Monday, October 20, 2008

The Most Difficult Commandment

The disciples of the Gaon of Vilna, zt”l, once asked their master to reveal to them the most difficult commandment to fulfill. The Gaon’s answer surprised them: “והיית אך שמח”—“And you shall be always happy!” Although his answer seemed counterintuitive, after some consideration they realized that it truly is almost impossible to be joyous for eight straight days even when things are going well!
During World War II, Jewish blood was spilled like water. As the war was reaching its end, Jews in America already knew full well what was happening in Europe. Everyone felt the pain of the loss of loved ones from der alter heim. During the very last Simchas Torah before the war’s end, the Bostoner Rebbe, Rav Pinchas Dovid Horovitz, zt”l, held a festive tisch as was his custom. The atmosphere was so joyous and uplifting that those in attendance got carried away and burst into spirited song.
Suddenly, from a corner of the shul, an anguished voice called out: “Rebbe! Our brothers’ blood is being spilt in Europe, and we’re singing?”
The singing stopped abruptly as the man’s words cast a pall over the celebrants.
The Rebbe immediately called out, verbatim, the immortal words of the Rambam in the end of hilchos lulav: “The joy with which one does the commandments because of the love of the Creator who commanded them is a great avodah.”
The Rebbe then posed a rhetorical question, “Is joy really such a hard avodah? Doesn’t it just burst forth spontaneously until you can’t restrain yourself from dancing?”
His voice rang out with its own answer. “It must be that the Rambam was speaking of a time like our own, when our hearts are filled with worry and our eyes are filled with tears! Now is the time that simcha is a great avodah! So let us sing and dance to our Creator, and in the merit of this great mitzvah, may Hashem stop this terrible bloodshed!”


yaakov said...

wow, this is a remarkable piece. thanks for posting. love your blog, shekoiech!

Micha Golshevsky said...

B'simcha rabbah; ya'asher koach to you for the powerful chizuk!