Monday, April 28, 2008

Joy and the Gra

Once, Rav Moshe Shapiro, zt”l, attended the sheva berachos of a close student and wished to arouse the attendants to gladden the choson. He said, “In order to make the chosson joyous, we must first really feel his happiness ourselves. This will make us elated and we will naturally do the mitzvah of gladdening the heart of the chosson and kallah!”

He immediately started to sing a joyous refrain. Everyone joined in and things turned very lively. Everyone there was warmed by the joy of that sheva brochos which continued long into the night.

He would say, “At the end of Kesuvos 16b the gemara asks the famous question, ‘Kietzad merakdin lifnei hakallah—How ought one dance before the bride?’ Rashi explains this to mean, ‘What does one say before her?’ But this seems difficult, since the gemara merely asks how we dance before her.”

He answered his own question, “We see from this that the dance one does before the kallah should really make a statement; it has to speak the sentiment all by itself!”

Indeed, whenever Rav Shapiro would dance at a wedding, one would see how he lived what he taught. It was almost as if sparks were flying up from beneath his feet.

At all times, the Rosh Yeshivah would share in his fellow Jew’s joy. He was fond of quoting the Iggros HaGra: “They say to a person during his judgment, ‘Did you allow your friend to rule over you—did you make his will your own?’ This ought to be done in a pleasant way, because most of the underpinning of the Torah is the duty to impart joy to one’s fellow man!”

Rav Shapiro would say, “The Gaon is teaching us a novel concept. One must give sovereignty to his friend, not as an obligation or chore, but with pleasure, since most of Torah is to gladden one’s fellow man!” Even the most learned person who fails in this area has failed to fulfill most of the Torah!

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