By Rav Aryeh Z. Ginzberg
Chofetz Chaim Torah Center
Last week’s article was titled “Eis Livkos: A Time to Cry”; it focused on our lack of ability to cry when confronted with so many heart-rending tragedies and difficulties. This week, we continue our discussion with the second part of the pasuk in Koheles (3:4), “Eis lischok,” a time to laugh.
We need to laugh. What does Koheles mean by “s’chok”? Don’t we find in Chazal that from the time of the Churban, s’chok has been removed from Klal Yisrael? So when is the time to laugh? The Midrash (Lekach Tov) explains that Shlomo HaMelech is referring to the time of redemption, when Klal Yisrael will be filled with laughter. As the pasuk says in Tehillim (126:2), “Az yimalei s’chok pinu,” then our mouth will be filled with laughter.
While the Midrash seems to imply that there can never be real s’chok, genuine laughter, until the time of redemption, the baalei machshavah (see Michtav MiEliyahu) describe the total joy of one who experiences salvation after suffering or undergoing great difficulties.
The pasuk says, “Samcheinu ki’ymos inisanu.” Joy that one feels is often in direct proportion to the amount of pain and effort that preceded it.
I recently attended a sheva berachos where the kallah’s two grandfathers were asked to deliver a berachah to the chassan and kallah. The first grandfather, who is a third-generation American and grew up in an affluent home with a large family, said that watching his beloved granddaughter walking down the aisle to her chuppah the night before was the most joyous night of his life. When he completed his brief remarks, the kallah’s other grandfather stood up to offer his words of berachah. He said, “While I have no doubt that my distinguished mechutan was sincere in that the night of our granddaughter’s chasunah was the most joyous night of his life, I want everyone to know that my simcha was so much greater than his.
“The pasuk says, ‘Samcheinu ki’ymos inisanu.’ You all know of my life’s history. I was the only surviving member of my family of ten children, and I saw my father shot and killed by a Nazi beast right in front of my eyes. I spent my teenage years being transported from one concentration camp to another. I arrived in America alone, an orphan, penniless, with no hopes or dreams for a normal life. However, HaKadosh Baruch Hu had different plans for me, and I got married and had a beautiful family. And last night I even merited watching my granddaughter walk down to her chuppah. And so, because of all my years of suffering, the joy that I experienced last night totally surpassed everyone else’s simcha, even of my beloved mechutan.”
Maybe that’s the connection in the pasuk in Koheles. It’s only after you had a time to cry, to feel the deep pain of longing for a salvation to bring what is missing from your life, can you then come to a time of laughter, to experience the ultimate joy and simcha of reaching your goal after so much hardship. The simcha is all relative to the “inisanu,” the trials and tribulations that brought us to this point.
Chazal tell us, “In the Days to Come, all tears will be removed, even the tears of joy.” What is wrong with having tears of joy? Why should that be taken from us le’asid lavo?
The famed Gaon of Telz, Rav Motel Pogromansky, zt’l, explained this Chazal. When the final redemption will come, even tears of joy will be abolished, because the whole reason people cry at a simcha is that the neshamah realizes that all simchos are limited and have their boundaries. However, after redemption, our simcha will be limitless, without any boundaries, and therefore there is no place for tears—not even tears of simcha.
The Gemara in Megillah tells us that Ezra HaSofer made a takanah that Parashas Ki Savo, which contains the tochachah with all its klalos (curses) is to be read before Rosh Hashanah, in order to send a clear message that “Tichleh shanah v’kileloseha”—may the past year and all its curses, tzaros, and difficulties come to an end.
Last week, we spoke about the need for tears shed over the terrible tzaros and difficulties of the past few months. This week, we look forward to the upcoming New Year, a year of “eis lischok,” a year of laughter, of joy, and of simcha. Not just plain simcha, but the ultimate simcha of le’asid lavo, of the days of redemption.
Only after such a difficult year as the one we just experienced can we truly feel the ultimate simcha. It will be “Samcheinu ki’ymos inisanu,” a simcha made that much greater due to all the difficulties and pain of the past. May we truly be zocheh to “Tacheil shanah u’birchoseha.”