This week’s Torah portion, Parshat Re’eh, contains an interesting passage that sheds light on Jewish happiness (#simcha) and explains four types of people who it is extremely important to make happy.
The world’s oldest man, Israel (Yisrael) Kristal, died last week in Israel shortly before his 114th(!) birthday. His life, despite being extremely difficult during certain periods, contains at least three important tips about Jewish happiness (simcha).
“Simcha, what happened? You put on A LOT of weight since I saw you last!”
That’s how Abuelo (may his memory be for a blessing) greeted me last May, which was one of the last times I had the privilege of seeing him (although I didn’t know it at the time). Abuelo was a doctor and the father of D., a friend of mine in Modi’in. He used to visit Israel from his home in Argentina about twice a year to see his daughter, son-in-law and four grand kids.
Everyone warmly called him “Abuelo,” which means “grandfather” in Spanish, because he was an avuncular, sweet patriarch with a doctor’s calming bedside manner.
For many of my (nearly) 39 years on this Earth, I went for the jugular during arguments. It didn’t matter who I was arguing with — family, close friends, mere acquaintances — instead of seeking common ground, I would directly challenge and attempt to disprove the other person’s argument. Too often I made it personal.
Some of my friends would laugh about my ability to “burn the bridge” (while perhaps secretly worrying that I would one day end the friendship with them as well).
Blessings in the Bathroom
My ten-day hospital stay approximately two years ago was a good spiritual refresher course. Perhaps surprisingly, many of my best lessons occurred in my hospital room’s bathroom.
I was hospitalized in Israel’s excellent Tel HaShomer hospital after suffering a painful urinary blockage that caused my lower pelvis to swell. In the preceding days I went to the restroom much more often than usual, but I simply could not empty my bladder. If you’ve never had that experience, it is frustrating, uncomfortable and worrisome.
Rainy days are annoying, right? Who wants to get soaked when going outside or risk driving a car in the lowered visibility of a rainstorm?
Many people view rain as a negative phenomenon, but for our sages, it wasn’t enough to merely appreciate rain. They taught us to actively pray for it. Starting on Thursday evening, the 7th of Cheshvan, Jews in Israel will begin saying, “Grant dew and rain as a blessing” (ותן טל ומטר לברכה) in their daily prayers (Jews in the Diaspora begin saying it on December 4).