Abraham Didn’t Post Pics on Instagram (Parshat Vayeira)

There is so much bragging and over-promising today.

We are on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc., talking up our future fitness, financial and even spiritual achievements. Instagram is filled with pictures of the mansions people swear they will live in one day.

Even when we finally step away from social media, many of us are quick to commit to meeting with or helping our friends, but how often do we deliver?

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Two Important Meanings of Lech Lecha (Aliya Day!)

There are two important meanings we can attach to the phrase “Lech Lecha” (לך לך), which appears at the beginning of this week’s Torah portion.

  1. The Holy Land is the Ideal Home for the Jewish People

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The Importance of Not Shaming People

Many of today’s online netizens sometimes seem to be inordinately focused on publicly shaming people. We wait until someone does something wrong, or says the wrong thing, and then many of us enjoy aggressively shaming the “offender” via an online lynching.

This week’s Torah portion, Parashat Shoftim (which was my bar mitzvah parasha) reminds us of the lengths we should go to not to publicly shame anyone.

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3 Important Tips from the Life of the World’s Oldest Man

The world’s oldest man, Israel (Yisrael) Kristal, died last week in Israel shortly before his 114th(!) birthday. His life, despite being extremely difficult during certain periods, contains at least three important tips about Jewish happiness (simcha).

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Grant Cardone’s Recommendations Won’t Make You Happy

Grant Cardone outlined key tenets of his life philosophy recently in Medium:

Most people work 9 to 5. I work 95 hours (per week). If you ever want to be a millionaire, you need to stop doing the 9 to 5 and start doing 95.

Is this a short-term philosophy Cardone is advocating until one strikes it rich, at which point s/he could resume a normal life? No.

If you gave me 5 billion dollars, I’d still be grinding tomorrow. Be on the field. That’s where you get the win. I want that.

The strange part is that in the same piece, Cardone claims he’s not only about making massive amounts of money:

I’m not just about being rich, I’m about being wealthy. Rich means you have money — wealth is affluence in every area: health, family, kids, wife.

I definitely don’t understand that last statement. Working 95 hours per week means working 13-14 hour days, seven days a week. Where would one find the time for building real and meaningful relationships with “family, kids, wife”?

To be fair, Cardone’s piece is focused on becoming rich, not about how to be happy.  I don’t know him personally and I don’t know much about him. I have no problem with people who work hard or amass large sums of money. My issue is only with the extreme philosophy espoused in the article, which is at odds with traditional Jewish thought/philosophy.

As opposed to striving for a lifestyle marked by conscious consumption and gratitude, Cardone advocates the constant chasing of wealth – he admits that even five billion dollars wouldn’t satisfy his cravings! We shouldn’t be surprised. The Talmud explained man’s basic nature a long time ago:

“Whoever possesses 100 desires 200. Whoever possesses 200 desires 400.” (Ecclesiastes Rabbah ). (“Ecclesiastes” is translated as “Kohelet” in Hebrew).  

Except for the brief line I quoted about “family, kids, wife,” Cardone didn’t write anything in his piece about making a meaningful contribution to society, maintaining deep connections with friends and family (which seems impossible with the schedule he recommends), or establishing a calming spiritual life.

Judaism recommends a dramatically different path. In the Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot) we learn:

Who is rich? One who is happy with his lot/portion. (Pirkei Avot 4:1). 

The brilliant Rabbi Jonathan Sacks uses the Book of Kohelet to explain that chasing wealth is folly and true happiness comes from things like love, appreciation and spiritual connection:

Kohelet suddenly realises that all the time he was pursuing wealth and possessions, he was chasing after substitutes for life, instead of celebrating life itself. He now knows that “Whoever loves money never has money enough”. He also knows that “there is nothing better for people than to be happy and do good while they live”. Like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, he knows that the best thing to do with wealth is to give it away.

Following Cordone’s recommendations might make you very wealthy. They might not. But one thing is certain: they won’t make you happy.

Happiness Tip: Add Pleasure Boosters While Chasing a Goal

Like many people, getting in better shape is one of my main goals. But as we all know, losing weight and exercising can be a major slog. And if quick results aren’t achieved, it’s easy to get disheartened and quit.

Knowing this, I’ve found a good technique for sticking with my goals: adding a pleasure booster during the process. For instance, it seems relevant to note on Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) that I LOVE Jerusalem. I lived there for nearly three years and I enjoyed it immensely.

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8 Reasons Israelis are So Happy (Yom Ha’atzmaut 2016)

Outside observers could reasonably conclude that Israel is a miserable country. International news reports tend to focus solely on the Middle Eastern conflict and acts of terror, while BDS protesters try to convince the world that Israelis are evil oppressors.

And yet Israel ranked 11th in the UN’s 2016 World Happiness Report (above even the U.S.). This corresponds with my own daily reality, as I observe many cheerful and enthusiastic Israelis during my daily routine. For Israel’s 68th birthday (Yom Ha’atzmaut) it’s worthy asking: why are Israelis so happy?

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One simple Jew's journey to Jewish joy (simcha) via ancient and modern techniques.