April 5, 2023 10:59 am

One of the Guru’s guiding my life is the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z”l. Each week Rabbi Sacks would provide his unique perspective on the most important issues of the day. One of my favorite weekly discussions of his was on the topic of “happiness” versus “meaning”. The two words sound alike, but they are really quite different.

Happiness is about how we feel about satisfying the needs and wants of life, whether it is one’s physical needs or the goals we are seeking to achieve. Happiness is a choice that each of us can make once we choose to be grateful for what we have and are satisfied with these basic needs and goals. For more on a discussion on happiness see the link here to my article, “When Is The Time To Be Happy”,


Meaning, is judging your life by the standard of what life wants from us. What are we here to do? For what unique purpose are we here to make a positive contribution to the lives of others? One way to look at this is that happiness is a form of “taking” while meaning is a form of “giving”. What is our unique mission in life, and what sacrifices are we prepared to make for that to happen?

Those who are spiritual or God-fearing folks will often refer to this as a calling.   A calling is a form of endearment from God informing us of the mission that we are here on Earth to accomplish. In the Bible, we often here God quoted as calling upon Moses to tell the people the law.

In our modern day lives, our spiritual challenge is to find and pursue the mission of our lives. We do this by living a life of giving, one that only we can do. One of the turning points in my life was becoming a parent, and now a grandparent. It is at these unique inflections in our life when we understand that we are here to serve a purpose greater than our own.

Rabbi Sacks summed it up by stating, “meaning is where what we do meets what needs to be done”.  I can’t say it any better than that.

Lawrence Dickstein

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