Shana Tovah 2018
I want to share some thoughts I have gathered from various sources about a Happy New Year vs a Good New Year.
The longer I live the more I realize how strong a connection exists between our thoughts and our words. I am beginning to honestly believe that this connection is one of the most important things we can learn in our lives.
So many of my problems are rooted in my way of thinking, which can actually produce a lot of the problems I and those around me experience.
So I want us to have a Good New Year 2018
To accomplish this I need to turn my words around, I need to start thinking about what I’m thinking about, and then make some real changes.
With God’s help I am being reminded that my past doesn’t have to control my future. *What happened in 2017; stays in 2017*, I don’t need God’s help in my life to give up; I need His help to keep going!
So what’s the difference between a Happy New Year and a Good New Year?
The Hebrew phrase *Shanah Tovah* conveys the hope for a good year rather than a happy one, and the reason for that distinction contains great significance.
In January of 2013, the Atlantic Monthly had a fascinating article titled There’s More to Life than just Being Happy. The author, Emily Esfahani Smith, points out how researchers are beginning to caution against the pursuit of mere happiness. They found that a meaningful life and a happy life overlap in certain ways, but are ultimately very different. Leading a happy life, the psychologists found, is associated with being a “taker” while leading a meaningful life corresponds with being a “giver.”
“Happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desire are easily satisfied and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided,” the author writes.
She quotes Kathleen Vohs, one of the authors of a study published then in The Journal of Positive Psychology: “Happy people get joy from receiving benefits from others while people leading meaningful lives get a lot of joy from giving to others.” In other words, meaning transcends the self while happiness is all about giving the self what it wants.
According to Roy Baumeister, the lead researcher of the study, “What sets human beings apart from animals is not the pursuit of happiness, which occurs all across the natural world, but the pursuit of meaning, which is unique to humans.”
Long before all of these studies, Jews somehow understood this intuitively. Happy is good, but good is better.
To hope for a *happy new year* is to give greater importance to the ideal of a self-indulgent culture whose greatest goal is “to have a good time.” To seek a *good new year* however is to recognize the superiority of ***meaning*** over the ***joy*** of the moment.
So let’s get to the text: In the very beginning of the Bible, in the Torah, in the book of Genesis 1:4-31.
The word “good” has special meaning in the Torah. The first time we find it used is in the series of sentences where God, after each day of creation, views his handiwork and proclaims it “good”. More, when God completed his work he saw all that he had done “and behold it was very good.”
What does that mean? In what way was the world good? Surely it was not in any moral sense that it was being praised. The commentators offer a profound insight. **The word good indicates that every part of creation fulfilled God’s purpose:** it was good because it was what it was meant to be.
That is the deepest meaning of the word good when it is applied to us and to our lives. We are good when we achieve our purpose; our lives are good when they fulfill what they are meant to be.
We know many people of whom it can be said that they had good lives in spite of their having had to endure great unhappiness. Indeed, the truly great chose lives of sacrifice over pleasure and leave a legacy of inspiration and achievement that they never could have accomplished had they been solely concerned with personal gratification.
A shanah tovah, a good year, from a spiritual perspective, is far more blessed than a simple happy one.
Meaning is our ultimate goal; in our pursuit of the “good” life we will discover the reward of true happiness.
Meaning Leads to Happiness
Happiness is the byproduct of a meaningful life. Social scientists have come to a significant conclusion: while having money doesn’t automatically lead to happiness, giving it away almost always achieves that goal!
So shana tova, may you have a year filled with meaning and purpose. And the happiness that will surely follow.