I am sure I have shared my secret about the holidays — I bring a book to synagogue! Every year I look through what I have and check out something new and inspiring. This year I choose a book that I have wanted to read even though it isn’t new: “The Happiness Prayer” by Rabbi Evan Moffic. There is so much today about looking for happiness and we often question if that is a worthwhile endeavor — there is so much more to the meaning of life! As I perused the book, this spoke to me: The modern English word happiness comes from the Middle English, hap, as in happenstance and haphazard. The origin suggests that a happy life is a result of randomness and luck. The Hebrew word for happiness — simcha — demands intention. It comes from an intentional pursuit of joy amid community. That difference suggests that finding happiness is a choice. It is a choice available to all of us. Happiness is not a destination. It is the path itself.
That sets Jewish happiness apart! Now Rabbi Moffic shares a prayer that is said every morning as part of morning prayers. Here is Rabbi Moffic’s paraphrasing of Eilu Devarim:
Honor those who gave you life.
Invite others into your life.
Be there when others need you.
Celebrate good times.
Support yourself and others during times of loss.
Pray with intention.
Look inside and commit.
Then each chapter touches on each of the 10 “things.” Focusing on these will make you happy if we start each day remembering them. You can find this in your prayer book or use Rabbi Moffic’s words and there is even a song by Susan Colin “Things Without End” that may work for you. My advice is to read the book and at the end, each chapter has five questions for you to think about. However, we can begin without the book (some of you don’t have to buy every book that looks good although I struggle to say no to a book). Choose one for the day or week and be intentional about it!
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center in Dallas.
The road to happiness is a choice to make