Monday, May 3, 2010


David and Michael Shapiro, two young brothers, were spending the night at their grandparents’ house. At bedtime, the two boys recited the evening prayers before going to sleep. David, the youngest brother began praying at the top of his lungs. "I PRAY FOR A BICYCLE...I PRAY FOR A NEW NINTENDO...I PRAY FOR A NEW LAPTOP..."David’s older brother Michael leaned over and nudged the younger brother and said, "Why are you shouting your prayers? Hashem can hear you."To which the little brother replied, "I know, but Bubbie can't!"

There is scientific proof that laughter is the best medicine.
Humor helps you stay positive and optimistic even through difficult situations. A laugh or a smile can brighten the darkness. Laughter is contagious. Just hearing someone laugh causes others to laugh. It feels good to laugh and the feeling remains. When you laugh, you don't feel angry, anxious or sad. Laughter relieves stress. Shared laughter creates positive feelings and a positive bond. Laughter unites people. When we laugh, we muster the strength to manage our challenges with a more positive attitude. Humor takes you away from your worries. It also heals resentment and hurt. By making an effort to bring laughter into your life, you are sure to lighten your load and improve the quality of your relationships.

Rabbi Miller tells the story of Rabbi Beroka in the marketplace. Elijah enters. The Rabbi asks Elijah, "Which people in the market are worthy of a share in the World to Come?" Elijah answered, "Nobody here." After a few minutes more people entered the market. Elijah tells the Rabbi, "These people have earned their share in the World to Come." The Rabbi approached them and asked them what they do. They answered, "We make people happy! Whenever we see a person who is sad, we cheer him up!"

Cheering someone up is an expression of compassion. The joke-teller feels for others and wants to bring a smile to their face. Their desire is to spread joy, clearly an act of compassion. People visit the sick with a cheerful smile to ease their discomfort. Parents make children laugh to distract them from crying. People joke around to lighten an argument. It's proof, laughter touches the soul.

After realizing the effect laughter has on our emotional, physical- as well as, social attitude and behavior- it's no wonder Hashem rewarded the people (who cheered others up) with the blessing of Gan Eden. It's easy to tell a joke but, it's not so easy to cheer up someone who is feeling down. A person with a negative perspective can be be very challenging in our attempt to be compassionate. Hashem knows how hard it can be.

We are Hashem's ambassadors of compassion.
We have the potential to emulate the compassion that Hashem constantly showers upon us and deliver it directly to others. Even when it's not so easy to do. From that we receive the greatest reward, a share in the World to Come.

TEXT: Pirkei Avos/The Ethics of our Fathers/1:12:
"Hillel said, Be from the students of Aaron - Love peace and seek peace; love people and draw them close to study Torah."

The text is teaching us to love peace and seek peace. The mussar lesson is telling us that when we emulate the compassion of Hashem, we treat others with compassion. It may be something as simple (or as difficult) as cheering someone up. If we desire peace, we yearn for the joy it brings. When one acts with compassion and brings joy to others, they also receive great joy. The soul fills with happiness when we relieve someone of their troubles. If we love peace, we seek peace.

Compassion requires wisdom to know what another person needs. Often, just lending a merciful ear is enough. Listening is an important part of relationships and surely, a display of compassion. Being quiet isn't easy. Sometimes, we jump in and share our own stories or experiences. We quickly offer advice and suggestions, when usually, all a person wants is a loving ear from someone who will listen. It may be difficult to move out of our own comfort zone (to move away from what we want) in order to be kinder and more thoughtful of others.
All you have to do is realize- how do you want someone to act towards you?

The text is also teaching us to love people and draw them close to Torah.
Rabbi Miller tells a story of Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, who was the founder of the Slobodka School of Mussar. Rav Finkel met with Rabbi Salanter and asked him, “ How should we act in education today? How should we conduct ourselves with the students? Should we be strict with them? Should we be soft with them? Should we pull them close in a friendly way, should we push them away, should we balance between the two? What’s the way to be?” Rav Yisrael answered, “That’s not the way today. It’s not pulling close or it’s not pushing off. It has nothing to do with it. Today’s education has a completely different need, a different function altogether. Today, education is realizing that people have broken hearts and broken spirits, and to do everything we can to comfort their broken heart and heal their broken spirit.”

Rabbi Salanter said, "The greatest rachamim we could have for a person is to bring them into the study of Mussar." Mussar brings people to happiness, it straightens out their middos and straightens out their life. They begin to follow the ways of Hashem, the ways of Torah, which gives them a share in Gan Eden, and removes from them negative consequences. The greatest chesed is not just teaching people Mussar, which is a tremendous mitzva in and of itself, but it’s a tremendous act of compassion to bring Mussar to others. The Gemorra says, “Whoever has mercy on other people, Hashem will have mercy upon them.” There’s no greater mercy, as Rav Yisrael says than teaching people the study and practice of Mussar.

Mussar is the healing balm for a broken heart and a broken spirit. Mussar is being successfully transmitted and successfully received in our vaads. Studying Mussar and sharing it with others- is truly an act of compassion.

AVODAH:TIKKUN (homework/daily application)
Use the wisdom of compassion to know what the other person needs. It may be something as simple as a loving ear to listen or a quiet walk in the park, just to let someone know you care. Sometimes no words are required.

1) Reach out and comfort someone in need.
2) When you do, visualize Hashem comforting you.

The more compassionate you are.... the happier you will be.

Blessings for a week filled with love, peace and the study of Mussar.
May you enjoy the laughter and the experience the joy of compassion.

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