I am writing this article two days after I celebrated the Bar Mitzvah of my oldest son Nesanel. The Monday night festive meal as well as the Shabbat Services that he led at Congregation Sons of Israel was a thrill for my wife and I, our families and all those present. I would actually like to thank all of those from the community and beyond that were able to participate and help make the occasion so joyous. May the entire Jewish community be able to celebrate many more Semachot together in the future – Amen.
Being a Community Rabbi, I have the honor of attending a large number of life cycle celebrations each year. What amazes me is that every one of them is beautiful in their own way. I never get tired of watching the electrified faces of parents and grandparents when their children and grandchildren arrive at the Bima or the Chuppah…….. It is a spiritual experience to behold that one can never get enough.
I was pondering why that is. Enough is enough with all the pleasures in the world. There is such a thing as too much dessert, to much sun, too much ________ – you fill in the blank. Our physical capacity is limited to enjoy only a certain amount. If we try to get more and more, it can even become painful and even dangerous. So why by a Simcha is it different? The answer is because of its spiritual component.
In Parshat Ki Tisa the Torah commands Moses to take a census and make an accounting of the Jewish Nation. This was accomplished by every representative advancing a ½ shekel to be counted up at the end of the census. The Tanchumah explains that at this point G-d enigmatically showed Moses a ½ shekel coin made of fire. The commentators are puzzled as to why G-d showed him the fiery coin.
A great Chassidic leader, the Noam Elimelech expounds that the message is the double edged sword of money. Money is like fire in that it can bring forth productivity or destruction depending on the way it is handled. The Hebrew words for money are Damim and Kesef, which also mean blood and embarrassment. Without money, one cannot live, but money can also be addictive and can overtake a person’s life.
Another answer to the question has to do with spiritualizing the physical. It is expected to make prayer a spiritual experience. It is appropriate to attempt to achieve spirituality through contemplation and introspection. The key is to find and enjoy spirituality in the physical things in life. In food with the recital of blessings, in relationships through kindness even in money through Tzedakah-charity.
I believe the reason why every simcha is special is that every simcha is a spiritual experience for the family. The emotions, thoughts and feelings that we encounter are all spiritual. We encounter energy and meaning that is greater then ourselves and it touches us deeply and raises our spirits.
May all our readers be counted as one in the census that experiences all the blessings and spirit that G-d has in store for us. The words Ki Tisa also mean, When you are raised/lifted. May our spirits be raised and lifted through the greatness and glory of the Torah and Mitzvoth.
Rabbi Ephraim Epstein