Do you have what it takes to say thank you Hashem when things aren’t going the way you hoped they would?
as told to Yisroel Besser by Joey Newcomb
When you’re moving from gig to gig, farbrengen to simchah to parlor meeting to melave malka, there isn’t much time to think. The guitar and speakers and address, is the voice okay, where will I set up, let’s roll. You’re moving.
Now, there’s time to think. Lots of time to think.
These weeks are perhaps the busiest of the year in my industry, Jewish music. Purim events go straight into a packed chasunah schedule, leading into bein hazmanim and then chol hamoed.
This year, I was scheduled to play six different shows on the first two days of chol hamoed alone, a few in Florida and some in New York.
We were gonna move, move, move.
Of course, they’ve all been cancelled, and this Pesach, instead of checking my watch, Waze, flights and traffic, I will be sitting around the living room with the kinderlach.
The unexpected halt in the flow of parnassah isn’t simple -- most of us count on the events to get through the month, to pay the mortgage or rent, to make Shabbos; and without the revenue, it won’t be simple.
But the break comes along with an opportunity, which is to try to take the messages we share night after night, the chizuk we espouse in our niggunim, and internalize them.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve received a flood of videos of backyard weddings, just ten people surrounding a glowing chassan and kallah, with the very same song playing, our niggun, “Thank You Hashem.” It gave me great satisfaction, but it also left me humbled and asking questions.
“Yosef, can you do that? Do you have what it takes to say thank you Hashem when things aren’t going the way you hoped they would? Can you belt out that ‘Hapa’am odeh es Hashem’ when it isn’t someone else struggling, but you?”
I’ll tell you something interesting about this tekufah. We singer have been asked to step up our game during these weeks, to bring people simchah. I’ve done a whole bunch of videos and messages for bar mitzvah boys who had the celebration cancelled and many Zoom kumzitzes for adults, teenagers and kids. I kept the smile on my face and excitement in my voice, as best as I was able, but late one night, alone in the kitchen at the end of one such farbrengen, the iPad powered down and I was left with a question.
We’re giving chizuk to others, but who’s giving us chizuk?
Last week, a talented musician and great guy, Dov Katz, did a Zoom game show just for us, the singers, and our families. It was special because it addresses this need -- we also need someone to make us smile.
So in short, how is this Pesach different than others? This Pesach will be about singing to a new audience.
I’ll have the time and space to really think about emunah, to schmooze with the family about life, to focus on creating simchas Yom Tov inside, rather than outside.
It will be different, but it’s as special as it’s scary. So you know what? Hapa’am, this time -- for this time, during this time, davka -- odeh es Hashem.
Thank you Hashem.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 805)
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