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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 January 2014

Jonathan Sacks*
Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, 1991–2013


Happiness has both universal and culturally specific forms. This article describes three sensibilities of happiness in Judaism: the prophetic life of struggle; the happiness of ashrei, with its life of simplicity in accordance with the will of God; and simchah, the life-lived-in-relationship given supreme expression in Moses's covenantal vision in the book of Deuteronomy. Focusing, in particular, on the social vision of Moses, the article explores how Jewish notions of happiness challenge contemporary conceptions of happiness grounded in materialism and acquisition, and it discusses how a focus on material happiness threatens to undermine relationships and the social fiber that is the thread from which true and lasting happiness is woven.

Copyright © Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University 2014 

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