Q. How do you define happiness?
A. The Bible has a number of attempts. “Happy is the person who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked”… “Happy are those who dwell in Your house”… “Happy is the one who wisely considers the poor”… “Happy are those of upright path”.
Samson Raphael Hirsch suggests that ashrei, “happy”, comes from a root that means a step, and therefore the happy person is the one who strides forward confidently. Hirsch is probably right to link happiness with a step, but we today would be more likely to use the English word “directed”. The happy person is one whose life has direction and goals.
I have a different contribution to make, thanks to a Sydney congregant of mine. He once came up to me at a community function, took off his tie and said he would like me to wear it. The words on the tie read, “Happiness is being a grandfather”. I wore that tie for years afterwards. I still (Baruch HaShem) have the grandchildren but not the tie.
While it lasted it told me two things, and anyone who looked at it got the message: happiness is when you feel blessed with a future, and happiness is when you have a cause to which you can devote your time and energies. Happiness is having the right tie.