Many, LORD, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?”
    Let the light of your face shine on us.
Fill my heart with joy
    when their grain and new wine abound.
Psalm 4:6–7

We begin a new year of devotional teachings from Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein with a focus on joy, simcha — the joy found in the grateful acceptance and celebration of each day God has given to us. Join us as we explore Rabbi Eckstein’s teachings on the joy found in connecting with God and with others.

We invite you to dig deeper into the Jewish roots of Christianity with Rabbi Eckstein’s monthly teaching series, Limmud. Check it out here.

What’s it going to take for people to be happy?

We live in a world of smart phones, the internet, and air travel – things that our ancestors could not have imagined. We have relative abundance and conveniences that kings of the past could only dream of. Our grocery stores are well-stocked and we have indoor plumbing, two things that much of our world still lives without.

But, for most people, that’s not enough: “Many, LORD, are asking, ‘Who will bring us prosperity?’”People want to know, “Who will invent the next big thing? What will it be? Maybe when we have that, then we will be happy!”

I love the following quote from actor Jim Carrey. He said, “I hope everybody could get rich and famous and will have everything that they ever dreamed of . . . so they will know that it’s not the answer.”

Most people answer the question of happiness with an item or an aspiration: “If only I had a new (fill-in-the-blank) — then I would be happy.” “If only I achieved success and recognition — then I would be happy.” This thinking governs so many of the decisions we make and how we spend our time. But as Jim Carrey says, having experienced living with both fame and fortune, neither will make us happy. Happiness cannot be bought or given.

Happiness is a choice, and it comes from choosing God.

Let the light of your face shine on us,” wrote King David in Psalm 4.  “Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound.” People are happy, at least temporarily, when “their grain and new wine abound” — when they acquire more wealth or some new item or gadget. But as King David wrote, nothing compares to the joy which God places in our hearts. Nothing compares to the light of His presence in our lives.

Other people may be misguided and think that they will find happiness elsewhere, but for David it was crystal clear: True and lasting joy comes only from God.

Imagine for a moment what it might feel like to have God shine His divine light upon you. Imagine the feeling of sunlight on your face on a dark, cold day, and you will have some sort of a sense of what it would be like. God’s light gives us comfort, pleasure, guidance, peace, and unimaginable joy. Everything else is a counterfeit substitute made of inferior quality that won’t last very long.

God is the only answer to the question of happiness. So let’s spend our days seeking Him and bringing Him into our hearts and into our lives. There is no greater joy!

Check out Rabbi Eckstein’s study on Abraham, the father of our faiths, Abraham, in his Limmud (“study” in Hebrew) teaching, “Abraham: The Patriarch of Loving-kindness.”

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