February 18, 2021
The secret of Jewish simcha
Over the centuries, man has embarked on countless voyages and perused endless literature in search of the elusive goal of true happiness. Psychology claims its secret lies with them, travel agencies vouch their destinations provide it, yet so many seem never to find it, despite wandering to Far Eastern countries or scaling forbidding summits in futile attempts to acquire it.
Yet this secret is known to every Jew. Each of us has experienced it at some point over the Purims of our lives. The natural, boundless joy is imbued in this holiest of days; the sheer ecstasy lifts our feet off the ground, spirits soaring heavenward in thanks and appreciation for having been so fortunate to be born part of this nation. The joy of Purim transports a Jew through the heavens, until he feels he is dancing and singing in front of the Creator Himself.
What is the secret of our simcha?
Like all wisdoms, the formula of true happiness can be discovered in the Torah itself—For every single emotion Hashem has given a Torah (Midrash Tadshe 9)—in this case, tucked away in Sefer Divrei Hayamim.
Dovid Hamelech has just finished the massive collection toward the binyan Beis Hamikdash. And the nation was happy to contribute, because they contributed wholeheartedly,and also King David was exceedingly happy(29:9). Happiness emanates from wholehearted dedication.
This is repeated soon after when David proclaims: “With the truest of intent I have donated all these, and the nation with me I can see their simchain donating to You, meaning that since they are so happy, they must also have donated wholeheartedly”(Metzudos). David then continues by offering to Hashem the beautiful tefillah of Vayevarech David, which we say every day.
This concept was also the essence of David’s very last message to Shlomo, as the midrashsays: “With all my heart I seek you,” the heart of the righteous ensures their entry into the World to Come—this is what Dovid Hamelech imparted to his son Shlomo (Socher Tov 119). This refers to Dovid Hamelech on his deathbed instructions to Shlomo: “And you, Shlomo, my son, know the G-d of your forefathers and serve him with a desiring heart” (Divrei Hayamim 28:9).
True happiness means that a person is wholeheartedly dedicated to what they are doing. It cannot be manufactured or replicated; it emanates from the deepest recesses of the neshamah. This “secret” of Yiddishe happiness passed from Dovid to Shlomo and remains our sacred tradition all through the ages.
On Purim, the Jewish people rededicated themselves to Torah and mitzvos, reaching the pinnacle of commitment to their avodas Hashem. It is therefore no surprise that this day also serves as the greatest representation of simcha for all time.
The Gemara teaches that this concept is not limited only to Purim. In fact: Every mitzvah Bnei Yisroel accepted with joy and self-sacrifice—such as bris milah—is still performed with joy (Shabbos 130). When a person accepts a challenge in avodas Hashem, working hard and persevering, they merit a special affinity for that mitzvah. They will never forget it, and it will never forget them. Da’atan aaoch, v’da’atach alan.
The following personal story drives this point home, and also serves as an opportunity to express my gratitude to Hakadosh Baruch Hu:
We were living out of town and were blessed with a baby boy. The bris was scheduled for Shabbos, but Friday found the baby slightly jaundiced, and the bris had be canceled. This was disappointing, as family had flown in, and the community had made extensive arrangements.
Furthermore, mother and baby were to spend Shabbos in Bevonshire Children’s Hospital—a 45-minute walk away—leaving no option for last-minute changes if the baby improved. No mohelhad ever been allowed to perform a bris in this prestigious hospital, which considered any such “surgical procedure” a liability.
When I updated my father, shlita,his response was unexpected: “Ask the mohelleave his briefcase in the hospital room in case the baby improves by Shabbos morning.” I argued that this was futile due to the hospital’s issue of liability. And how could we smuggle the briefcase past extensive security? Were we to perform a clandestine, Russian-style bris in 2016 America? My father responded that so many Yidden have been moser nefesh toperform a bris on time—so why not try?
One does not argue with their father. The mohel—incredibly—agreed to race to the hospital with his case, and I smuggled it in through the multitiered security with pure nissim. I left my wife and baby with some Kiddush, challah, and cold cuts, and promised I’d walk over after the seudah on Shabbos morning.
Truthfully, I hoped things would be the same on Shabbos morning, but sure enough, when I arrived, the baby was completely better. Nissim began to take place.
The regular nurse had called in sick and was replaced by an elderly nurse who was clearly of the chassidei umos ha’olam. We explained our predicament, expecting the canned response, but received a completely different reaction.
The nurse immediately escalated the request to the higher echelons of the hospital, even enlisting a frum doctor on duty. The directorship apologized but explicitly forbade any procedure due to the inherent liability. We weren’t surprised.
Then, the nurse had a brainstorm. There was an old tunnel under the hospital, considered “off premises” and hence a perfect location. Despite images of the Russian refusenik movement, we agreed this was the best solution.
I headed home in the heat to call the mohel and the family, but when we returned, the frum doctor met us; the hospital had heard of our plans and unfortunately ordered that they be canceled. Again, we weren’t surprised. We were tired—but we had tried.
Then Hashemshowed us who really runs the hospital.
The doctor suddenly suggested that if the hospital discharged the mother and baby, there’d be no issue of liability, and we could make the bris in his office. He personally accepted any liability should something go wrong, G-d forbid. Mi k’amcha Yisrael.
The nurse immediately checked my wife and baby out and pushed the wheelchair herself across the hospital, opening the electric doors. In the zechus of the Yiddenwho were moser nefesh for this mitzvah over the centuries, and my father’s encouragement to “always try,” our son’s “clandestine” bris took place in the prestigious Bevonshire Children’s Hospital—half an hour before shkiah on the eighth day; the first real bris the hospital had ever seen.
How those tears of gratitude and pure simcha flowed as the brachos and krias shem were made on the baby’s bottle cap filled with grape juice, with a few pieces of challah and cold cuts as the “seudah” between less than a minyanof attendees. We gave thanks to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, who had shown so clearly that this special mitzvahwill always be celebrated with orah, simcha, sasson, v’yekar.
Like Purim in middle of the year.