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A Formula For Happiness


I discovered a perfect formula to describe the segue from the intensity of Yom Kippur in David Hartley’s  vest-pocket edition of his moral and religious philosophy in the formula

W = F2  / L

Where W is the love of the world,

F is the fear of God

And L is the love of God.

It is necessary to add only this. Hartley said that as one grows older L increases and indeed becomes infinite. It follows then that W, the love of the world, decreases and approaches zero.

As Yom Kippur lessens my W, love of the world, my L, love of God increases finding its full expression in my dancing with my Lulav in the Succah with respectful F, fear of God.

Yet, there is another side to Succot with an emphasis on dwindling resources – 13 Musaf offerings, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, – Festival of Gathering – gathering also referring to death as in, And Abraham breathed his last, dying at a good ripe age, old and contented; and he was gathered to his kin (Genesis 25:8),”.and “When Jacob finished his instructions to his sons, he drew his feet into the bed and, breathing his last, he was gathered to his people (49:33).”

In Israel, Succot is in the fall as the leaves are dying.


It seems a drastic switch from my formula.


Is there another dimension to the movement from Yom Kippur’s parade for the Cohen Gadol and our achievement of purification and atonement toward the stripped-down life in the Succah?


…As the time of rest, or of departure, approaches me, not only do many of the evils I had heard of, and prepared for, present themselves in more grievous shapes than I had expected; but one which I had scarcely ever heard of, torments me increasingly every hour.

I had understood it to be in the order of things that the aged should lament their vanishing life as an instrument they had never used, now to be taken from them; but not as an instrument, only then perfectly tempered and sharpened, and snatched out of their hands at the instant they could have done some real service with it. Whereas, my own feeling, now, is that everything which has hitherto happened to me, or been done by me, whether well or ill, has been fitting me to take greater fortune more prudently, and do better work more thoroughly. And just when I seem to be coming out of school – very sorry to have been such a foolish boy, yet having taken a prize or two, and expecting to enter now upon some more serious business than cricket, – I am dismissed by the Master I hoped to serve, with a – ‘That’s all I want of you, sir (John Ruskin, The Lamp of Memory.)”

I find Ruskin penetrating but melodramatic.


I would say, “And just when I seem to be coming out of the school of  Yom Kippur – very sorry to have been such a foolish boy, and expecting to enter now upon some more serious business with my life, – I am asked by God to celebrate my having sharpened and tempered my soul.”


I celebrate not because of what I now can do so much better, but what an accomplishment it is to celebrate in a temporary structure outside and vulnerable that I have learned to use my internal strengths independent of any externals.


That has been the most profound lesson of the past six Covid months. Cut off from so many and so much, anxious over the future of our economy, political system, our country; highly concerned over increasing anti-Semitism; I have learned to sharpen and temper internal strengths.


The man who will step out into his Succah this year is quite different than he who entered his Succah a very long year ago.

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