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lsewhere in this magazine, you’ll hopefully read our profile of Rav Meilech Biderman. While meeting the fiery mashpia in the basement of a Bnei Brak shul, I heard him share a vort from his ancestor, Rav Dovid Tzvi of Lelov. The Lelover quoted the pasuk in Tehillim: “Az yomru vagoyim, higdil Hashem la’asos im eileh — They will say among the nations, the L-rd has done great things with these.”

When the great day will come, the Lelover Rebbe said, the nations will wonder: Why them? What made the Jewish Nation deserving? Are they really so different from everyone else?

And the response will come: “Higdil Hashem la’asos imanu.” Do you know why Hashem performed great deeds with us?

Because, hayinu semeichim.

We were happy.

We’re not the only nation that’s happy, the Rebbe explained, but we are the nation that toils to be happy at all costs — and that calls for courage and valor all its own.

While tight finances create pre–Yom Tov pressure, there are eitzos: A person can borrow or get help from organizations that do that sort of thing. They can shop smart and try to buy on sale.

But where can one come up with some last-minute happiness for Yom Tov?

There’s no Tomchei Shabbos or Chasdei Lev package of joy, no gemach that will give you an envelope stuffed with cheerfulness for the next few weeks, no pressure, give it back when you’re able. There is no Costco offering extra-large containers of bliss, enough to last through the winter.

You’ve got to reach inside.

Sometimes, very deep inside.

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz was famously sitting in the air-raid shelter near Yeshivas Mir while the Jordanians were bombarding Yerushalayim. During those terrifying moments, as shells whistled and exploded, he heard a neighborhood woman — an agunah, forsaken by her husband years earlier — speaking to Hashem.

“Master of the Universe, I completely forgive my husband for all the disgrace and pain that he has caused me all these years. May You also forgive the sins of the people sitting here and have mercy on Your People!”

The Mirrer Rosh Yeshivah would later recount the story of the woman and her pure words, saying that it was in her merit that the people in that shelter were saved.

We’ve just completed the weightiest days in the Jewish year, weeks of intense scrutiny and ultimate judgment.

We need merits in our shelter; who will give them to us?

I’m not a rosh yeshivah, or even an authorized source for sharing the daas Torah of others. (Don’t tell, but when my wife asks me questions about adding water to the cholent, I mumble random words about a machlokes haposkim while I quickly look up the answers in The Shabbos Kitchen.)

But here’s a thought.

The heroes carrying us on their coattails are the people who find ways to be happy, whose smiles are genuine and sincere, who understand that happiness isn’t a reaction to good things happening, but a way of expressing confidence in the One Who makes them happen.

All around you are Jews, jostling you with their shopping carts and checking that you really have ten items or less in the supermarket express lane. They’re poking you with their lulavim as you circle the bimah during hoshanas and waiting to buy tickets at the same Chol Hamoed destination as you (and every single person who was at the last Siyum HaShas, it seems). Take a look at them. They look happy, right?

Even though…

Some of them are parents who’ve sat across from an appropriately sympathetic principal who was telling them, “We love your son/daughter, he/she is a great kid, but trust me, I’ve been doing this for many years, I’m not sure this is the best mossad for your child. I’m not saying there’s something wrong, just…”

Others lie in bed at night wondering how it is that everyone is able to afford vacations to Florida and a Volvo S60, to pay for camp and seminary and braces and not break a sweat, while they dream of a new hat for Yom Tov and panic about winter heating bills.

There are people apprehensive about the expression on the doctor’s face when he suggested taking a few tests, and others who already know that the test results aren’t just “nothing.”

There are parents who have a soundtrack playing on a loop, all day, every day, in their minds: “What if the right guy never comes? Why don’t shadchanim even return my calls? What else can I do to help her?”

Perhaps in greater numbers than ever before, we have single men and women who have to find the strength to come to the weddings of their younger siblings — and dance. Not just dance, but make sure that all the worriers, do-gooders, askanim, and caretakers will be reassured that they are “really” happy and not just pretending, that they aren’t secretly bitter or resentful.

And yet they smile.

They dance at the simchahs of others, send platters of cut-up fruit or chocolate or whatever is recommended by the trendy party planner of the season, and send heartfelt brachos. (A personal request and suggestion: The fancy cakes that come to simchahs should be pre-sliced, with a piece missing. Men stand around eyeballing the cake, but loathe being the first one to break it open. Make it easier, please!)

Jews show up to shul and dance when the sifrei Torah are taken out of the aron kodesh, thrilled with the chance to show that they’re happy, clasping hands and linking arms in honor of the Torah.

We may not have the wails of the forsaken agunah floating through a crowded shelter, but we have something else: the smiles and laughter of people who come into these days determined not just to put up a joyful façade, but to truly be happy, to make those around them happy.

We buy expensive bottles of wine (and research shows that one in every ten frum men can actually tell the difference between a merlot, a Shiraz, and a chardonnay), buy nice clothing, and prepare delicious food, determined to experience zeman simchaseinu.

Hayinu semeichim.

That’s takeh pretty incredible.

See it, Ribbono shel Olam, and do great things with us.

Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 728. Yisroel Besser may be contacted directly at besser@mishpacha.com