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Weekly Chizuk


Simcha Being a Jew

(Adapted from lectures by Rav Ezriel Tauber)

In our Yom Tov davening we recite:

"And You Hashem should lift up for us the bracha of your Fesitvals."

What is this blessing of the Holidays that we mention every Yom Tov? What bracha are we asking to receive?

"You have chosen us from all peoples; You have loved us and wanted us, and have lifted us above (people of) all the languages."

These are, no doubt, very noble and uplifting words. They reinforce within us the recognition that we are indeed very fortunate to be Jewish. This is the purpose of Yom Tov, to establish in our hearts the great joy in our Jewishness. This is the bracha of Yom Tov.

: "You shall be happy on your Festival, and you shall be only happy."

Rashi comments that simple pshat is that this is a promise. This means that there is a Divine promise that we will attain Simcha. This obviously doesn't mean that on Yom Tov we will have other things to make us happy, that we will have a good time and so be in a good mood. That is simcha which comes from external sources. The possuk is discussing an internal and real feeling of simcha. Divinely inspired simcha is eternal and emanates from our recognition of our good fortune to be Jewish. This is the joy that draws its power from the eternal words: You have chosen us.

During Pesach, the first Yom Tov in the yearly cycle, we meet our birthday as a nation, when we became a distinct people, separate from all others. During the other Yomim Tovim we come into contact with various exalted virtues which crown the Jewish nation and single us out from all the other peoples. At Shavuous, Klal Yisroel participated in the covenant of Sinai. This was similar to the covenant of marriage. Succos is the time when the Heavenly Presence, the Divine Shechina, established itself in the midst of the Jewish people.

Each festival builds an additional appreciation of the lofty prominence of Judaism. It reveals its special uniqueness which separates us from the goyim. It is this appreciation and recognition which bestows the special bracha of Yom Tov: Simcha, "And you shall be joyous." There are innumerous levels of joy, and it is possible to rise without limit in recognition of the loftiness of being a Jew. It starts with Pesach when Hashem revealed Himself to us, and continues from one festival to the next in the yearly cycle, continually implanting Joy in our hearts at the idea that "You chose us."

Simcha is the basis for the spiritual blossoming of a person. And with simcha and a good heart he can even induce others to blossom and produce. Simcha and blossoming are related words: - . The and the are interchangeable.

Shavuos is the time when we received the Torah. At the time of the Giving of the Torah the Yidden proclaimed with great simcha, "We shall do everything in the Torah and strive to understand it." For thousands of years Jews were proud to be Jews and Shavuos, the holiday commemorating our receiving the Torah has always been the height of Joy.

And if you'll ask, what's so important about observance with a deep conviction and a close connection to the Ribono Shel Olam? What's wrong with performing the mitzvos artificially? He's doing the same actions. What's the difference if he's not happy about it.

Let's explain with a moshol. Today you can manufacture almost anything synthetically. Not only can you imitate the original, you can make it better than the original. You can manufacture flowers in more magnificent colors, with a more attractive fragrance. You can make a potato that tastes better, looks nicer, and has a longer shelf life

There's only one thing they haven't succeeded in synthesizing. They will never be able to reproduce life. All these synthetics will never grow, will never produce fruit, will never bud, will never develop. Every synthetic flower or fruit has what it has, and no more. It can't develop anything else, it can never reproduce.

Similarly there is an authentic Jew, and a synthetic Jew. The authentic Jew is full of simcha and pride in his Yiddishkeit. Every mitzvah he does is done with joy and whole heartedly. This is a Jew who grows, blossoms, develops. He passes on his lifeblood to generations to come. His mitzvos generate new mitzvos. And he influences others to wake up and perform mitzvos in his zechus.

One the other side is the synthetic Jew. He performs mitzvos robotically, out of habit. He does this all unwillingly with no internal motivation. Perhaps he exhibitis fantastic hand or body gestures. But since he has no internal simcha in the mitzvos, his frolics cannot draw anyone else into mitzvah observance.

Simcha is the basis for the spiritual blossoming of a person. And with simcha and a good heart he can even induce others to blossom and produce. Simcha and blossoming are related words: - . The and the are interchangeable.

Mark Twain and The Jews

The famous American author Mark Twain made a remarkable observation about the Jewish People. "...If statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of stardust lost in the blaze of the Milky way. properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world's list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and had done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it.

"The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed; and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?" - Mark Twain, ("Concerning The Jews," Harper's Magazine, 1899)

Look at the stream of world History. For 2500 years Jews have been chased by the goyim:

First Nebuchadnezer destroyed the Beis Hamikdash. But now they're gone.

The Achashverosh and Haman tried to destroy us. They're gone.

Then, at the time of Chanuka the Greeks: they're gone.

Then by Rome: Anyone who leaned Torah was brutally killed, Like Rebbi Akiva. They're gone.

Then by the Christians. The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, The Christians tried to force us to give up our belief.

Then it was Russia and the Communists. If you learned Torah or practiced Mitzvos, your were sent off to Siberia.

For 2500 years goyim killed us, hounded us, all to make sure we don't keep Torah and Mitzvos. That's history. Throughout all persecution, we have remained a faithful and proud nation. However, there are winds of change in the air. Since the end of World War II, something has changed.

The New Crisis - Artificial Yiddishkeit

A few hundred years ago in most of Europe, if a person passed by a Church and did something disrespectful to a statue of J, he was burned alive. Today, however, you can go on the internet and make the biggest leitzanus of him and you win the Nobel Prize. You can belittle them, make fun of them, express yourself totally and openly, and no one will say a word.

Suddenly, you can practice Yiddishkeit openly. Anti-Semitism is officially outlawed. There are yeshivos opening up all over the world.

What happened? Something unbelievable happened in our generation and we don't pay attention to it. What does Hashem want?

Rome - gone

Christians - gone

Stalin - gone

Fascism - gone

Today it is acceptable to be frum. And yet we are living in a crisis. Take a look around. On one hand there are Baale Teshuva all over the world. In every country, in every community, in every family. There isn't a non-religious family that doesn't have one Baal Teshuva. Never has there been such a phenomenon in history. The most assimilated family has some member who's become a BT.

And on the other hand, there are so many good families, nice homes, decent kids, and yet the kids are falling away, into the internet, into the garbage. For no reason. Once, there was communism, it promised equality, humanity, it was a light to the world. It had grand social dreams. So unfortunately we lost a lot of kids to its glitter. They fell for it. But now all the -ism's are bankrupt. There's no idealism left. And yet the kids are still falling away, and at a very high rate. Where to? To nowhere. Just not frum.

Unfortunately our system is suffering from people who, sorry to say, are synthetic Jews.

"There have always been apikorsim and people who do aveiros or go off the derech," clarifies Reb Chaim Glancz, who, as cofounder of Our Place in Brooklyn, has closely followed trends among troubled teens for decades. "But the vast majority of children and adults in mainstream frum environments absorbed the bedrock basics of Yiddishkeit by osmosis. Today's troubled youth generally are not apikorsim or children who want to rebel. Rather, to them, Yiddishkeit simply means nothing."

In short, when children associate Torah or Yiddishkeit with pain or negativity, they may eventually rebel against the fundamental principles of their upbringing.

Reb Chaim Glancz says that he and his colleagues may even have noticed a slight decrease in the percentage of children who rebel in an outward manner. At the same time, however, mechanchim say that the number of mainstream children disconnected from Yiddishkeit is skyrocketing.

"There have always been different levels of ehrlichkeit in bochurim," says Rabbi Moshe Hillel Drew, a mentor who deals with hundreds of bochurim each year. "But only five or ten years ago, it was rare to find someone who considered himself to be a yeshivah bochur, not a rebel, being mechallel Shabbos or skipping wearing tefillin. Unfortunately, today it is far more common."

The Solution: Simcha at Being a Yid

They once asked Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt"l, about the beginning stages of the Jewish community in the USA. There were many Yidden who were willing to suffer tremendous sacrifice for the sake of keeping Shabbos. And yet their children abandoned their faith entirely. And on the other hand, there were those who experienced the exact same tests, and they merited raising children who became upstanding and righteous Jews.

Rav Moshe answered, the reason for this is that those children who went off and left Yiddishkeit saw their parents forcing themselves to observe the mitzvos. The house was empty of joy of mitzvos. They came home after a hard week of toil and suffering and at the Shabbos table they just krechsed and sat there grumpy, glumpy, and gloomy. "Oy, Oy. Why is this happening to me? Why am I suffering so much?" Therefore, even the self-sacrifice of the parents was synthetic, dead, lifeless, lacking any ability to grow and produce. It had no life to influence the next generation.

On the other hand, their friends who experienced the same difficulties, held on to their simcha. They were able to pass on to their children their Yiddishkeit as a higher value. They were happy they were strong enough to observe the Shabbos. The parents' Yiddishkeit wasn't artificial, they were real Jews. They saw in their Yiddishkeit something that was good and worthwhile to suffer self-sacrifice for. Understandably, when their children experienced similar tests, they were successful.

So at this Yom Tov of Shavuos, we must take a step back and reflect on our own kabbolas haTorah. We must appreciate our Yiddishkeit, appreciate the wonderful gift Hashem gave us. We must celebrate our Yiddishkeit with simcha. Be happy you're a Yid!

Wishing everyone a Gut Yom Tov!

Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-858-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
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