Is happiness temporal or eternal?

The happiness of Succot.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Happiness is a problem. How often to we really reach our goals and attain our desires? And when we do, how long does it last? Even as we are enjoying our blessings, their short-lived nature is not lost on us. How then can we attain and maintain true happiness?

Some recommend mindfulness; just live in the moment, that is all you have. Others suggest that we stop viewing happiness as the goal of life. Just do good work, make the world a better place for others, that is where man can find meaning, not in the pursuit of happiness.

The happiness problem is not a new one. King Solomon, wisest of men, struggled with it. “ Come I will treat you to happiness… that too was futile… There is nothing worthwhile for man but to eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of his labor, this too is given from the hand of God.” (Ecclesiastes, chapter 2).

It seems that Solomon is eschewing happiness. But what is this alternative that he prescribes? Why recommend enjoying the fruits of labor, when the enjoyment (happiness) is pointless?

The answer lies in the end of the verse, “this too is given from the hand of God.” Happiness and enjoyment are fleeting, but when they are a vehicle to experience God’s love, they are eternal. Every bite of delicious food, the warm sun on our face, the beautiful snow-capped mountains, they are all expressions of God’s love for us.

Succos is the holiday of simcha, joy, celebrating the bountiful harvest. The proper place to experience this joy is the Succah — a temporary structure. Instead of ignoring the niggling sense that this happiness is short lived, we embrace it. The simple material aspect of our blessings — the food on our table — may be brief, but we see deeper, we see eternal spiritual bounty behind the physical harvest.

Originally published at http://rabbishmulihalpern.com.

Adult Jewish education. Denver Colorado