The City of Happiness
"I am really exhausted," the man thought to himself. "I worked so hard this Erev Shabbos. I hope I have enough strength to concentrate on my tefillos (prayers). Oy am I tired. How am I going to conduct the Shabbos table? Will I have enough patience? What will I do if the children don't behave? I know. When I walk in the door, I will tell everyone how I feel, and ask them to please be sympathetic. Hmmm. Will that really work? It does not sound too promising. Little children cannot behave perfectly the whole evening. Oy, what will I do?"
The tefillos finished and the man begins walking home. The crisp cool night air fills his lungs. He takes a few deep breaths, and speaks to himself.
"I am so fortunate. Hashem has given me a beautiful family. They are all waiting for me to come home with a smile on my face, to begin the Shabbos table."
His mood begins to perk up.
"I have my health. I have a good livelihood. We have such nice neighbors."
He takes more deep breaths, gaining strength with every step.
"We live in a beautiful neighborhood. I have time to learn Torah. I have a good chavrusa (study partner). Hashem is so good to me. How can I be in a bad mood?"
The man reaches the front door of house. He knocks, then opens the door with a big smile on his face.
"Good Shabbos everyone!"
"Good Shabbos Abba."
"These are Hashem's appointed times" (Vayikra 23:4). The Torah goes on to describe the cycle of the Jewish year, with all of its festivals, and many of their mitzvos. Later in Parshas Re'eh (Devarim 16:14-15) the Torah lists more mitzvos relating to the holy days. "You shall be happy on your festival . . . you will be completely happy." We have a mitzvah, which commands us to be happy. Can it be? Can Hashem obligate us to control our mood and our frame of mind? Yes. Therefore, it must be possible. He never commands us to do the impossible.
The Pele Yoatz discusses techniques to bring one to a state of happiness. Imagine that you just found a huge sum of money. Would anything interfere with your joy? When you are learning Torah and doing mitzvos, you are receiving a reward far, far greater than all of the money in the world. At these times you should be elated! What if you were saved from a threat of certain death? Your joy would be endless. How happy you would be to thank the person who saved you. Hashem brings you your food every day. Without it you would surely die. How thrilled you must be to thank Him when saying your blessings. His gifts are endless.
Kinderlach . . .
Don't wait around for happiness to come to you. Go get it. Make a list of ten things that give you pleasure. Imma's delicious cooking. Imma's warm smile and hug. Getting 100% on a test. Going on a nice vacation. Making Hashem happy. Don't you feel happier already? It's all up to you. Remember that the City of Happiness is in the state of mind.
"I shall be sanctified among the Children of Israel" (Vayikra 22:32). This is the mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem, sanctifying Hashem's Holy Name. The Gemora (Yuma 86a) tells us that making people love Hashem is our way of sanctifying His name. How do we do this? One who learns Tanach and Mishna, serves Talmidei Chachomim and is careful that his relationships with people are pleasant, sanctifies Hashem's name. People who know him will say about him, "Fortunate are his father and his teacher who taught him Torah. Oy to those who do not learn Torah! Look how his ways are delightful, his deeds are refined." On the other hand, if we behave the opposite, we cause people to say not so nice things about Hashem and His Torah.
Kinderlach . . .
People are watching us. We are representatives of Hashem. On the bus, they are watching to see if we give up our seat for an older person. At the store, they are watching to see if we wait patiently for our turn. At the playground, they are watching to see if we play nicely and do not litter. They look to see if our clothes are neat and clean. When they speak to us, they notice if we listen and answer politely or not. You have many opportunities to be a shining example of how Hashem and His Torah can refine a person. Let us take turns around the Shabbos table trying to think of other examples. Maybe we can even ask Abba to give out a prize to the one who thinks of the most examples.
"Chaim, it's time to get up. Today is the big day. Today is the day you receive your special gift."
Chaim practically jumped out of bed.
"Oh boy, I can hardly wait! I have been thinking about this gift for weeks. I have even been counting the days."
"You shall count for yourselves from the day after Shabbos" (Vayikra 23:15). This is the mitzvah of counting the Omer. We can all identify with Chaim. How many of us have felt this anticipation of a big event such as a bar mitzvah, a vacation trip, or a special gift? We are so anxious that we can't wait for each day to pass. The Sefer HaChinuch explains that the Torah is the biggest gift that a person could receive. Therefore we count the days from after Pesach until Shavuous, the time of the receiving of the Torah on Har Sinai.
Kinderlach . . .
How many days have we counted so far? We are getting closer and closer to Shavuous. Let us all prepare ourselves to receive the Torah by strengthening our learning and our relationships with people and Hashem.
Kinder Torah Copyright 2002 All rights reserved to the author Simcha Groffman
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