Simchah During Frightening Times

by | Mar 20, 2008 | 0 comments

When Adar comes we increase in Simcha!

The people of Israel are still in mourning over the tragic murder of eight of our purest souls. Mothers in Sderot and now in Ashkelon are not sleeping or eating as they wait for the next bomb to drop.  We hear about it on the news, we read about it in the paper, we may even know the stories of some of the victims whose lives have been torn apart….yet I can’t even imagine the actual brutality of life in Sderot?  How can we understand what it’s like to live, knowing that any moment a missile might fall from the sky and explode where we stand?  That is afear we cannot understand.  Nevertheless, somehow we have a responsibility to be happy! They have an obligation to be happy! When Adar comes we increase in Simcha!

I’d like to tell you a story. Shortly after moving to Israel I was given the opportunity to travel with a group to Mezibuz in the Ukraine. The purpose of the trip was to spend Shabbos in the city of the great Baal Shem Tov and to pray at his graveside. This was a spiritual trip and I was particularly anxious to pray at such a holy site for the success of my family and myself in our new life in Israel. I was a bit torn, however, by the irony of leaving Israel, the holiest place on Earth, to pray for a successful dwelling in Israel!

Nevertheless the Baal Shem Tov was buried in the Ukraine and not in the Galil. Rebbe Nachman of Breslav once taught that if G-d gives you an opportunity to travel He must have something special in mind – so take the trip. I decided that I would go.

It was a spiritually exciting trip. On the way to Mezibuz we stopped in Barditchev and prayed where the holy Rebbe of Barditchev (1740 -1810) prayed. We stopped at the cemetery and sang the Barditchever’s beautiful song, “A Din Torah mit Gut”. On the way back from Mezibuz we detoured to Uman and prayed at the gravesite of Rebbe Nachman – but the jewel in the crown was Shabbos in Mezibuz. My mind and my heart was full of thoughts and prayers of how to make it in Jerusalem.

At some point over Shabbos I found myself alone in the original shul of the Baal Shem Tov. My mind wandered to what it must have been like to have davened in this small wooden room with the Baal Shem Tov and his students who founded the Chasidic movement. There was a definite energy in the room. On the table I was sitting at there was a book which was compiled by one of the students of the Baal Shem Tov which contained thoughts of the Baal Shem Tov on the weekly Torah portion. Although it was Parshas Beshalach, I randomly opened the book to wherever it would open and it opened to Behar. This is what it said.

The Torah speaks about the Mitzvah of the Shmittah, the Sabbatical year in Israel. During this year the Land of Israel must lay at rest and no farm work may be done. “And what will happen if the people ask: ‘what should we eat during this seventh year if we do not sow or gather in our crops? ’ (G-d says,) ‘I will command My special blessing on the Land and you will have abundance in the sixth year for 3 years!” (Vayikra 25;21)

The Baal Shem Tov comments out that in order for one to attract success and abundance in one’s life one’s thoughts must be full of faith and positive thoughts of success. If one thinks ‘success’ G-d will grant him success. G-d will mirror our thoughts. The most damaging thing a person can do to their life is to worry and complain. The negativity of worry can, G-d forbid, attract negativity and remove the blessing from ones life.

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“G-d is your shadow.” This is one of the most astounding secrets of the universe. G-d mimics our every action. If we wave our right hand in the air – so does our shadow – so does G-d, so to speak. We hold the controls. At creation G-d gave us the controls and everything we think, say or do has an affect on the Universe. If we kvetch, G-d gives us a life full of kvetch. “Gadol Anachah shesoveret gufo shel Adam!

So the Torah asks, says the Baal Shem Tov, what will happen during the Sabbatical year? The Jewish people will begin to worry and bring negative energy into their life! They will say out loud, ‘What will we eat?!’ They will kvetch!

To this problem G-d answers, that He will perform a special miracle. In spite of our negative thoughts, ‘I will command a Blessing of abundance’. G-d will perform a special miracle and give us abundance in spite of our worrying.

The most classic example of this idea is Betzalel. Although Betzalel was just a Bar-Mitzvah he was commissioned to build the Mishkan. Why Betzalel? Moshe explained that the answer lay in his name. Betzalel was called such because he was Betzel El. In the shadow of G-d. He understood what we have to do in this world to merit the resting of the Shechinah. He understood what the Ark, the Cherubim and the tent should look like. He understood what actions we can do to affect the entire universe.

This is not a uniquely Chassidic thought. The greatest disciple of the Vilna Gaon, Rav Chaim Velozhin, writes that G-d will shadow our every thought. The great master of Sefardic tradition, the Ben Ish Chai, taught precisely the same idea. When G-d created the world He set it up in such a way that G-d, so to speak, takes His cues from us!

The message of the Baal Shem Tov clicked in my mind and I returned to Jerusalem with a new heart.

Everyday things become clearer to me. Not only do the Mitzvos I perform affect my life and my world but in fact every attitude I possess makes a difference.“Who is wealthy?” asks the Mishna, “One who is happy with what they have!” “Happy!” If I am happy about my wealth – the simcha will bring me wealth. If I am confident that G-d will take care of me to the point that I am happy – to the point that I present myself as someone who is taken care of – I will be taken care of. If I am confident enough to be happy Hashem will give me happiness. Our attitude, our confidence in Hashem, our self perception as someone that has a relationship with the Creator will come together to make life work.

So therefore; when Adar comes we increase in Simcha! It is the simcha which creates the simcha! The Gemarah teaches that since we have are adding simchah to our lives in Adar it is a good time to have that long pushed off court case with that non Jew. It’s a good luck time. The question is: Where does the gemarah say that it is a good luck time? It only says that we should increase our happiness!?

The answer is: increasing our happiness will bring us good fortune. So if you’re feeling confident in your relationship with G-d – go ahead and have that court case.

Allow me to share with you a life altering moment. Years ago I served as a Rabbi in Buffalo NY. My wife and I founded a kiruv organization without any funding at all and indeed we struggled terribly. We struggled not only to pay the bills but we struggled in order to eat. After a couple of years the situation became so desperate that it seemed impossible to continue. Yet with all the young families of Baalei Teshuvah dependant on us I went to ask a Shayla: should I close shop?

My Rebbe, Rav Chaim Scheinberg was visiting neighboring Toronto so I traveled there to ask my question. As I explained my predicament and the financial difficulties I was encountering the Rav looked more and more concerned. He let me finish and then he said. “ Reb Yaacov – these difficulties that are you going through – is it the first time you are having this problem or has it happened before?” I explained to him that not only is it not the first time but in fact it is an ongoing problem that seems to be constantly reoccurring. “So what has happened in the past when you had this problem?” he asked. “I don’t know, rebbe, somehow it has worked out.” He then piercingly looked me straight in the eye and said, “So how many times does this have to happen before you understand that Hashem WILL take care of this for you?!” I knew what I had to do.

If I fill my life with chesed, Hashem will surround me with chesed and so it is with every aspect of my life. If I know I can make a difference I can become a leader. If I know I can make a contribution I can become a scholar and a teacher. To the extent that I act with confidence in my relationship with Hashem, I will succeed.

I remember once standing in line for a few hours to receive a dollar bill from the Lubavitcher Rebbe. When I finally came to face with the Rebbe I asked if he thought I had the ability to take upon myself a huge community project. His words to me were (in Yiddish) “tracht gut un es vet zain gut!” Think positive and it will happen. To the degree I followed his advice I was successful.

There are so many things about the Meggilla which are backward and upside down. Here is one of them. King Achashveirosh partially acquiesced to Esther’s request. He explained that he can’t withdraw his edict to destroy the Jews because ‘an edict which is written in the King’s name and sealed with the royal signet may not be revoked.’ The best he can do is allow Mordechei to dictate a new edict stating that the ‘king had permitted the Jews of every city to defend themselves; to destroy, slay and exterminate every armed force for one day’. Thanks a lot! All that and we are allowed to fight back! Can’t we always try to fight back? The next thing that happens in the story is, “For the Jews there was light and gladness and joy and honor.” Didn’t we jump the gun? Not only we didn’t win the war but we didn’t even start it yet!

But Mordechei knew the secret – he knew how to win the war. He took off his sack cloth and he put on ‘royal apparel of turquoise and white with a large gold crown and a robe of fine linen and purple; and the city of Shushan was cheerful and glad!”

We didn’t have the simcha of Purim because we won the war – we won the war because we had the simcha of Purim. When our moods turned upside down so did the matzav!  When Adar comes we increase in Simcha! Let us be confident in our relationship with Hashem once again and “Venehafoch Hu!” Everything, please G-d, will turn around. The cycle of violence will stop and the communities of Israel will once again be full of joy. Layehudim!

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Rabbi Yaacov Haber has been a leading force in Jewish community and Jewish education for over forty years. He lived and taught in the United States, Australia and in Israel. He is presently the Rav of Kehillas Shivtei Yeshurun, a vibrant community in the center of Ramat Bet Shemesh, Israel, and serves as the Rabbinic guide to many of its wonderful organisations.


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