Truths You Can Use

You Spend It On Other People.

money can buy you happiness ;What is the secret of happiness? Religion has explored this question for millennia. So have philosophy and literature. Science recently entered the picture. Since the 1990s, the field of positive psychologyhas focused on individual well-being and satisfaction.What do happy people share in common? What qualities do they display? Does one quality matter more than others?

Pondering these questions, I’ve seen a pattern emerge: The discoveries of positive psychology point to the qualities that Jewish wisdom associates with a righteous person. In other words, the qualites that make for righteousness also make for happiness. What are they?

1. Gratitude: When we feel grateful for what we have and who we are, we feel greater satisfaction with our lives. We are more open to engaging experiences and maintaining the relationships we enjoy, since we are grateful for them. We are less envious of others because we find satisfaction in what we have.

2. Generosity: For a couple of years, a recurring commercial for a financial company proclaimed the motto, “It’s my money, and I need it now!” This attitude makes for profound unhappiness.

Consider this question: Do you ever get more exciting about giving rather than receiving a present? It’s about the relationship. Giving deepens relationships in a way that makes us happier in the long run.

Point in fact: As a rabbi I’ve noticed that our Bar and Bat Mitzvah students (13 years old) derive enormous satisfaction from the community service we ask them to do. While getting presents is great, helping others creates a long-lasting satisfaction.

3. Prayer: Prayer is not about asking for things. We pray to be inspired. We pray to remind ourselves to live with purpose. Prayer is like opening windshapes on a sunny day. We see the world in a different light.

4. Community: In the English language, life is a singular noun. The plural form is “lives.” Yet, in Hebrew, Chaim means bothto life happiness life (singular) and lives (plural). In fact, Hebrew has no word that simply means “life” in the singular.

That grammatical feature illustrates a deeper truth. Life is best lived in the plural. The amount of happiness we find on the journey of life depends more on our fellow travels than our individual destination.

5. Hope: Life is not easy. Disappointments and difficulties confront us all. We could meet such challenges with stoicism. We could drown them out with constant stimulation or mindless pleasure. Or we can take a third way.

The third way is one of hope. Hope combines vision with action. It allows to imagine a world different than our own. Even if we love where we are now, vision and possibility add to our to satisfaction and help find a way to pass on a better world to the next generation.
By Evan Moffic,


Do You Believe Money Can Buy You Happiness? What Makes for Enduring Happiness?

power of prayer holidays

Something magical happens in our home on Friday night. The bustle of the week stops. The noise of dinner time fades away. The iPad powers down (at least for a while).

What changes everything, however, is the moment we put our hands on our children and say a blessing over them. The blessing is short, personal, and changes every week. Its impact, however, is almost always the same: a smile, a hug, and a relaxed look of joy.

It’s not the words themselves that are magical. It’s words together with the mood and the people.

What Prayer Does

The old saying goes “A family that prays together stays together.” While experience and reflection make that statement seem simplistic for me, the truth is that prayer creates a unique feeling of kinship and joy.

It helps children feel connected and secure, and it reminds adults that there is more to life than constant activity. Prayer puts life in perspective.

Pray for Ourselves

Some might object that the purpose of prayer is not to make us feel better. It is to speak to God. This view of prayer is far too limiting.

In fact, the Hebrew word li-hit-palel means “to pray,” and it falls into the category of what linguists called “reflexive verbs.” That means that the direct object of the verb “to pray” is ourselves. When we pray, we are shaping ourselves.

In this time of holiday celebration, let us remember the power of prayer. It’s not just something we do in a church or synagogue. It’s something we can do in our homes, with our family and friends, and with all those we love.

By Evan Moffic,


mayan end of the world jewish

Today we reach the last day of the ancient Mayan calendar. This fact has prompted to predict the end of the world.

These types of predictions are nothing new to people of faith. While we may not agree with them, we can certainly make use of them.

They remind us to ask ourselves the question: If we knew we would not be here tomorrow, how would we live today?  

Be a Blessing

The answer I often turn to is captured in the words traditionally said in Judaism after a loved one dies. Zichrono l’vracha, “May his memory be a blessing.”

These words convey the purpose of a well-lived life. That those who come after you, those who remember you, look to your life as a blessing, a benediction, and an inspiration.

Being a blessing means that you have touched the lives of those you knew, and that you have helped them to do the same for others.


To be a blessing is not something we should contemplate only if the end of the world is approaching. It is not something we should think of only when a loved ones. Rather, our true task is to be a blessing, today and every day.

By Evan Moffic,


Religion and gun violence

The horrific school shooting in Connecticut has reignited a debate on gun control. Judaism does not have a particular policy prescription or political view. What we do have is an insightful story of cultural transformation.

Sword Fights on the Sabbath

It emerged in a debate 2000 years ago over a seemingly minute question. The question was whether or not individuals can wear a sword on the sabbath.

Those who permitted it argued that wearing a sword is like wearing a clothing accessory today. It is an ornament, a symbol of honor and dignity.

Other rabbis challenged this view. A sword is not merely an ornament, they argued. It is a symbol of warfare. Such symbol of war undermines the spirit of holiness and peace of Shabbat.

The pro-sword group won this round of the debate.

A New Debate

Another group of rabbis, however, revisited it 300 years later. They returned to the question of whether a sword could really be considered a symbol of honor and dignity. “Where’s the proof?”  they asked.

In response, one rabbi cited a verse from the Book of Psalms: “Gird your sword upon your side, O mighty one, in your splendor and glory.” (Psalms 45:4) This verse proves that the Bible considers idea the sword an ornamental symbol of “splendor and glory.”

His opponents’ response shows us a stunning transformation in Jewish culture. The “sword of splendor and glory,” they argued, does not refer to an actual physical sword. Rather, it refers to the word of God. A sword symbolizes the power and strengthen of God’s teachings.

The Book and the Sword

Isn’t this a bit of a stretch? How can one say that a sword really means God’s word? The reason lies in a profound story of history.

During the 300 years between the two debates, the Jewish people underwent a transformation. A society where violence and warfare was common became one sustained by the community and study. New challenges had demanded a new response.

No longer was carrying a sword necessary, wise or symbolic of “glory and splendor.” Rather, protecting a culture and way of life depended on studying and internalizing God’s word. That was the source of true strength. 

A Changing America

Perhaps America is undergoing a similar transformation. The time when the Second Amendment was written was one marked by constant violence and warfare. It served to protect our emerging nation from its many external enemies.

Maintaining our society today rests on much more than firearms. It rests on the ability to teach and sustain respect, compassion and the freedom to learn and live without fear.

We need to learn that physical resources are not our only source of strength. We also need spiritual sensitivity, educational access and moral depth. We need the strength to grow and address the needs and challenges of today.

By Evan Moffic,


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