacy, respectively), whose people speak primarily one language (Danish, Spanish, and Spanish, respectively), and who are overwhelmingly Christian (Lutheran 90%, Catholic 85%, and Catholic 85%, respectively)."

Kaiser wondered why these statistics did not lead researchers to conclude that opportunity, education, common culture, and religious commitment might have been the relevant criteria for producing happiness. But he didn't wonder for very long.

THE CITY OF HAPPINESS IS FOUND IN THE STATE OF MIND
Denmark has topped the WVS list of happiest countries for years. The salient characteristics of Danish culture include legalized abortion, legalized prostitution, legalized drug use, legalized same-sex unions. The majority of Scandinavian countries — namely Norway, Sweden, and Iceland — have similarly "relaxed" social mores, and all rank high on the happiness scale. Of course, it may be mere coincidence that the WVS Association has its headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden.

Kaiser began searching for other factors common to the three highest-ranking countries. He also wondered why Puerto Rico — a province of the United States — had been ranked as a country at all.

"I discovered that Colombia began legalizing abortion in 2006, and in 2007 extended social security and health insurance benefits to same-sex couples, and on April 17, 2008, extended pension benefits to same-sex partners ... I then analyzed Puerto Rico and, sure enough, its legislature had just rejected a gay marriage ban in June 2008." It may simply be another coincidence that the WVS rankings came out the following month.

Then again, it may be that the WVS Association is pushing an aggressive social agenda by asserting that happiness is proportional to social permissiveness and inversely proportional to traditional values. One might easily imagine that any addict visiting a den of drugs and prostitution with no fear of legal, social, or economic consequences would rate his own happiness quotient off the charts.

DEBUNKING THE MYTH OF SATISFACTION
The sages of the Talmud address the question of happiness with pithy insightfulness: Who is wealthy? The one who is happy with his portion. In contrast to the researchers who concluded that wealth produces happiness, the sages observe that happiness is the source of true wealth. One need not look far to discover that many wealthy people endure miserable lives, where many who barely scrape by enjoy lives of joy and fulfillment.

Furthermore, the sages consider a person wealthy because he is happy with his portion — not because he is satisfied. Satisfaction results from the attainment of a goal and is usually fleeting; often, we experience sharp pangs of melancholy after the initial rush that accompanies success. Conversely, happiness results from striving toward a goal that is both attainable and worthwhile. It is this struggle that makes us truly happy, and a life spent striving for goals of intrinsic value is a life of immeasurable happiness.

Indulging every whim and impulse may prove pleasurable, but such pleasure-seeking will merely distract one from the lack of purpose that would otherwise make life intolerable. One who anesthetizes himself with chemical substances and sensory stimulation may deaden his receptors to the paralyzing pain of futility, but he knows nothing of real happiness.

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
The holiday of Sukkos, which follows Rosh HaShonah and Yom Kippur, has been described by the sages as zman simchaseinu — the season of our happiness. A curious appellation for a holiday characterized by exposure to the cool winds of approaching winter beneath a roof of palm branches and bamboo, without either the comforts of the living room or the amusement of electronic entertainment.

Strictly speaking, there is no prohibition against DVDs, video games, or web-surfing in the sukkah, but the spirit of the holiday clearly discourages such distractions. The sukkah — even when elaborately decorated — is essentially a structure of austerity, evoking the distant collective memory of our ancestors wandering through the desert with only simple huts for shelter.

Even by the standards of way back then, the thatched roofs of those Jewish dwellings provided little security. Rather, it was the Clouds of Glory, the manifestation of the Divine Presence, that protected the Jews in that foreboding wilderness and kept them safe from the inimical creatures and hostile elements that threatened them on every side. In the absence of material comfort, with only the manna from heaven to sustain them, the Jews experienced the most profound spiritual joy of divine intimacy with their Creator.

For what purpose did the Almighty engineer the miraculous exodus from Egyptian, hand down His law at Sinai, and lead the Jews toward the land He had promised their forefathers? For this purpose: for them to light up the world with G-d's glory, to radiate divine wisdom and justice from one end of the earth to the other, to inspire all the nations of the earth to accept the yoke of morality and virtue.

The sukkah is a microcosm of the world — unfinished and incomplete. It is here, sitting in his humble sukkah, that a Jew today can experience true happiness by rediscovering the unique sense of meaning that comes from being a partner in Creation. After the judgment of Rosh HaShonah and the atonement of Yom Kippur, after struggling to touch the heights of true spiritual awareness, the holiday of Sukkos brings us back down to earth, reminding us that freedom and wealth become the source of genuine happiness when we see them not as ends in themselves but as tools to use in pursuit of a higher purpose.

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JWR contributor Rabbi Yonason Goldson teaches at Block Yeshiva High School in St. Louis, MO, where he also writes and lectures. Visit him at http://torahideals.wordpress.com .






© 2008, Rabbi Yonason Goldson