Course Description

For many years, the most popular undergraduate class at Harvard University was Intro to Economics. Students likely assumed that this class would teach them financial literacy and help them amass wealth, so there is little surprise that they signed up in droves. But in 2006, a different course superseded the science of money. Tal Ben-Shahar, an Israeliborn psychologist, taught Positive Psychology, a course that offered psychological insights into daily joy and life fulfillment.

More than 800 students attended, it becoming the most popular course ever taught at the university. It was so popular that students’ parents and a handful of grandparents started showing up as well. The major media outlets reported this phenomenon, raising the question, why the thirst and draw to this topic? Clearly, the perennial thirst to study and learn about human happiness is today as strong as ever.

The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute is proud to offer an all-new six-week course titled How Happiness Thinks. Throughout this course, we will be addressing the following questions:

1. What makes happy people different from unhappy people?

2. To what degree do our circumstances (family, education,career, etc.) matter for our overall happiness?

3. What are some of the challenges to living a joyous life?

4. Can a person be happy despite going through difficulty?

5. Does G‑d care whether people are happy?

6. What are some of the benefits of living life happily?

7. Is Judaism more concerned with human ethics or human happiness?

Jewish wisdom and mysticism addressed these questions many centuries ago, and yet, its insights are just as relevant today. So while each lesson of this course draws upon the latest research in the rapid-growing field of positive psychology, it also breathes fresh life into the discussion by unveiling the unique Jewish approach to achieving more happiness.



“A proper education should include more courses like this one which takes up basic questions of morality that are important to live a successful mindful life.”
ELLEN LANGER, PHD Professor of Psychology, Harvard University Author of eleven books including Mindfulness and The Power of Possibility Cambridge, Massachusetts

“How Happiness Thinks brings together modern research in positive psychology and ancient Jewish wisdom. This marriage between theology and science can bring about significant positive change in individuals and communities.”
TAL BEN-SHAHAR, PHD Professor, IDC Lecturer, Psychology Department, Harvard University Author of five books including Happier and The Question of Happiness Herzliya, Israel

”For a long time, when policy makers and educators asked me to develop programs or curricula to increase well-being in various field settings, I told them that there was not enough rigorous research to support such an endeavor. The day has come, however, that we are ready to apply the findings of positive psychology to the wider world! How Happiness Thinks is a thoughtful, impressive effort to accomplish just that. I wish I could take this course myself!”
SONJA LYUBOMIRSKY, PHD Professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside Author of The How of Happiness and The Myths of Happiness

“I’m grateful to Professor Pelcovitz and The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute for the gift of this essential and pioneering course on positive psychology. It will not only benefit us as individuals striving to lead a happy, creative, and joyful life, it’s teaching will also enhance our families, communities and the world we live in, as we learn new strategies to deal with stressful times.”

HARRIET LERNER, PHD Author of eleven books including the New York Times classic, The Dance of Ange