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Shabbat Parashat Chukat| 5770

Ein Ayah: Considering Expected and Unexpected Sadness

(condensed from Berachot 5:14)


Gemara: Mar the son of Ravina made a wedding for his son. He saw that the rabbis were overly happy. He brought a goblet of mokra (an expensive glass) that was worth 400 zuz and shattered it in front of them, and they were saddened. [The same story repeated itself with Rav Ashi’s son’s wedding, and he broke a goblet of zugita chivarta (another type of glass).]    


Ein Ayah: What subdues a person and thereby removes the problem of excessive joy that can lead to frivolity and, eventually, serious problems? One should be reminded that success does not last forever, and that happiness should be increased only in regard to true shleimut (completeness). However, there are two ways to raise the issue of human fragility.

One way to bring improved sobriety is to mention sad events in human experience that are natural to all, such as death by the time one becomes very old and the like. The other is to raise the possibility that one may be hit hard by an unexpected tragedy, including but not limited to unnatural death.

These two sobering thoughts seem to be represented by the two types of glass that the rabbis broke. A goblet of mokra is very expensive but at least it is not the type that is broken easily. It is strong and breaks only if something unusually damaging occurs to it. Thus Mar’s action hinted that it is possible that something uncommonly tragic could occur. Rav Ashi wanted to go further and remind people that there are sad things that happen expectedly in the physical world, and therefore one should not focus too much on happiness about physical things but should focus on self-improvement. This is a success that can have more lasting and significant importance.

The matter of the two levels of holding back happiness depends on the subject at hand. Every individual should be aware that there is a limit to success in the physical realm because of natural forces. The Jewish people as a nation should realize that there are tragedies that have befallen us in a specific manner, prominently including the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash (zugita chivarta hints at the Beit Hamikdash - see Sota 48b). In this way, we can join in with the pain of our nation and await the salvation that Hashem will bring with the return home of its captives. 


How to Be Happy Despite Problems

(condensed from Berachot 5:15)


Gemara: The rabbis said to Rav Huna Zuti at Mar the son of Ravina’s son’s wedding: “Please sing for us.” He said to the them: “Woe unto us for we shall die; woe unto us for we shall die.” They asked him: “How should we respond?” He said: “This is the Torah and these are the mitzvot that protect us.”   

Ein Ayah: There are two ways to make someone happy despite his concerns. One way is to get his mind off that which is worrying him. This is an incomplete method because the things that upset him will appear in his life and sadden him anyway. The better method is to get the person to understand that even as the problems exist, they are not reasons for him to be depressed anyway. One should convince his friend that everything that Hashem does is for the good and even something as foreboding as death should not depress him. Rather, he should just focus on fulfilling the purpose of his life through Torah and mitzvot. If these noble thoughts can keep him from despairing about death, certainly they should work for more mundane things. With these important things in mind

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