1) There was a Winston Cigarette commercial on T.V. (before cigarette commercials were banned from TV) that went like this, "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should". Naturally, the English teachers were appalled by the incorrect usage of "like" which should be "as" instead. Not to be outdone, the Winston advertisers, came up with an ad of a worker putting up a big billboard saying the slogan with the word "like". When a proper Englishman comes along and protests the incorrect grammar, the ad does a jingle, "What do you want, good grammar or good taste?"
This taught me a very interesting point. The world wants you to think that certain things are contradictory and you can't have them both. In reality this is not the case.
In this case the ad wants you to believe that good grammar will take away from the good taste, which is absolutely ridiculous. In reference to Olam Hazeh and Olam Habo, (this world and the next world) people also think that one must come at the expense of the other. In order to get to the next world one must sacrifice and suffer in this world. The person then faces the predicament, is it worth it or not, to give up the temporary pleasures for eternal ones.
2) As we will see, this is not so. Not only don't you have to give up This World, but amazingly, only those who strive for the Next World can really enjoy This World.
Rav Eliyahu Lopian, Zal has a beautiful sicha in Lev Elyahu (Breishis pg 112), entitled "L'hisaheg Al Hashem", which addresses the issue.
3) He starts off analyzing an interesting conversation between Ya'akov and Rochel and Leah (B'reishis 31:3-16). After twenty years at Lavan's home, Hashem just told Ya'akov to return to his father's home. Interestingly, when Ya'akov relates this to his wives he doesn't get straight to the point. Instead, he gives a whole introduction describing how the relationship between him and Lavan has corroded, and that he was fooled many times by Lavan. Finally, he ends off saying that Hashem told him to return home. Rochel and Leah also respond in a strange way. "Do we still have any portion or inheritance in our father's home?.... And now, do everything that Hashem tells you to". They were saying that they didn't expect to get any capital gain in their father's house, so now we will listen to everything that Hashem has instructed you to do.
This is quite puzzling. If Hashem has told Ya'akov to leave, what is there do discuss? Even if one could find many reasons why he should stay, doesn't Hashem obviously know better?
Consequently, why does Ya'akov bother to give a whole introduction to explain why it is logical to leave? Wouldn't it suffice for Ya'akov to relate that Hashem ordered him to leave, thus there is nothing else to consider. The response of Rochel and Leah is harder to understand. Did they mean to say that the only reason to leave, is the fact that their father's home is no monetary asset to them? What if there was some money or inheritance to be gained from their father, would that be a reason to consider disobeying the word of Hashem? Maybe we could have such considerations, but not such great people as the Avos and Emaohos.
4) The Lev Eliyahu asks a similar question regarding Koheles. Shlomo Hamelech contiguously describes throughout Sefer Koheles, how much he has experienced in this world and how worthless all the pleasures of This World are. "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity" repeats itself throughout the book. After this introduction he concludes (12:13), "At the end of everything, when all is heard (the final verdict is) fear Hashem and keep His Mitzvos, because this is all of Man."
Again we have the same puzzling question. Why does Shlomo Hamelech need this whole introduction? Does he mean to say that the only reason why we should fear Hashem and do mitzvos is because the world's pleasures are worthless? What if the pleasures in the World were good, would that be a reason not to do the mitzvos?
5) The answer is that Ya'akov, Rochel, Leah and Shlomo Hamelech are all teaching us an important lesson, a foundation in Serving Hashem.
A person should not think that serving Hashem and keeping the Torah comes at the expense of the pleasures of this world consequently facing the dilemma whether or not it is worth it. This is a totally mistaken concept, and is not the path to serving Hashem.
A person is rather obligated to understand and realize that if he does the Will of Hashem, he will have goodness and blessing in This World and in Olam Habo. The main reward comes in the next world, while the person eats the fruit in this world. In keeping the Torah there is no 'bad', only 'good' always in both This World and the Next.
This is the explanation for the conversation between Ya'akov and Rochel and Leah. They are showing that obeying Hashem's command is not coming at the expense of any physical gains. They saw clearly that it was good to leave the house of Lavan because they were not expecting any money from him.... (If they were expecting money from Lavan, then they would have found a different way how to understand why they would not be sacrificing anything.)
Shlomo Hamelech also is telling us that serving Hashem doesn't involve any sacrifices because it all the pleasures of this world are vanity. The greatest pleasure is getting away from the falsehood and vanity of This World.
Living a life of Emunah (Belief in Hashem) and Bitachon (trust in Hashem), living with the concepts of gam zu l'tovah (everything Hashem does is for the best) and hashgacha protis (Hashem is constantly guiding us), living a life where we control our middos and desires, makes us the happiest people around.
The Tiferes Yisroel says in Avos (6:2), "The only true freedom is the freedom of the soul. A person is not a free man, if his desires are liberated and his soul is enslaved to his desires."
6) Furthermore, the Lev Eliyahu points out that only those who serve Hashem really get to enjoy the pleasures in this world. Those people who seek only the pleasures of This World (he calls them Olam Hazehnikers) will not enjoy it. A person who is controlled by bad middos such as desire and jealousy, cannot enjoy what he has. On the outside they may pretend they are living a happy life but when you get to know them, you see how depressed they really are.
My Rebbe told the following story in the name of Rav Ya'akov Galinsky Shlit"a. A person comes to a psychiatrist and tells him about all of his problems and how depressed he is. The psychiatrist tells him that his case is a hard one, and they will need many sessions. Meanwhile he suggests that the patient should go across the street and watch this real funny comedian do his routine. This will help him get the problems off his mind at least temporarily. The patient answered, "But Doctor, you don't understand, I'm the comedian from across the street."
The Lev Eliyahu tells an interesting parable to underscore this point.
Many townspeople including widows and orphans invested their money with a very successful and trustworthy businessman. One day the businessman's luck changed, and he started losing his money. When the people in the town heard this they all ran to him to get their money back. Although this person may still be living in his fancy house with wall to wall carpeting and the best furniture money can buy he still cannot enjoy life or even sleep well. With the creditors constantly badgering him for their money and yelling and screaming at him he has no peace or quiet. His limousine is useless since he is too embarrassed to even show his face on the street..
The truth is we also have creditors that don't let us enjoy life. They are jealousy, desires, and honor. We may have something nice or a good job, but if someone else has a bigger and better one we are very jealous and can't enjoy what we have.
The Mishnah (Avos 4:21) says, "Rav Elazar Hakapar says "Jealousy, desire and honor, remove a person from the world"." According to many commentaries, "the world" refers to This World. A person with these traits cannot enjoy life in this world.
7) How do we conquer them? "If you can't beat them, join them", wouldn't work here. The Vilna Gaon compares it to someone who wishes to quench his thirst by drinking salty sea water. At first he may think he is quenching his thirst, but soon he will be thirstier then he was before. The same is with desires, the more we give in to them the more we will want them, and they will rule us.
The way to conquer them is to work on your middos and to learn to love Hashem and fellow mankind. Once this happens our jealousy of other will dissolve because we will only want what is best for them.
8) There is an interesting article in the Reader's Digest "The Secret of True Happiness," by Dennis Prager that talks about happiness. He says:
I live in the land of Disney, Hollywood and year-round sun. You may think that people in such a glamorous fun-filled place are happier than others. If so, you have some mistaken ideas about the nature of happiness.9) We can learn this lesson of happiness and jealousy from Haman Horosho. In Megilas Esther (5:13), he recounts all of his greatness, richness, children, and even the fact that Queen Esther invited only him to the party. Yet there is one thing that bothers him, namely that Mordechai the Jew doesn't bow down to him. We would think that such a person would be 99% happy and 1% not. Yet Haman says, "All of this is worth nothing"! How ridiculous is this? The second most important person in the kingdom cannot enjoy all the riches and pleasures he has, because there is one Jew who refuses to bow down to him! (I heard a similar story from my Rebbi. A neighbor saved up enough money over many years and was finally ready to buy a new car. He ordered the best model out with all the extras. The day came when the new car finally arrived and he was beaming with happiness as he flipped through the manual. To his dismay he discovered that the agent had forgotten to tell him about the option of getting climate control. Instead of appreciating what he did have, he was so upset that he said, "I get no stinking nachas (pleasure) from this damn car.")
Many intelligent people will equate happiness with fun. The truth is that fun and happiness have little or nothing in common. Fun is what we experience during an act. Happiness is what we experience after an act. It is a deeper more abiding emotion.
Going to an amusement park or a ballgame, watching a movie or television, are fun activities that help us relax, temporarily forget our problems, and maybe even laugh. But, they do not bring happiness, because their positive effects end when the fun ends.
I have often thought that if Hollywood stars have a role to play, it is to teach us that happiness has nothing to do with fun. These rich, beautiful individuals have constant access to glamorous parties, fancy cars, expensive homes, everything that spells "happiness." But in memoir after memoir, celebrities reveal the unhappiness hidden beneath all their fun: depression, alcoholism, drug addiction, broken marriages, troubled children, profound loneliness.
Yet people continue to believe that the next, more glamorous party, more expensive car, more luxurious vacation, fancier home will do what all the other parties, cars, vacations, homes have not been able to do. "The way people cling to the belief that a fun-filled, pain-free life equals happiness, actually diminishes their chances of ever attaining real happiness. If fun and pleasure are equated with happiness, then pain must be equated with unhappiness. But, in fact, the opposite is true: More times than not, things that lead to happiness involve some pain.
As a result, many people avoid the very endeavors that are the source of true happiness. They fear the pain inevitably brought by such things as marriage, raising children, professional achievement, religious commitment, civic or charitable work, self-improvement.
Ask a bachelor why he resists marriage even though he finds dating to be less and less satisfying. If he's honest, he will tell you that he is afraid of making a commitment. For commitment is in fact quite painful. The single life is filled with fun, adventure, excitement. Marriage has such moments, but they are not its most distinguishing feature.
Similarly, couples who choose not to have children are deciding in favor of painless fun over painful happiness. They can dine out whenever they want, travel wherever they want and sleep as late as they want. Couples with infant children are lucky to get a whole night's sleep or a three-day vacation. I don't know any parent who would choose the word fun to describe raising children.
But couples who decide not to have children never experience the pleasure of hugging them or tucking them into bed at night. They never know the joys of watching a child grow up or of playing with a grandchild.
Of course I enjoy doing fun things. I like to play racquetball, joke with kids (and anybody else), and I probably have too many hobbies.
But these forms of fun do not contribute in any real way to my happiness. More difficult endeavors - writing, raising children, creating a deep relationship with my wife, trying to do good in the world - will bring me more happiness than can ever be found in fun, that least permanent of things.
Understanding and accepting that true happiness has nothing to do with fun is one of the most liberating realizations we can ever come to. It liberates time: Now we can devote more hours to activities that can genuinely increase our happiness. It liberates money: Buying that new car or those fancy clothes that will do nothing to increase our happiness now seems pointless. And it liberates us from envy: We now understand that all those rich and glamorous people we were so sure are happy because they are always having so much fun actually may not be happy at all.
The moment we understand that fun does not bring happiness, we begin to lead our lives differently. The effect can be, quite literally, life-transforming.
10) The possuk (Tehilim 34:11) says; (we say it in bentching) "Those that seek Hashem will not lack anything good". The Lev Eliyahu quotes the following question from the "Shlah Hakadosh". "Don't we see so many people who "seek Hashem", and yet they are lacking good".
The Lev Eliyahu explains the answer of the "Shlah Hakadosh "with a parable. A person visited two friends in their homes. In the bathroom of the first one he found a huge closet full of medicines. In the second one he found only a small medicine chest. He approached the second friend and complained, "Why didn't you tell me that you are so poor and can't afford to buy the medicines? I am more than willing to help you with the expenses. Look at our friend across the street; he is successful, he has so many medicines." The friend upon hearing this starts to laugh and says, "Don't you realize that he has so many medicines because everybody there is sick, and is in need of all the medicines? My family B"H is well, and we don't need so many medicines."
The same thing is with all worldly pleasures. You go into the rich man's house and you sink into his thick carpet, and you see all the fancy things that he has. Then you go into your Rebbi's house, and he barely has anything there, and you feel bad for your Rebbi. Well, as we mentioned before, the rich man has a big sickness - jealousy, desires, and honor. The "Ba'alei Muussar" say that jealousy is the locomotive that makes the world move; if they weren't jealous they wouldn't do anything. I also remember one of the main principles of Economics is "to keep up with the Joneses". Everybody can be happy, but once somebody on the block gets something nicer, then they are all jealous. Even the commercials proclaim, "Be the envy of the block, be the first one to get it." The rich man has this sickness of jealousy... consequently he needs to get all these fancy things to cure himself. Otherwise he can't be happy. (There is nothing wrong with being rich, if Hashem gives it, use it gezunterheit, but to go crazy and to be obsessed with money is a big sickness). However, your Rebbi doesn't have the sickness, consequently he doesn't need the medicines, he is happy without it.
This says the "Shlah Hakadosh" is the explanation of the possuk. It doesn't say that those that seek Hashem will have everything good. It says they won't lack it. There are two ways not to lack it, by having it or by not needing it. David Hamelech is telling us, that those that seek Hashem won't need all these things. They will be happy without them.
Rav Moshe Feinstein Zal would say (quoted by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin in Growth Through Torah on p. 19), "People destroy their children by always repeating, 'Es iz shver tzu zein a Yid (it is hard to be a Jew).' No, it is not hard to be a Jew. It is beautiful and joyous to be a Jew." I like to add that the saying should be, "Es iz shver nit tzu zein a Yid." - "It is hard not to be a Jew." A goy doesn't live with the understanding that Hashem runs the world. He cannot relate to all the things that we mentioned before and therefore has nothing to console himself with when things go wrong. B'H we do.
11) An interesting personal story that took place in 1984, when my son Moshe Naftoli was born. My brother Mayer and his wife Suri had come, and we all went on a tiyul to Tiverya. Joining us in the cab for the long ride was a woman from Monsey who seemed to be well off. She was telling us about the two fancy cars that she owned, if I remember correctly they were a Jaguar and a Cadillac. Yet, later on when the subject turned to locking the doors at night, she said, "I don't have to lock my door at night." We thought it was because she lived in a safe area, but then she said, "I'm not afraid of a thief, because I have nothing for him to steal. If he comes, he will probably leave me a donation." I then turned around to her and said, (I probably should not have said, but I guess I also have a yetzer horo) "Where would he leave the donation, by the Jaguar or the Cadillac." This again shows that people can have so much, and yet think that they have nothing.
12) I'm going to end off with a beautiful story told by Rav Nisim Yagen. He once visited a certain talmid of his who lived in Lawrence, New York. Rav Yagen davened in the local shul and after the davening was approached by a man who was an Orthodox Jew. Unfortunately, this person's only son met a Christian girl while volunteering in a hospital and she persuaded him that 'J' was the savior. He told Rav Yagen, "I davened in the same minyan, and went to the same Daf Yomi shiur as your talmid's father. My teffilin are the best, and everything was like your talmid's father. My son and your talmid learned together in the same yeshivah". "Why", he asked "did your talmid became a Rabbi, and my son became a Catholic priest?" He was crying why he lost his child forever.
Rav Yagen answered, "I don't know you, but I will tell you what I think.
"There are two ways how to serve Hashem.When the unfortunate father heard this, he started to cry.
Some parents complain when they wake up in the morning that they need some more sleep. When they daven their son asks them why are you davening, and the father says "because he has to". The son asks "Why do you have to, did you have a bad dream"? The father says, "No, but G-d (said so), that's why we have to". When Shabbos comes, the son asks "Why do we keep Shabbos"? The same answer, "we have to". When you sit in the cold Succah, the son asks, "Why can't we eat in the warm house" and again the answer "Because we have to". This answer develops something in your child's mind against the Torah. The son says, "Maybe my father has to, but I don't." The minute he can, he throws it away.
Other parents, me included, (Rav Yagen) have an entirely different approach. When I get up, I dance. My son asks why am I dancing? I tell him Thank G-d I can pray and put on Tefillin. When my son hears this he says, " Father, please buy me (tefillin) too; I also want to pray and put on tefillin". When my son asks me why I dance when I build the succah, I reply "I'm happy because Hashem is coming down". When my son hears this, he says, "I also want to help".
I love to do things (mitzvos).
"The difference between eternal destruction and eternal happiness is, "You HAVE to do things," or "You LOVE to do things." Hashem doesn't need your favors, you should LOVE to do things, not HAVE to do things."
Imagine handing your wife an expensive present for her birthday or anniversary, saying "I didn't want to buy this for you, but I have to". Would such a present have any meaning?!
If however you tell her, "I'd love to buy you an expensive present, but this is all I can afford" even a small present will mean a lot to your wife.
The same thing is with Hashem. When he sees you coming to class saying do I have to learn and daven, then he doesn't accept it. You have to learn to love to do things not have to do things.
What kind of parents will our children see?! Even if we don't have children yet, we must start working on it now .!!!
May Hashem help us be from those who love to serve Him.
List of Rabbi Price's sichot
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