Tag Archives: times of israel

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.

Continue reading this post at the Times of Israel by clicking here

Walter White and the Book of Job: Why it’s so difficult to rejoice at the downfall of the wicked

walter white

Along with millions of other viewers, I have been mesmerized by the ingenious screenwriting and directing that has crystallized into this fifth and final season of Breaking Bad.

In the most recently aired episode, Ozymandias (warning: spoilers ahead), viewers bore witness to the sudden and thorough collapse of the world of the chemistry teacher turned villain, Walter White, a character developed as masterfully as any other on screen in recent years. In fact, what perhaps compelled me most about this episode was how apt a depiction it was of the fall of the wicked man discussed throughout the book of Job.

Walt’s unceasing stream of dastardly deeds throughout the series, which includes chronic mental abuse, pathological lies and multiple homicides, represents an impressive resume of evil. And therefore, to see the valiant response of the writers of Breaking Bad to Job’s plea to God: “is it good to You that You should oppress and despise the work of Your hands and shine upon the counsel of the wicked? (Job 10:3)” should have infused me with at least some semblance of satisfaction. Having just watched the materialization of Eliphaz the Temanite’s declaration that “[the wicked] meet with darkness in the daytime, and grope at noon as in the night (Job 5:14)”, I should have smiled, nodded my head and gone to sleep light of heart.

And yet.

My sentiments while watching the downfall of Mr. White, which was brilliantly enhanced by juxtaposing the sequence of his demise to the flashback of the still innocent schoolteacher in his first foray into the world of drugs, were exactly the opposite.

Continue reading this post at the Times of Israel by clicking here

Falling through Yom Kippur: Enhancing Prayer by using our Imagination

With Yom Kippur fast approaching, thoughts of becoming a better person, of teshuva (repentance), flash across the minds of even the most cynical among us. The critical question always seems to be the same: How on earth do we get to that higher ground?

Here’s a link to a blog post of mine on the Times of Israel, where I have copied an account of repentance scribbled into the diary of a freshly religious young man, who is a central character in a manuscript I am currently working on.

I hope you enjoy.