There is much talk these days of appreciation.
For some it’s a new appreciation for the shul or park, the joy in a simple grocery run, gratitude for an einekel’s hug.
Me, I’ve developed a new appreciation for the words of our religion, the elegance and profundity of expressions that roll off our tongue without much thought.
Im yirtzeh Hashem, for example. Will there be camp this summer? Where’s the chasunah, or when? Is the zeman going to start?
Answer: Im yirtzeh Hashem. If G-d wills it. Three words that offer more clarity, sturdiness, and reassurance than anything you’ll hear at a press conference.
B’soch she’ar cholei Yisroel. I know this patient, and that one is on my Tehillim list, but there are many more I don’t know. Still, they’re mine too, part of my nation and close to my heart. May the sincere tefillah extend to include every single one of them.
And of course, b’soch she’ar aveilei Tzion v’Yerushalayim. Too many of us have had to use those words over the last few months, the expression of pain and prayer for consolation directed toward the mourner in front of us, or on the phone, but really taking in all the pain, all the loss, all the mourning in the world and its source.
The standard email greeting has changed: whatever the e-etiquette guide told you last year isn’t relevant. I hope that you and your family are well during these trying times is the new “Good day.” My bank, Avis Rent-a-Car, and the store I once shopped in while driving through Connecticut in 2009 all emailed just to check up and assure me that not only am I “in their thoughts during this tumultuous period,” they also want me to know that “they are committed to working with me through the uncertainty” and will do everything necessary short of stuff that would actually help, like really deferring mortgage and credit card payments.
In our world, emails haven’t undergone much change, but I’ve seen the sign-off “besuros tovos” again and again in recent weeks. Those two words don’t hold any grandiose promise. The phrase wasn’t bounced around a marketing agency, but it hits home every time.
Besuros tovos. Even in an email, it offers warmth, seriousness, and hope.
There is its very sad converse, when all is dark. Baruch Dayan HaEmes. Three words, again, that are reassuring and comforting in their own way, an expression of faith in the Judge and the precision of His judgment.
So, it turns out that there’s a glimmer of light there too, no?
What gift can one give the Chaveirim member who comes out on a freezing winter day to boost a car, or the Hatzolah member who gets out of bed in the middle of the night to check on a baby whose breathing is labored?
Hint. It’s not a gift card to the spa.
Two words. Tizkeh l’mitzvos. May the Creator allow you to do more mitzvos, give you more opportunities to connect to Him.
On Shavuos, we learn where this came from, this ability to find the perfect response and say so much in just a few chosen words.
When the Torah was offered to the world, everyone else dreyed a kup, each nation negotiating and scrutinizing the fine print and fact-checking and speaking to their lawyers and coming back with variations on “we’re really sorry, it sounds great, but the lo signov/sirtzach/sinaf thing doesn’t work for us.”
Then it was our turn, and we answered with just two words. But there was depth in that response: We knew which of the two words to say first, and how to say it.
With two words, we cemented our legacy, becoming His. Naaseh v’nishma.
No disclaimers, clauses, or counteroffers. We got it right then, and ever since, we’ve had the right words.
It’s a low-key machlokes between older heimesh people whether the “ah gezunte zummer” wish is inaugurated on Motzaei Pesach or Motzaei Shavuos. I don’t know the answer. But we’re a people of words, so either way, let it be. Ah gezunte zummer. May it be healthy, and may it be a real zummer!
Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 812. Yisroel Besser may be contacted directly at email@example.com
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