udaism stresses that the ultimate goal of man is serving and cleaving to G-d. As King David said, “One thing I ask of Hashem, that shall I seek: Would that I dwell in the presence of Hashem all the days of my life” (Tehillim 27:4). Shlomo, his son, noted that man’s whole duty is to fear G-d and keep His commandments (Kohelet 12:13). As opposed to other philosophies, Judaism does not view happiness as the goal in life; rather, the goal should be to do what is right in G-d’s eyes. Although this is the
case, Judaism recognizes happiness as an obvious result of fullling
the ultimate goal of serving and cleaving to G-d. The happiness derived from coming close to G-d is discussed throughout Jewish liturgy. Zechariah (2:14) declared, “Sing and be glad, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst - the word of Hashem.” From this verse, it appears that the presence of Hashem rouses happiness amongst the Jewish
people. Devrei HaYamim (16:10) conrms this connection with the
words, “The heart of those who seek Hashem will be happy.” From the Jewish perspective, following G-d’s word also creates happiness in the heart. Tehillim (19: 8-9) states, “The Torah of Hashem is perfect, restoring the soul, the testimony of Hashem is trustworthy, making the simple wise; the orders of Hashem are upright, gladdening the heart…” Furthermore, later in Tehillim (97:11) it is written, “Light is sown for the righteous, for the upright of heart, gladness.” This verse again emphasizes the relationship between piety and happiness. Ramchal connects the concepts of following the Torah and G-d’s presence in his work Mesillat Yesharim. As he writes in Chapter 1, “True perfection is only cleaving to G-d…but for man to merit
this good, it is tting he should rst work…with the strength of his
actions that produce this result and these [actions] are the mitzvot.” In other words, doing mitzvot creates a spiritual proximity to G-d. Therefore, these actions lead to happiness, while they are aimed at a greater goal. Hence, according to the Jewish perspective, serving G-d is the source of true happiness. There is empirical data that seems to point toward the positive effect of Torah observance. Professor Jeremy D. Kark, M.D. Ph.D., et al. noted that “mortality in 11 secular kibbutzim between 1970 and 1985 was nearly twice that of 11 matched religious kibbutzim” . They conducted a cross sectional study on 10 of these
kibbutzim and concluded that “the ndings are consistent with an
interpretation that Jewish religious observance may enhance the formation of certain protective personality characteristics.” This study suggests an association between Jewish religiosity and a lower kibbutz mortality rate.
Does Performing Mitzvot Make Us Happy?
Professor Jeff Levin reported on ndings of the 2009 Israel Social
Survey, which involved 6,056 Jewish participants . Religious indicators were found by asking the participants questions about their Jewish religious knowledge, their preservation of Jewish tradition, their synagogue attendance, and how important they viewed Jewish observance. The amount of knowledge regarding Jewish religion and tradition was positively correlated with greater well-being. Well-being was measured with the help of self-assessment questions regarding health, functional health, and life satisfaction. Synagogue attendance showed a large positive relationship with overall life satisfaction, as did the preservation of Jewish religious tradition. The importance of Jewish observance seemed to have no effect. Datim and Haredim self-reported to have the greatest levels of well-being. Overall, Professor Levin found
that “greater Jewish religious observance is signicantly associated
with higher scores on indicators of self-rated health, functional health, and life satisfaction.” Two studies were conducted by Professor Leslie J. Francis et al. on religiosity, personality, and happiness, one study among 203 Israeli male and one study among 298 female undergraduates [3, 4]. Religiosity was measured using the Katz-Francis Scale of Attitude toward Judaism, a questionnaire analyzing their responses to G-d, Bible, prayer, synagogue, and the Jewish religion. By taking
personality into account, a signicant positive correlation between
religiosity and happiness was noted. These studies suggest that feelings of connection to G-d and observance of Jewish customs are associated with increased levels of happiness and other positive qualities. However, Judaism understands the element of personal choice as well. For example, in Tehillim (100:2), we are told to take initiative to “serve Hashem with happiness, come before Him with joyous song.” In fact, the Jewish people were warned regarding what would happen if they did not add the personal dimension of happiness to their service, with the words “Because you did not serve Hashem, your G-d, amid happiness and goodness of heart…so you will serve your enemies whom Hashem will send against you, in hunger and in thirst, in nakedness and without anything...” (Devarim 28: 47-48). In the Jewish view, though there is a necessary element of personal connection to the mitzvot, happiness is still ultimately derived from service and relationship with G-d, and empirical evidence seems to support this belief. Through their connection and service of G-d, people can attain an inward happiness, based on something beyond themselves.