18 Tamuz 5779 / Sunday, July 21, 2019 | Torah Reading: mattot
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Celebrate with a Smile    

Celebrate with a Smile

A big part of any Jewish celebration consists of reciting thanks and praise to our Creator. Giving thanks to God is the ultimate expression of emuna...


'There's nothing like a Simcha to make you miserable!” my friend Bonnie once joked; I had to laugh. What is it about a celebration that can bring out the very worst in a person?


The practical answer would be the simple one. Simchas cost money (sometimes a whole lot of money), disrupt routine, make family politics and are just plain exhausting. The logistics alone can create tremendous stress. Ordering the right amount of food, finding places for guests and non-stop shopping can be overwhelming. And then there's the unexpected.


When my son was marrying a girl from the states, her family flew in for the wedding. They came with beautiful gifts for the couple and gorgeous outfits for themselves. Five sisters had shopped for months for the perfect gowns. It was the family's first wedding and no one wanted to miss it. The cost of tickets alone was exorbitant but the icing on the cake was the horrific dawning that they had arrived in Israel without their luggage.


Two days before the wedding and there were no guarantees the lovely gowns would make it to the chuppa!


Oh the drama of it! The tears, the fears, the not-knowing what would be! Go out and buy more gowns? Wait and hope for a miracle?


And a miracle it was! The next day the suitcases were found and delivered directly to our door. Such loving kindness from the ultimate Father of the Bride!


Everyone has drama when it comes to family celebrations.  I usually do. Why just today I celebrated the bris mila of my new grandson and although everything worked out in the end there was a lot of tension beforehand. My daughter was suffering headaches from the epidural, the baby was looking a little yellow and there were sudden kashrut questions concerning the caterer. In addition, the new mommy discovered twenty minutes before the bris that she had nothing to wear because nothing fit her anymore!  Instant tears! A frantic search for something suitable ensued with suggestions shooting out from every female in the house.


Oh no! I had gently suggested she might want to get dressed two hours ago but she was busy having a headache and didn't take my advice. In the meantime, my house became strewn with baby paraphernalia, clothes from every closet and more grandchildren. The baby finally got wind of the turmoil around him and woke up screaming in that panic stricken way only newborns do.


I opened a bottle of wine and poured myself a glass. I sat down and waited. I did a quick hisbodedus and thanked Hashem for the challenges that go along with every big blessing. After locating the baby's pacifier we finally left. My daughter looked just fine.


Everything went perfectly thank God and all the blessings were said with tremendous gratitude. I felt so lucky for the blessing of a new grandson and for the ability to have a bris mila with a little drama, a few small squabbles and some minor confusion, but with such ease, really, such comfort and simplicity. We've all heard stories of what fathers and mothers in Russia had go through in order to get their sons circumcised, not so long ago. The risk, the secrecy, and the sheer danger of it all... The courageous mohel and the brave and holy parents!


I cannot imagine them worrying about which clothes to wear or what food to serve. These Russians risked jail sentences or worse to provide their sons with the sign of the covenant between Hashem and our people. We can't even imagine the sacrifice they made!


I remember seeing a documentary a few years ago about a young Jewish man who disguised himself as a Nazi. Being blond, blue-eyed and very clever, he managed to serve alongside the evil ones and save many, many Jews. He lived for two years with the terror of being discovered. One of the hardest things was keeping his body hidden from the discovery that he was a Jew. Living intimately with a group of Nazis that acted like brothers, he was forced to protect his privacy or face torture and death.


A big part of any Jewish celebration consists of reciting thanks and praise to our Creator. Giving thanks to God is the ultimate expression of emuna. There is nothing that demonstrates awareness of Hashem and His loving-kindness the way gratitude does. At a happy celebration this is easy to do, if we pay no mind to the Evil Inclination. Any time Jews prepare to publicly thank the Almighty, the old negative force rubs his hands in glee and begins to scatter dissent like a farmer feeding the chickens.


The last thing the Evil Inclination desires is Jews uniting to appreciate God.  There is nothing holier than Jews expressing gratitude to the Giver of all that's good, even if it does come with a little drama.



* * *

Rebbitzen Yehudit Channen began her career as a Crisis Intervention Counselor in Silver Spring, Md. in the seventies. After moving to Israel, she worked as a marital mediator and social skills instructor for kids. Following the death of a son, Rebbitzen Channen became a certified bereavement counselor and worked with young mothers who had suffered loss. Most recently she worked at the Melabev Center for the memory-impaired, as an activity director and group facilitator for families coping with Dementia.  The Rebbitzen has written for numerous magazines and newspapers and recently led an interactive creative writing course called Connective Writing. Yehudit Channen is the wife of Rabbi Don Channen, Rosh Yeshiva of Keter HaTorah.  They are blessed to have nine children and many grandchildren and live in Ramat Beit Shemesh. Today, Rebbitzen Yehudit Channen is a certified Emuna Therapist for Breslev Israel. You can set up an appointment with her by contacting staff@breslev.co.il

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