By: Gavriel Factor  | 

Sacks-Herenstein Center Hosts Discussion on ‘Happiness vs. Meaning’

Tal Ben-Shahar and Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz spoke about meaning and happiness and how to live a life with both in a panel moderated by Vice Provost for Values and Leadership and Sacks-Herenstein Center Director Erica Brown on Dec. 7. 

The event, which took place in Weissberg Commons on Wilf Campus, was attended by over 200 undergraduate students and members of the YU community. The event, advertised as “Happiness vs. Meaning,” was sponsored by Dr. Marcia Robbins-Wilf and organized by the Sacks-Herenstein Center for Values and Leadership. 

This is the first event of a new lecture series called “Values in Conflict,” a series of many conversations by bringing in experts who would not be typically in conversation with one another. 

“The goal of this event,” Brown told The Commentator shortly before the event began, “is to bring students and other stakeholders together to talk about issues of personal and communal significance that have values at their center.”

In the panel, Ben-Shahar, a philosopher who has written books on happiness and taught positive psychology at Harvard University, focused on the importance of happiness in our lives and how to best achieve it. Rabbi Lebowitz, director of the Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik Semikhah Program at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), presented Halacha as an approach to gaining Jewish meaning in our lives, emphasizing how to gain and retain happiness.

Lebowitz and Shahar also debated on what happiness and joy mean, the difference between happiness and meaning and the trade-offs people have to make between happiness and meaning. 

Brown told The Commentator she felt the event was “significant” and would impact students.

“This conversation was both generative and significant,” said Brown. “I hope students will spend time processing how and when meaning and happiness merges for them and how to better manage times when these values live in tension.”

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Photo Caption: Tal Ben-Shahar and Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz spoke about “Happiness and Meaning” in a panel moderated by Dr. Erica Brown.

Photo Credit: The Commentator