I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. — Ecclesiastes 3:12
In the early 1800s, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, a prominent Italian rabbi, published his widely acclaimed book Path of the Upright. The work, unique in its time, was not another commentary on the Bible or explanation of Judaism’s Oral Tradition. Instead, culling on all that established knowledge, Rabbi Luzzatto wrote a book dedicated solely to personal development and spiritual advancement. In his introduction, to validate his contribution, he wrote the following:
“I have written this work not to teach men what they do not know, but to remind them of what they already know and is very evident to them . . . But to the extent that they are well known and their truths revealed to all, so is forgetfulness in relation to them extremely prevalent.”
This is exactly the message I’d like to share with you today. It’s nothing we don’t know, but something we often forget. It’s an idea that King Solomon felt important enough to include in Ecclesiastes.
We are all familiar with the famous beginning of chapter three in which Solomon proclaimed: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (3:1). Solomon beautifully illustrated the times and seasons in life. He reminded us that everything has its proper place and time. But where does he take us from there? Verse 12 tells us, “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.”
Knowing that everything has its season, Solomon encouraged us to be happy in the season in which we are currently living. While so many people lose out on life because they are always waiting for the next season or longing for one past, we need to enjoy the good side of every part of life knowing that it, too, shall pass. The difficulties of having young children are often longed for when the children are out of the house. The challenges of establishing new beginnings are often missed when everything is set and running smoothly. We need to find joy in the season we are living.
However, the Jewish sages take this verse one step further. The latter part of the verse tells us to “do good.” The sages teach that we need to take the blessings of every season and not just enjoy them, but use those blessings to serve God.
God has set times for everything in life. We can’t control time passing and circumstances changing. Yet we can choose how we use our time and our blessings. Let’s be joyful and serve God. This may not be a new idea, but one we ought to remember every single day with which we are blessed.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President