Positive Judaism

Our world needs more unity and less division and caring parents and teachers are in a great place to guide the way. It’s our responsibility to develop the instincts for humanity in our young people and to help them develop authentic human connections and friendship in through three elements: Love, Kindness, and Social Intelligence.

#1 Love (Ahavah in Hebrew) is about valuing and caring relationships and the ability to share and to be in genuine relationship with others. Rabbi Akiva taught that “And you shall love your neighbor as yourself” was the all-embracing principle in the Bible.

On the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself,” the Moses Maimonides taught that this is the basis for many of the rabbinic mitzvot such as visiting the sick, comforting mourners, caring for the dead, providing a dowry for the bride, escorting guests, performing burial rites, rejoicing with bride and groom and helping support them with necessary provisions ( Hilchot Avel 4:1).

#2 Kindness (chesed in Hebrew) is the ability to be compassionate, nurturing, caring, and generous with others. Great is the virtue of gemilut chasadim (love and kindness) because it is one of the thirteen attributes ascribed to God. As it is written: “Adonai, Adonai. . . long suffering and abundant in kindness (rav chesed).” -Exodus 34:6

#3 Social Intelligence (chochma chevrati in Hebrew) is the capability to effectively navigate and negotiate complex social relationships and environments and to have common sense. “The One Who had provided man with intelligence certainly expects that we use our (social) intelligence to legislate such basic laws without which life on earth would become intolerable, anarchic. We must view our common sense as a messenger from God, an instrument that acts as a protection against man experiencing all kinds of harm and problems in his life on earth. When man commits violence against his fellow man this reflects an absence of common sense. -Radak on Genesis 20:6:2

I believe each person was born with the characteristics for loving humanity but over time, our life experiences can teach us to be defensive and guarded. It’s never too late to open a heart and to teach the elements of love, kindness, and social intelligence one step at a time. As the Talmud says, “one good deed leads to another.“

If you are reading this letter, it’s because you are like me and most people I know. You are living with major and minor personal challenge and looking for practical ways to live well. As Reinhold Niebuhr teaches: ”God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”

Reinhold teaches us that the power of courage can lead to important personal growth. We all know people who are living positive lives and simultaneously enduring incredible challenges. Often, people who pass through their valley of the shadows can emerge saying, ““it changed my life for the better.” I hope this is true for you.

Here are five important qualities to medidate upon to overcome major personal challenge in a positive way: bravery, courage, perseverance, honesty, and resilience. And I wish you well on your journey to recovery and positivity.

  1. Bravery (gevurah) is the ability to face physical and non-physical threat, difficulty, or pain.

“Eternal One, hear my prayer: Let my cry come before you. Do not hide Your face from me. In my time of trouble; Turn your ear to m; When I cry, answer me quickly. -Psalm 10:2-3”

  1.  Courage is the willpower to achieve goals in the face of internal or external opposition.

“As the Psalmist teaches, Though I walk through the valley of death, I shall fear no harm, for You are with me. – Psalm 23″

  1. Perseverance (malacha) is the ability to complete the task and to persist in the face of obstacles.

“Personal effort and perseverance contribute the major part to eventual success. In fact, any negligence or laziness is rated as sinful when circumstances seem to have called for exertion of the self.  -Akedat Yitzchak 25:16”

  1. Honesty (emet) is about speaking truth and having real integrity and being able to take responsibility for one’s actions, feelings, and affect on others.

“Moses our teacher commanded on the matter of integrity. As it is written: “You must be wholehearted before your God (Deuteronomy 18:13) -Sefer Ma’alot Hamidot”

  1. Resilience (koach) is that despite the situation, able to remain active, energetic, focused, and flexible. Able to bounce back.\

“Praised are You, Eternal One, Creator of the universe, who has made the human form in wisdom and created in it a system of openings, arteries, glands, and organs that is marvelous in structure and intricate in design. Should only one of them fail to function by being blocked or open, it would be difficult to stand before you. Wonderous fashioner and sustainer of life, source of our health and our strength, we give You thanks and praise.  – Asher Yatzar prayer”

For 20 years, the field of Positive Psychology has conducted longitudinal studies on human behavior, achievement, and character strengths. Today, the tenets of Positive Psychology are the heartbeat of professional coaching, leadership, behavior modification, and self-help. The popularity in human development on resilience, optimism, well-being and happiness, all stem from the field of Positive Psychology.

There is much that Jewish professionals should know about the field of Positive Psychology as it deals primarily with research and findings related to well-being, happiness, and the proven factors that lead people to living lives of meaning. Since clergy and educators have the well-being of the individuals and communities we serve at the center of our work, a knowledge of this field is critical.

My belief is that Judaism and Positive Psychology make the perfect pairing. Both are focused on living a life of meaning and achieving higher levels of well-being. I use a set framework called the VIA Classification of Strengths as the basis for the core traits and values of Positive Judaism. I have paired each virtue and strength in the VIA Classification with their corresponding Jewish values, biblical teachings, and Jewish practices to present the VIA Classification of Strengths  from a Jewish context.

My theory is that when clergy and educators let these values guide their work with individuals and communities, the impact on people will be increased positive emotion, improved relationships and accelerated personal achievement. People will not only be more confident, optimistic, open to diversity, and able to learn lessons from hardship, but they will also experience their work as a calling, act and think with purpose, contribute and help, appreciate family and friends, and act generously. As as result, our communities will become more vibrant and engaging – full of thriving people seeking to grow themselves, their families, and our communities from the place of Jewish values.

This is not the first time a code of virtues (10/613 Commandments, Shulchan Aruch, Mishneh Torah, Mapah, etc.) has attempted to enhance Jewish living, but it is the first time that psychometric research and the science of human flourishing has been brought together b’dibur echad, in one breath.


Here are ten suggestions of how to implement the traits and strengths of Positive Judaism:

Focus on a trait of strength in a personal story, biblical story or character, or contemporary issue to show how the strength was employed to overcome a challenge, improve the situation, or to achieve the goal. “Once he was able to change his perspective, he used his creativity and his perseverance to accomplish his dream.”

2.Pastoral Visits
When visiting the sick or comforting the bereaved, draw upon the traits of courage to help a patient or family pass through a liminal moment. “It seems to me that you have been very courageous. I imagine it has been scary time. What is the source of your bravery? How do you find the resilience to keep going?”

3.Shabbat Gatherings
During prayer gatherings, seek moments for authentic social interaction, meditation, and use teachings to guide people to express their most human values like optimism, hope, love and kindness and to appreciate their love of learning, authentic selves, humility and forgiveness.

4. Shabbat Meals
Infuse each symbol on the shabbat table for people to consider and/or share a personal strength. “As we kindle these shabbat lights, let us take a moment to think about when we brought light to the world this week with an act of love and kindness. As we say this blessing for wine, let us remember a sweet and humorous moment this week that made you laugh. And before we say the motzi, let us each share something we are grateful for in our lives tonight.

5. Jewish Holidays
Throughout the calendar year, the natural themes of the major holidays lend themselves perfectly to developing traits and strengths. The themes of Hanukkah, Passover, and Purim, are perseverance, bravery, teamwork, and hope. On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we focus upon forgiveness, justice and and humility. Sukkot and Tu b’Shevat tends towards gratitude, contentment and appreciation of beauty and humility. Finally, Shavuot, a focus on love of learning, judgement, and curiosity.

6. Life-cycle ceremonies
Life ceremonies are heightened moments to draw upon specific traits and strengths. Baby namings are new beginnings where hope and love for the child is paired with gratitude, awe, and humility for the parents and family members. B’nai Mitzvah teachings can focus on what it means to be a Jewish adult focused upon justice, fairness, prudence, bravery, and resilience in life. Weddings invite a focus upon hope, love, gratitude, awe, and especially forgiveness. Funerals naturally lend themselves to being grateful for life, for the love we shared with the departed, along with forgiveness, hope, and humor which can be cathartic and healing.

7. Classroom Activities
The Jewish classroom is a laboratory for teaching the traits and strengths and working to instill positive character development. Over the course of one academic year, each week could be dedicated to a different strength – “24 weeks of Positive Judaism.” Classroom management and the behavior contract between students and teacher/students can draw upon fairness, forgiveness, resilience, justice, teamwork, leadership, and kindness which all lead to enhanced social awareness in the group setting of a classroom and school.

8. Family and Relationship Counseling
With a focus on well-being and personal transformation, Positive Judaism provides a framework for clergy and communal professionals to support individuals, couples, and families in a counseling setting. Pastors and counselors can reflect upon any of the core strengths and traits and transmit them through Jewish stories, teachings, and wisdom. This unique perspective can offer healing and optimism in difficult moments for example, “my heart goes out to every family in trouble. If it brings you any comfort, yours seems to reflect the truth of the human condition. Even in the Torah, it seems that every person had major trials and tribulations. Sarah was barren until her old age. Joseph was cast away by his brothers. Moses was given up by his mother at childbirth. And the list goes on.”

9. Organizational Management
Staff systems are human systems. Similar to the classroom, the organization is a professional laboratory to develop people and support their achievement through identifying and nourishing the strengths of individuals and groups. Acknowledging the importance of teamwork, perseverance, honesty, fairness, and kindness can support healthy work cultures and ultimately lead people to higher levels of social intelligence and productivity. Leaders say, “our goals are great. If we act as a team, working together, I believe we will reach our goal. As Jewish wisdom teaches, ‘you are not obligated to complete the goal, but you are also not free to desist from it (Pirkei Avot 2:21).’”

10. Communal Leadership
Jewish professionals and leaders have the historic responsibility to advance society and societal achievement for all. Finding regular opportunities for tikkun olam, mitzvah days, and serving the needy allow people to perform just work. Positive Jewish strengths can also be used as a framework for communal planning. “What are our social goals and how to we develop leaders that will guide our community to achieve the best for all? How do we instill hope, optimism, bravery, love, justice, fairness, a love of learning, perspective, etc. into every layer of our community so that we may raise up each person and rise together?

Greetings from Houston.

I just landed with 20 teenagers from New York for three days of Rebuild Houston. I’m so proud of the young women and men that here to make a positive difference in this local community, still facing significant issues 6 months into the hurricane recovery effort.

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Over the next 72 hours, we’re going to rebuild houses, work at the Houston Food Bank, sort clothing for homeless families living in shelters, and connect with the local faith scene. Tonight we’ll be celebrating Shabbat at a Brit Shalom synagogue and after a long day of work tomorrow, we’ll end the day at Lakewood Church with a visit to Joel Osteen.

We’ll be posting pictures over the weekend on our Facebook and Instagram pages. If you’re not already following us online, connect now so we can share in the experience together.

Now a word about the sadness, frustration, and broken hearts we have for the children and families in Parkland, FL. There are so many important voices calling for gun control and the enhanced restrictions on gun sales. We should join the chorus.

The wise sages in the Talmud said, “in a place where nobody is acting human, strive even harder to be a human being.” It’s not true that “nobody is acting human,” despite how it may feel when a tragedy like this occurs. My read is that more and more people are learning to be human and to lead with love and kindness and action – one example being the teenagers powerful call for action. Read this story for some inspiration –

Let’s join these teen-agers in Parkland, and by example the teens that are here with me in Houston, who are all making a positive difference. They could have chosen to retreat in fear and to silently get on with their lives in the classic self-focused teen-ager way, but they are not. Parkland is rallying. And we’ve got 20 teen-agers who chose to spend their President’s Day Vacation helping others in need. That’s inspiring to me. It gives me real hope that we’re growing as human beings who care about humanity. It’s a hint of a silver lining of light that can come from this dark tragedy.

Action is more than words and tikkun olam, the Jewish mandate to repair the world, is real. You may not have woken up this morning thinking that today was going to be your day to do something positive to make our world a better place, but it could be! Make a plan for yourself and those close to you to be kinder, more caring, and more loving to humanity. It’s not going to bring those innocent school children back to life, but it will be one more action to help our world get to positive.

Thank you for doing your part.

Rabbi Darren Levine

We all know people who are negative and critical. We also know people who are positive and caring. I’ve wondered, how can we become more positive and less negative in our lives? How can we develop more care and less criticism? More happiness and less pain? No matter your current state of positivity, there are six pathways to wisdom that come from the research on happiness and Jewish living.

Aristotle said, “knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” The Proverbs expands on this suggesting that the highest goal is “wisdom and discipline, understanding and insight.” Let’s turn to the Five Spiritual Paths to Wisdom from a Jewish perspective.


1. Creativity (in Hebrew, yetzirah)

Wise people are continually thinking of novel ways to conceptualize and do things. They are original and have ingenuity. They use their unique mind to accomplish tasks and they are confident in the way they make decisions. Be creative in your own way, every day!

“In the beginning of God’s creation of the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was empty and darkness was on the face of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the water. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw the light that it was good, and God separated between the light and between the darkness.”

2. Curiosity (in Hebrew, sakranut)

Wise people take interest and have a desire to explore and discover new things. They are open to new experiences and like to expand their minds to new ideas and challenge their current ways of thinking. Curious people like diversity and value having their opinions challenged.

We must help children understand why we do such things at the Passover seder. By telling them “it is because of this” they will come to understand that we celebrate Passover at that time when the matzah and maror are placed on the table. We are explaining to him what it is that makes this moment special for telling the story of the Exodus. In this way one is able to open a discussion of the uniqueness of this evening – with unique symbols that prod our interest and curiosity. In a sense, we point out the symbols and the specialness of the night so that every child will become interested and curious. (Kos Shel Eliyahu on Pesach Haggadah)

3. Judgement (In Hebrew, din)

Wise people are able to be discerning and shift their thinking and redirect their opinions in light of new information. People who have strong judgement are critical thinkers and even if they do not share other people’s opinions, they are respectful and open-minded.

“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding—
indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:1-5)


4. Love of Learning (In Hebrew, Torah l’shma)

Wise people have a desire to master new skills and knowledge through formal and informal education. They are driven to gain knowledge. They like to read, listen to radio, podcasts, lectures, as a pathway to expand their intellect.

“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your mind retain my commandments; For they will bestow on you length of days, years of life and well-being.“ (Prov 3:1-2).


5. Perspective (In Hebrew, da’at)

Wise people have a broad mindset and an ability to provide thoughtful counsel to others and to themselves.  

Shema Yisrael, Listen Israel with your mind open.Seforno, Medieval commentator on Deut 6:4)


I wish you well as you expand your wisdom. To explore these 5 pathways and to learn the research and science behind these 5 pathways, visit

As always, here’s to your wisdom and wellbeing,

Rabbi Darren Levine

Looking for some key personality strengths to develop in order to improve your wellbeing and happiness? I admire your quest – which is very biblical:

For attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding and insight:
For acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair;
For giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young –
Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance –
For understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
-The Book of Proverbs 1:1-7

From the dawn of time, people have been seeking wisdom to improve their lives and there are many ways to find, develop, and nourish your wisdom. One way is to start is by knowing your unique signature strengths.

The team at Values in Action led by Neal Mayerson and Ryan Niemiec have created a marvelous tool to help you discover your signature strengths. They’ve done mega-research on “character” and have found that “Every individual possesses all 24 character strengths in different degrees, giving each person a unique character profile. You can discover your personal character strengths profile by taking the scientifically validated VIA Survey (Values In Action).

“Created under the direction of Dr. Martin Seligman, the “father of Positive Psychology” and author of Authentic Happiness and Flourish, and Dr. Christopher Peterson, distinguished scientist at the University of Michigan and author of A Primer in Positive Psychology, and validated by Robert McGrath, Ph.D., the VIA Survey is regarded as a central tool of positive psychology and has been used in hundreds of research studies and taken by over 5 million people in over 190 countries resulting in better workplaces… schools… teams…LIVES the world over (”

Below are the 24 character strengths alongside their Jewish counterpart that I have created. In my next six blogs, I’m going spend time exploring each of these spheres, one at a time, from a Jewish perspective. But first, take the VIA Signature Strengths survey to learn more about yourself.

Here’s to your journey to Positivity,
Rabbi Darren Levine


6 Spheres of PJ


Dear Reader,

As a congregational rabbi, author, and public speaker, I meet a huge range of people and I am brought into daily contact with great joys and deep pain. Over the years of my life and my career, I’ve often wondered, what makes the difference between a flourishing life and a depressed life? I’ve studied and researched this question. I have asked it of myself and my closest friends. And I have poured over ancient wisdom and modern philosophy to get at this question.

One truth I have learned is that everyone struggles in some way or another. No matter your finances, your job status, your relationship situation, your state of physical health, or where you live, everyone struggles. Nobody is immune to accidents, illness, trauma, loss, and pain. Including me. Yet, it’s always intrigued me that while some people get stuck in their negativity, suffering, and depression, others seem to excel and to thrive no matter the circumstance.

Is the difference based on a person’s psychological make-up? Are some people more prone to negativity and stress while others tend towards happiness and calm?

Is the difference found in a person’s job and income level? Are people with wealth, impressive titles, educational pedigree, and bigger closets, happier than those with smaller bank accounts and fewer possessions?

Is the difference found in where people live? Are people in California who walk on the beach every day happier than those in New York City who ride the subway?

Research suggests it’s none of these things. Contrary to what many people believe, life satisfaction is not based on wealth and professional success. It’s not based on social or career status. And it’s not based on the number of likes one gets on their social media account. Rather, wellbeing and life satisfaction have to do with living the right balance in five domains of life: Work, Relationship, Money, Health, and Community

We are going to explore each of these five life domains in this blog series from a unique perspective, something that has never been done until now. I am going to teach you about thriving and flourishing life from a Jewish perspective, supported by the science of wellbeing and happiness.

Positive Judaism: Where Spirituality and Psychology Meet

Positive Judaism is a multi-disciplinary effort that combines my two areas of interest: faith and spirituality with science and psychology. For example, it is a religious practice to give charity and to tithe. But did you know that charitable giving has been studied in the research laboratory? Social scientists have examined the effects that giving charity has on the donor and the results are in: the person who gives charity has a higher level of wellbeing and life-satisfaction than one who does not give charity. This is Positive Judaism: spiritual practices that add positivity to our lives and to the world.

Take personal relationships. The Bible teaches that it is a commandment to have a spouse and to raise children, “to be fruitful and to multiply.” But what does research conclude about the benefits of marriage and parenthood? On the one hand, it’s been shown that married couples live longer and are physically healthier than the non-married. It’s also been shown that parents are happier than people who do not have children — but not in all circumstances.

I’m going to present the latest research on marriage and show you what the experts are saying about how to create and nourish healthy and loving relationships. On the other hand, for those of you in difficult marriages, asking yourselves with honesty if it’s time to move on, I’m going to show you what Judaism has to teach about divorce (you may be surprised). This is Positive Judaism: upholding tradition while simultaneously understanding how research can help us live our best life possible.

One final example: work life. The Talmud asks, “who is rich?” The answer from religion is, “one who is happy with what they have.”  Yet when 200,000 university students were asked about their life goals recently, 77% of them stated that making money was their most important goal.

Making money is important. But how much money do people need to be happy and what is the effect on a life where making money is the single most important goal? When put under a microscope, the studies conclude that there is only a slight relationship between wealth and happiness. The purpose of living a Jewish life is not about making money, it is about creating meaning. Inspiring you to raise the level of your wellbeing and happiness (which is in your power) through spiritual teachings and scientific research, this is Positive Judaism.

To your positivity and well-being,

Rabbi Darren Levine

Dear Readers,

The BBC recently ran a story asking, “Is religion relevant anymore?” You might say “yes” by the declining numbers in synagogue affiliation – fewer Jews in the pews.

To be relevant, religion must be helpful to people’s real lives. In 2018, most agree that life is complex and challenging and so we need a new language for Judaism that clearly articulates a way to enhance our lives in everything we do and everything we are.

While ancient Jewish texts teach that God chose the Jewish People, we’re seeing clearly that in the 21st century it is the People that will or will not choose to be Jewish. It’s not enough to glorify Judaism and the benefits of living a Jewish life. We need something new and serious.

Enter Positive Judaism, Judaism 4.0

There were three motivators for Jewish life in the last century that are losing or have lost steam all together. Historical memory and Anti-Semitism (1.0), Israel (2.0), and intermarriage (3.0), are not strong enough motivators for lifelong Jewish engagement in the 21st century.

These are all important – it’s important to know our history so that we do not repeat mistakes of the past. It is important that Israel exists as a safe haven for Jews and we must positively support all families who want to be part of the Jewish People – warmly welcoming spouses that were not born Jewish. All of this is a given. But none of this is central enough to our lives in the 21st century because the issues and challenges that we’re facing today are new and different.

Today, people are looking for a deeper meaning to their lives. They want to live a positive life. They want to live well, enjoy life, and make every day count. Helping people with these questions in their lives makes religion worth it. That is why I teach that Positive Judaism is Religion 4.0 because it deals with optimal living, well-being, and happiness. Positive Judaism brings attention to the virtues that enhance life and that are at the core of living a meaningful life:

  • Wisdom: Open-minded, curious, creative, love of learning
  • Courage: Bravery, persistence, integrity, resilience
  • Humanity: Love, kindness, social intelligence
  • Justice: Citizenship, fairness, leadership
  • Temperance: Forgiveness, mercy, humanity, self control
  • Transcendence: Appreciation of beauty, gratitude, hope, humor, spirituality

When Positive Judaism is experienced by an individual or community, the impact will be increased positive emotion, increased communal engagement, improved relationships, and accelerated human advancement. People and communities will be more confident, optimistic, open to diversity, able to learn lessons from hardship, experience work as a calling, act and think with purpose, contribute and help, appreciate family and friends, and act generously.

Positive Judaism is just at the beginning, but together we can build the 4.0 version of religion that will be positive in your life and the world around you.

To Your Positivity and Wellbeing,
Rabbi Darren Levine

Dear Reader,

My belief is that Judaism and Positive Psychology make the perfect pairing. Both are focused on living a life of meaning and achieving higher levels of well-being. Living a Positively Jewish Life will not only guide people to be more confident, optimistic, open to diversity, and able to learn lessons from hardship, but they will also experience their work as a calling, act and think with purpose, contribute and help, appreciate family and friends, and act generously. As as result, our religious communities will become more vibrant and engaging – full of thriving people seeking to grow themselves, their families, and our communities from the place of Jewish values.

The founders of Positive Psychology said:

“We believe that a psychology of positive human functioning will arise, which achieves scientific understanding and effective interventions to build thriving individuals, families and communities.” Unlike traditional psychology with it’s primary focus on treating mental illness through psychotherapy, psychopharmacology, and related cognitive interventions, the goal of positive psychology is primarily concerned with optimal living, nurturing genius and talent, and using research to make life more fulfilling. Positive psychology brings attention to the possibility that focusing only on disorder could result in a partial, and limited, understanding of a person’s whole being and life goals. (sourced from wikipedia “Positive Psychology.)

Positive Psychology is pro-religion and acknowledges the added value of cultural affiliation and the spiritual life in a person’s overall health. Numerous studies have examined the relation of religiousness and mental health, psychological distress, and other variables related to well-being using a variety of measures. It has been shown that religious people are happier and more satisfied with life than non-religious individuals most likely because it’s in the religious realm that people can best express their most human values (optimism, hope, love, kindness, gratitude, etc.) and appreciate and develop their psychological strengths (bravery, courage, authenticity, love of learning, humility, forgiveness, etc). Research studies conclude that:

  • Religious people are happier and healthier, and recover better after trauma than nonreligious people.
  • The social support, fellowship, and sense of identity allows people to share in one another’s burdens and achievements and helps people feel less isolated.
  • The strong emotional experiences of worship and prayer provide comfort and encourage awe and wonder and the search for the Divine.
  • Faith education provides the context to ask existential questions: Who am I? What is my life for? Where do I fit in? Who is the creator? How do I live a virtuous life and improve the world around me?” [see Sonia Lyubormirsky, The How of Happiness: A New Guide to Getting the Life You Want (New York: Penguin) 228-239]

Now, enter Positive Judaism:

Positive Psychology finds a perfect application in Jewish living. One might say, “everything about Judaism is already positive! Our values, our customs, for 3000 years it has sustained us. We don’t need new, we need tradition!” My response is that Positive Judaism is tradition.  As Ben Bag Bag would say, “Turn it, and turn it, for everything is in it. . .don’t turn from it, for nothing is better than it (Pirkei Avot 5:22).”

Positive Judaism is a turn towards authentic Judaism. It takes the guesswork out of what makes life meaningful because we can now benefit from research in human well-being. We have a new opportunity to “turn it and turn it” again. But now, a turn in with a framework that approaches Judaism with the human science of well-being at its core. When clergy and educators focus on these values in their teachings and use them “religiously” and consistently, I believe the effect over time will help individuals and communities:

  • Find enhanced meaning and value to prayer, Shabbat and Jewish holidays
  • Find enhanced relevance in Jewish life-cycle events and Jewish ritual
  • Find enhanced strength when living hurts during struggle, illness, death, and tragedy
  • Find a deep connection to their authentic Jewish selves and participate more often in Jewish life experiences.

Ultimately, Positive Judaism answers the question, “why be Jewish?” For people who are seeking to enhance their personal well-being, for Jewish leaders who are seeking to have a relevant and positive impact in their ministry, and for individuals and congregations seeking to have a positive impact on their larger community, Positive Judaism offers a compelling framework for Jewish living in the 21st Century.

To your wellbeing and positivity,

Rabbi Darren Levine


Dear Reader,

I am pleased to welcome you to Positive Judaism – a new vision for those that are serious about improving their individual lives, their families, and their communities through spiritual living.

As a rabbi, I’ve witnessed in the lives of many a deep commitment to Jewish identity but the struggle at times to find a real connection to prayer, holiday observance, Bible study and God. We all know that life is complex and challenging and we need a new language for Judaism that clearly articulates a way to enhance our lives in everything we do and everything we are.

You may be Jewish or not. An observant or a cultural Jew. You may be a convert to Judaism or in a dual-faith marriage or family. You may be an atheist or a believer. You may be young or old, in good health, in recovery, or enduring a serious illness. You may already be thriving or you may be facing daily, even hourly challenges in your personal life, career, marriage, or family. No matter your background or your life experience, my message is simple: Judaism is a clear and ancient path to improving your life and the lives of those around you.

For people who are seeking to enhance their personal well-being, for leaders who are seeking to have a relevant and positive impact on the lives of their members, and for congregations seeking have a positive impact on their larger community, Positive Judaism has language that will help you find a compelling answers to these questions.

If you care about happiness and wellbeing, than Positive Judaism, simply put, is for you. If you want to be a better spouse, a more effective parent, a more valued community member, than Positive Judaism is for you. And if you want to live your calling and learn how to spend your money in ways that will bring you the greatest sense of authentic happiness and real meaning, then Positive Judaism is for you.

Positive Judaism is a practical and spiritual approach to finding joy in your every day and improving the world. It’s not a doctrine, it’s not a movement, and it’s not a formula. Positive Judaism is a philosophy. A philosophy that applies Jewish living, Jewish teachings, and the Jewish experience of 3000 years to improve the state of happiness and wellbeing in your life. It only starts with you. And then it ripples out to your family, your friends, and your community, making the world a more positive place for everyone — a very Jewish ideal.

Now, here is my commitment to you:

Positive Judaism will help you achieve new levels of happiness and life satisfaction. It will guide you to share love and joy, while simultaneously, showing you how to withstanding life’s inevitable storms and disappointments. There are some very basic Jewish practices that you can begin applying right now to become more positive. As a result, you will raise the quality of wellbeing in your own life and in the lives of those around you. But it starts first with your own happiness and your own well-being.

Positive Judaism is more than thinking positive, though a positive mindset is important. Once you learn this philosophy, understand your specific characteristics strengths and the key areas of wellbeing, you will have the ingredients to improve your career, your physical health, your relationships, and your finances.

The responsibility to improve your life is your own, but the results will be contagious. The people around you will feel your new level of positive emotion and engagement and they will benefit in their own lives. We all know people who resonate joy, hope, optimism, and courage. We also know people who are negative, pessimistic, critical, and fearful. This book will guide you to always be on the positive side of life and to thrive.

This is my hope for you.
This is my commitment to you.
Let us begin.

To Your Positivity and Wellbeing,
Rabbi Darren Levine