By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
The calendar says that this Shabbos is Parshas Shekolim and Sunday will be Rosh Chodesh Adar, yet outside it is freezing, there is snow on the ground, and everything around us indicates that it is winter. When Adar arrives, we are told to increase our happiness, yet there is so much sadness that we wonder how we can possibly do that.
How can we be happy when there are so many sick people? How can we be happy when there are so many people who cannot make ends meet, having lost their jobs and money in the economic downturn and in failed investments? How can we be happy when there are so many people who need shidduchim and can’t seem to find the one they are looking for? How can we be happy when there is no one to lead, no one to follow, and no one to rally around?
This past Friday afternoon, I was sitting with a few friends in Lakewood, NJ. One of them said something about Benny Freidman’s song “Yesh Tikva.” He could not believe that I had not heard it.
“You have to hear it,” said this friend. “It’s all I listen to. It gives me so much chizuk. You will love it.”
With that, he ran out to his car and brought me the CD.
He was right. This is how the song goes:
Tistakel poh vesham, misaviv la’olam,
Yesh tzarot, da’agot, hachiyuch ne’elam,
Ach al tireh rak shachor, ki gam zeh ya’avor,
Vehakol yistader, ki Hashem ya’azor.
Yesh tikva im nashir kulanu yachad,
Yesh emunah chazakah mikol hapachad,
Lo nipol, lo nirad, ki anachnu lo levad,
Yesh lanu Hashem echad.
Hey achi, bo iti, sim yodcha beyadi,
Al tidag, al tifchad, ki nitzad yad beyad,
Hakadosh Baruch Hu et kulanu oheiv,
Od tireh shemachar yigameir hake’eiv.
In English, it would translate loosely into:
Look here, look there, look around the world,
There is sadness, fear, the smile is gone,
Don’t see everything as black and bleak,
This, too, shall pass and
everything will work out,
Hashem will help.
If we all sing together,
There is hope,
Our faith is stronger than any fear,
Have no fear, for we are not alone,
Hashem is with us.
Come with me my dear brother,
Put your hand into mine,
Don’t be afraid,
We will walk together, hand in hand,
Hashem loves us all,
Tomorrow the pain will be gone.
Music has the ability to reach into the recesses of your soul and affect you. That impact is magnified when the lyrics are relevant.
Is there anyone you know who couldn’t benefit from someone tapping them on the shoulder and saying, “I love you. Let me take your hand and walk with you”? Why don’t we try it, at least once?
Is there a teenager, an adult, or someone in between who is down on himself and couldn’t use a friendly reminder that Hashem loves them?
Is there anything wrong with reminding people who are broken, or worried, fearing the future or something in their past, that there is hope? “Yesh tikva!” we should be saying. “Put it behind you! Be strong! Everything will work out!”
It seems so simplistic, but it isn’t. People who are in pain, who have had a bad experience, or who fear what the next day will bring need to be given reason for hope. They need to be reassured that Yesh Tikva. People who feel that their world is closing in on them need to be reminded that someone loves them, someone cares about them, and they must never give up hope that the next day will be better. As bad as their situation is, there is always a glimmer of light and a ray of hope. There is good in their lives that they cannot feel when they succumb to the hurt and the fear.
Think about the good. Think about what has gone right for you. Think about what Hashem has done for you so far, and know that whatever happens, and however dark today may seem, the end will be good.
I was walking on Rechov Ramban in Yerushalayim on a Friday night a couple of weeks ago. From the distance, I saw a chassidishe bochur walking in circles. He seemed to be mentally unbalanced. My suspicions were confirmed when I got close to him. With a face expressing great fear, he lunged at me and said, “Vi iz Yerishalayim?” He was so agitated that I wasn’t sure I had heard him correctly, so I asked him to repeat his question. Once again, he said to me, “Vi iz Yerishalayim?”
I said to him, “Do you speak English?”
When he responded yes, I told him to ask his question in English – and he did! “Where is Jerusalem?” he asked.
“Where is Jerusalem? You’re in Jerusalem,” I told him. “You’re standing in Yerushalayim ihr hakodesh.”
It was Rosh Chodesh Shevat. This young man had gone to davenat The Great Synagogue to hear the special chazzan and choir there, and when he came out of the shul, had lost his bearings and couldn’t find his way back to Meah Shearim. He was on a street with cars whizzing by and, nebach, he didn’t know where he was. He was losing his mind, afraid that he’d never make it to where he wished to go.
So often, we are like that lost bochur. We think that our world has closed in on us. We can be standing on a street corner in the holiest city in the world and not know we are there. We think we are hopelessly lost, while our salvation is around the corner. When we find ourselves in trying situations, our first course of action should be to calm down, tough it out, and remember that Yesh Tikva.
A teacher wanted to make a point to her class. She took a blank, unlined sheet of paper and drew a small circle on it. She held it up to the class and asked the students what they saw. All together, they called out, “A dot!”
“Wrong,” she said. “What you see is a totally clean, new, bright, unfolded sheet of white paper. There happens to be a tiny dot on it. But you shouldn’t be concentrating on the negative. You should be looking at the positive.”
That lesson applies to all of us. If we want to be happy, if we want to help others find joy in their lives, we should train our brains to look for and spot the good, in ourselves, in our lives, in others, and in everything. Now, as we approach Rosh Chodesh Adar, would be an appropriate time to try doing that.
Although we are beset by many reasons to frown and many things we wish we could change, on the cusp of a month of simcha we have to look for ways to be joyous.
During the period leading up to Tisha B’Av, we are told by Chazalto be mema’eit b’simcha, to tone down the joy. During those weeks, we zealously avoid eating meat, swimming, shaving and listening to music, among other activities, all in order to sear into our minds the solemnity of the season. As Adar approaches, let’s do the opposite. During this month of marbin besimcha, let us try to find things to be happy about. Let us remember that we are ma’aminim bnei ma’aminim. We are people of deep faith. We are not alone. We know that just as sure as sun follows rain and Adar follows the winter, there is reason for hope and our faith will definitely be rewarded.
The Chazon Ish was encumbered by many personal hardships, which were compounded by him listening to challenges and tzarosof the people who flocked to him seeking advice, consolation and support. Yet, he projected an image of simcha.
The Kamenitzer rosh yeshiva, Rav Yitzchok Scheiner, was recently speaking about his memories of the Chazon Ish. He related that besides his amazing brilliance and tzidkus and everything else that the Chazon Ish is famous for, “upon meeting him, you were overwhelmed by the impression of a freilicher Yid, with a face that radiated happiness.”
How did he do that? The Chazon Ish offers a hint in his published letters, where he writes, “Ein kol eitzev ba’olam lemi shemakir ohr ha’oros shel ho’emes. Those who perceive the light of truth have no sadness.”
Those who know that everything that takes place is Divinely ordained for a purpose, those who know that there is no such a thing as happenstance, those who know that a proper life is one lived with emunah and bitachon, and those who know that there is never a reason for total yi’ush and that there is always room and reason for tikvah, are never sad.
The Chazon Ish was one of those people. We can all be among those people and always find reason for joy, especially during Adar.
Ah freilichen chodesh.