The Book of Koheleth: A Biblical theory of human happiness

Happiness as a human goal

If you were to ask a random person you would meet on the street what his or her goal in life would be, chances are the answer would be: happiness (or an offshoot of happiness such as contentment, joy or gladness; for the sake of simplicity, I use the term ‘happiness’  as a catch-all term).

That happiness is the greatest good and the end to which all our actions ultimately aim is assumed by one of the most important philosophical works of all time, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, which set out to explain the essence of happiness. 

In modern times, happiness is as elusive as ever, often a mere concept to which we pay lip service, a role that we play. While a friend or family member may say to you that everything is great, the truth may be that unhappiness has taken hold of them, infiltrating their thoughts and actions on a daily basis, causing anxiety and depression.

The current festival of Succoth is considered the time of our happiness (‘zman simchateinu’) in the Jewish calendar, making this an apt time to consider where the pursuit of happiness fits in according to the Bible.

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