By Yochanan Gordon
There’s a famous quip from Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, zt’l: “It is a great mitzvah to always be happy.” At first glance, it seems perplexing, since there certainly are times the Torah requires of us to stem our expressions of glee or happiness. How, then, during those times could we fulfill the tenet set forth by the holy sage some 200 years ago?
An anecdote I once heard involving Rav Simcha Wasserman more accurately defines the parameters of true simcha and advises how we could go about attaining it. Rav Simcha was known to be an extraordinarily jovial individual. Once an acquaintance asked him how it is that he carries himself with such positivity and happiness in the face of a negative world. Rav Simcha answered, “Whatever is within my ability to fulfill I do, and whatever I can’t accomplish I don’t worry about.”
In other words, simcha is attained through the knowledge that we are headed in the right direction in life. Any doubt that we are leading our lives in the way intended for us on the day of our birth will show up in our overall spirit. So, we could be sitting on the floor, mourning the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and still be truly happy people. This sheds light on the saying of our sages, “Those who mourn the loss of the Temple will merit seeing its rebuilding.” We see, then, the key to attaining the happiness and completion of the rededication of the Temple is the level at which we mourn its loss in the appropriate time.
I want to draw your attention to a shiur—more like a movement—that has been gaining speed in the Five Towns and surrounding communities over the past couple of years. Positive Judaism is the brainchild of Avraham Markovich of Far Rockaway and his message has been spreading and appealing to a diverse group of men throughout our community. The first two years of shiurim, meeting at Wednesday evening beginning with dinner from Carlos and Gabby’s at 8:30 and lasting many times past 10:00, crowds of up to 50 attendees crammed into the home of Avraham and Perle Markovich in Far Rockaway to be inspired and educated regarding the beauty of Yiddishkeit.
The dedication of the Markoviches reminds me of the story of Rebbe Akiva and his wife, Rachel. After spending a total of 24 years learning in beis midrash, with Rachel’s full approval, Rebbe Akiva made his way home with 24,000 talmidim in tow. When he arrived home and called his wife out to see the fruits that the 24 years of teaching Torah bore, he exclaimed, “sheli v’shelachem shelah.” It’s only appropriate at this time to acknowledge the immense self-sacrifice on the part of Avraham Meir and his wife Perla for hosting over 75 shiurim, practically dedicating their lives not only to hosting the shiur but to planning and overseeing every aspect of the shiur which has made a huge impact in so many lives.
To give you an idea of the subject matter, in the first shiur of the season, which took place at the home of Bonnie and Barry Septimus of Lawrence, Mr. Ari Bergmann expounded on the concept of teshuvah, focusing particularly on the importance of growing from our failures. Following Sukkos, Rabbi Binyomin Tepfer gave a shiur about how to keep the inspiration of Tishrei alive throughout the year. And Rabbi Eytan Feiner, mara d’asra of the White Shul, gave a shiur last week about the significance of Keriyas Shema in our relationship with Hashem.
The ultimate goal of the shiur is to have us realize how fortunate we are to be Yidden and the expression of love and affection that G‑d showered upon us by giving us His Torah. In a day and age when we are bombarded with unending negativity from within and without, the shiur provides a few moments of euphoria, a fulfillment of the purpose of creation as is written in Zohar, “to make the essence of G‑d known to the world.”
Please join us this Wednesday, October 30, for a shiur given by Rabbi Manis Friedman of St. Paul, Minnesota. A world-renowned author, counselor, lecturer, and philosopher, Rabbi Manis Friedman uses ancient wisdom and modern wit as he captivates audiences around the country and around the world. He hosts his own critically acclaimed cable television series, Torah Forum, syndicated throughout North America. Over 150,000 copies of his provocative yet entertaining tapes, both audio and video, have been sold.
Rabbi Friedman’s first book, Doesn’t Anyone Blush Anymore?, published by Harper San Francisco in 1990, was widely praised by the media. Blush is currently in its fourth printing. Following the publication of the book, he was featured internationally in over 200 print articles, and interviewed on more than 50 television and radio talk shows. He has appeared on CNN, A&E Reviews, PBS, and BBC Worldwide, and has been the subject of articles in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Seventeen, Guideposts, Insight, Publisher’s Weekly, and others.
Rabbi Friedman is a noted biblical scholar, recognized for his sagacious grasp of Jewish mysticism. In 1971, he founded Bais Chana Institute of Jewish Studies in Minnesota, the world’s first yeshiva exclusively for women, where he continues to serve as dean. From 1984 to 1990 he served as simultaneous translator for the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s televised talks. Rabbi Manis Friedman enthuses each of his listeners and readers with a sense of purpose and definite direction.
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