Parshas Ki Sisa 5780
Part I. Excitement in the World
A Sound Of Noise
When Moshe Rabbeinu and Yehoshua were coming down from Har Sinai, the Torah tells us that they heard an uproar; there were loud sounds of excitement coming from the camp. אֶת קוֹל הָעָם בְּרֵעֹה – It was the voice of the people and they were shouting. And so Moshe said to Yehoshua, “What is this kol, this noise of excitement, that they are making in the camp? אֵין קוֹל עֲנוֹת גְּבוּרָה – It’s not the outcry of victory, וְאֵין קוֹל עֲנוֹת חֲלוּשָׁה – and neither is it the outcry of defeat; קוֹל עַנּוֹת אָנֹכִי שֹׁמֵעַ – It’s an outcry that I hear” (32:18).
אֵין קוֹל עֲנוֹת גְּבוּרָה – It’s not the sound of people shouting in gratitude to Hashem because they’re winning a victory. “That I could understand,” said Moshe. If they were shouting to Hashem, “Hodu la’shem ki tov!” – thanking Hashem because of some success, and shouting about it too — that’s very good, that’s what shouting is for.
וְאֵין קוֹל עֲנוֹת חֲלוּשָׁה – And neither is it the sound of crying out to Hashem in weakness. If a person is afraid of losing a battle and he cries out to Hashem for help, that’s also good. Not only war battles; when people are chalilah suffering any type of misfortune and they get excited; if they make an uproar shouting out to Hashem, that type of excitement is beloved by Him. It’s fully justified because by appealing to Hakodosh Boruch Hu you demonstrate that He is the one who can help.
“But here,” said Moshe Rabeinu, “it’s not kol anos gevurah and it’s not kol anos chalusha. It’s just קוֹל עַנּוֹת אָנֹכִי שֹׁמֵעַ – All I hear is the sound of noise; empty excitement.”
Your Career Depends on This
They were jumping up and down around the eigel, making noise about nothing. A noise about nothing?! That’s a very big sin! The eigel wasn’t avodah zarah by the way. The Kuzari and the Ramban explain that. But it was still nothing! They were making a big noise about nothing! In this world we get excited only about Hashem. If you’re excited about anything else, that’s being excited over nothing. To be excited over things in this world that aren’t connected to Hakodosh Boruch Hu – that’s already like avodah zarah. “I should bring down the Toras Hashem,” thought Moshe Rabeinu, “to a people who don’t know what to be excited about in this world?!”
With these few words, “Kol anos anochi shomeia – I hear sounds of empty excitement,” Moshe Rabeinu is teaching us an attitude that we’re expected to acquire — we must be careful what we get excited about in this world. To be passionate about something requires justification – the emotion of enthusiasm is given to us solely to be employed in matters pertaining to avodas Hashem. And that means that a kol anos, a sound of excitement over nothing, is a severe error because your career in this world depends on what you’re excited about.
What Does Hallel Mean?
It’s something that Dovid Hamelech says over and over again, only that we don’t notice it. We’re saying it all the time too: Halleluyah! What does the word Hallel mean? It doesn’t just mean like people think, “to give praise.” There’s a big difference between the word hallel and all the other words of praise: לְשַׁבֵּחַ לְפָאֵר לְרומֵם לְהַדֵּר לְבָרֵךְ לְעַלֵּה וּלְקַלֵּס. Each one is a different form of praise, but hallel means something much more than that.
The word holeil means “wild.” How do I know that? אָמַרְתִּי לַהוֹלְלִים אַל תָּהֹלּוּ – “I said to those who are wild and enthusiastic, ‘Don’t be wild’ ”(Tehillim 75:5). Hallel is what you call an onomatopoeic word – a word that expresses itself through the sound of the word itself. The word itself is suited to shouting – it’s a word of excitement! When people get drunk they say “Hallel” – only that usually it’s not to Hashem. They are shouting “HALLEL! HALLEL!” about all the wrong things. Hallel over music and hallel over wine and hallel over sports – other things too.
Wild Over What?
But when we say hallel, we say hallelu-Yah; it means to “go wild over Hashem.” Dovid Hamelech says, “Yes, you have to shout in this world! But about what should you shout? Hallelu-Yah! Shout out in wild simcha only to Hashem! Be excited only about Hashem. HALLELU-YAH!! That’s your job in this world! It’s the first time you heard it?! Then you’re lucky you came tonight!Halleli nafshi means, my soul should go wild about Hashem. Not merely you praise Hashem – you’re enthusiastic!
In Koheles (2:2) we find the following statement: לִשְׂחוֹק אָמַרְתִּי מְהוֹלָל וּלְשִׂמְחָה מַה זֹּה עֹשָׂה. Koheles says that when he considered the subject of gaiety, of laughter, he said that it’s meholal, it’s just a wildness. וּלְשִׂמְחָה – And rejoicing, מַה זֹּה עֹשָׂה – what are you accomplishing with it? It means that to rejoice without good cause is nothing but foolishness. And what is considered without good cause? The gemara (Shabbos 30b) says that it’s referring to simcha she’einah shel mitzvah, happiness that’s not for avodas Hashem. But if it’s a simcha shel mitzvah, that’s what simcha is for; that’s why this power, this emotion of gaiety was given to you. But otherwise, mah zu osah, what is it worth? What are you getting enthusiastic about?
Wild Over Borchu
And that’s what Dovid said: Haleli nafshi – About what should my soul be wild? Es Hashem – Only about Hashem. Everything else is לְשִׂמְחָה מַה זֹּה עֹשָׂה — It’s a waste of simcha. Only when it’s connected to Hakodosh Boruch Hu is there a reason to be enthusiastic.
And therefore, to be excited over what Hashem is excited about, certainly. Simchas Torah, when they’re taking a Sefer Torah out of the aron kodesh, and everybody is leaping and shouting in honor of the Torah. Yes! As much as you have, all of your kochos you should put into it. Not only Simchas Torah. Why not every time you say borchu? Say it with excitement! All together we say, Barchu es Hashem hamevorach – Let’s all bless Hashem together! And we don’t merely do it as an obligation. We do it with enthusiasm; we do it wildly. You know, some places they do do it wildly. If you would walk in, you’d be amazed. You’d think maybe it’s not proper; but for them that’s the way to do it.
Rosh Hashana in Slabodka
I remember in my yeshiva days in Europe, when we said borchu on Rosh Hashana night, it was actually wild. The shatz got up and said Borchu es Hashem hamevorach quietly – that’s how it was, there was no niggun – everything was done with machshava, in a calculated manner. But then the congregation answered; the yeshiva men began shouting. BORCHU! What a noise! They were raising the roof and stamping with their feet. They actually went wild over Hashem! We’re starting Rosh Hashana, the Day of Judgment, and we came in to speak to Hashem, to express our love of Him, our gratitude and our hope that maybe He’ll give us another year of life. And so we shouted to Him! Everybody shouted!
Now, I’m sure if a stranger would come into the yeshiva he would take one look around and say, “It’s a madhouse here — a lunatic asylum.” Of course, when he goes to the baseball field and they’re screaming over nothing, he won’t say that.Oh no; baseball — that’s important! When the pitcher throws the ball and the man at the base gives a whack with the bat, everybody goes crazy: “Whoooo!” They stamp their feet and they become ignited — their blood becomes ignited with excitement. A whole crowd of lunatics going wild with kol anos over nothing — that this man understands. But when he comes into the yeshiva where they’re excited about borchu es Hashem hamivorach, that’s too much; suddenly he’s the quiet intellectual; calm and composed. That’s where he says, “What is this? A crazy house?”
Coming Together at The Stadium
So we tell him! “Mister, you’re right. In this place we’re crazy about Hashem. And that’s why you come in here a lunatic and you go out sane.” Because what are you excited about?! It’s just a man who can take a bat and hit the ball so far that it flies over the wall into the bleachers. Does he have anything in his mind? Does he have any intelligence at all? Only that he can give the ball a smack. It’s excitement about nothing!
Imagine if all of that shouting, all that emotion of excitement, would be invested in shouting over Hashem. Imagine thousands of Jews would come together at a big athletic field, sitting on all the benches, and they’re all shouting about Hashem. That’s a different story! That’s what excitement is for!
Excitement Over Dinner
And the truth of the world is that there’s nothing to be excited about except Hashem. Imagine you go home tonight after the lecture and your wife made you a good supper, something you like very much. Of course you should thank your wife for that — you were sitting here in the shul and she was slaving away in the kitchen for you; of course you must thank her. You should praise the food too – and don’t be stingy about it. And then after eating supper, you should praise Hashem too. Not merely out of habit — you should say birchas hamazon with thought, with enthusiasm and excitement.
But when you walk away from the table, don’t smack your lips and say to yourself, “I loved that supper.” No, you shouldn’t get excited about a piece of chicken. No, no; that’s already a kol anos. You don’t want to love anything except Hashem. It was a very good supper, but you don’t love the supper.
Don’t Retire Just Yet
Now, I don’t want you to get any wrong ideas – you can be excited over Olam Hazeh; this world is a remarkable opportunity for kosher enthusiasm. When Dovid said, “I’m going to be wild only about You,” it didn’t mean that he was retiring to a cave with an iron door and saying goodbye to the world. By no means! Dovid was always singing in this world — but he sang only songs of Hakodosh Boruch Hu. So if you’re excited over nature because you love to see Hashem’s creations – if when you look at the trees and the clouds you become more and more enthusiastic about the Borei, by all means. But to fall in love with nature because of nature; to be excited about nature – forget about it. You can’t get lost in this world.
Here’s a man who is busy collecting coins and he has his own private collection of coins. When guests come to his house, he takes out the boxes and shows them. “Look at this coin from so and so many years ago from England!” He’s excited! But we don’t care about that. Nothing wrong with an old coin, but to be excited about it? What’s to be excited about?
So if you have a stamp collection and a guest comes to your house and you want to show him your stamp collection and he looks but he doesn’t say anything. So you think, “He doesn’t appreciate things; he doesn’t have a taste in good things.” No, don’t say that. Be dan l’kaf zchus. He trained himself to not be excited over zero. He has better things in life to be excited about. If someone asks his chaver, “Do you know what we learned in music appreciation class or in our literature class,” and his friend looks at him with a deadpan face and doesn’t show any interest, don’t think he’s lacking in intellectual development. On the contrary, he’s super-developed. He doesn’t waste his time on nothing.
A Jealous G-d
It’s only the under-developed people who read the New York Times — because the New York Times is always excited about nothing. You’ll see there whole pages devoted to where you can find the best restaurants to dine out. The best restaurants?! It shouldn’t make any impression on us at all. Pages devoted to the best wines – where you could get the best wines? It’s excitement about nothing at all.
And excitement about nothing means that you’re forgetting about Hakodosh Boruch Hu and He won’t let that pass. He says, “You should know I am a Keil kanah – I’m a jealous G-d.” What does it mean ‘jealous’? It means, “I don’t share my greatness with anybody.” וּכְבוֹדִי לְאַחֵר לֹא אֶתֵּן – I won’t give My glory to anyone else (Yeshaya 42:8). That’s why it says you should love Hashem b’chol lvavecha – with all your heart. All your heart means all your emotions — not just a some of it. Extremity of emotion belongs only to Hashem! הָבוּ לַהַשֵּׁם כָּבוֹד וָעֹז – Only to Hashem do we give glory and power! Our excitement is only for Hashem.
Part II. Excitement Is a Test
According to His Praises
Now once we hear that, we begin to understand that often it’s the excitement that someone shows that tells you very much about the person. The enthusiasm of a person is a very good test when you want to judge people. Actually, Shlomo Hamelech says that. There’s a possuk in Mishlei (21:21), מַצְרֵף לַכֶּסֶף וְכוּר לַזָּהָב וְאִיש לְפִי מַהֲלָלוֹ – A melting pot for silver, and a furnace for gold, and a man according to his praises. It means like this: There is a way to test silver to see how pure it is, and there is also a method of testing gold.
How did you test silver in the olden days? There are many ways but the best way is to melt it. There’s a pot called a מַצְרֵף – it’s a special pot for refining silver. What do they do? They put the matzreif over the fire to melt the silver, and the psoles, the dross,rises to the surface. And according to how much impurities float to the surface, you’ll see how pure, how good the silver is. And for gold too there’s a similar method for testing how genuine it is: וְכוּר לַזָּהָב – Gold has a furnace, a hot furnace called the kur where they melt the gold.It’s purified in the same way – the scum is separated from the gold, and you can determine how pure the gold really is.
So there are ways of finding out how genuine these precious metals are. But now the question arises: That’s good for metals; but how can you find out what a man is? How can you test him to see what he really is? So the possuk concludes: וְאִיש – How is a person tested? לְפִי מַהֲלָלוֹ – According to his praises.
Now there are a few peirushim on this possuk and we’ll take one at a time: The first one is as follows: Ish – How can we know who a person is? Lefi mahalalo – By how much people are excited about him. Listen to what people are saying about him, how enthusiastic they are, and you’ll learn a lot.
You should pay good attention to what I’m telling you now if you have daughters who are of marriageable age. I’m giving you good advice and I won’t charge you for it. If you want to know who a young man really is, listen to how he is praised – pay attention to how much enthusiasm there is in the praise. So when you call the mashgiach of the yeshiva and you inquire about a certain bochur — somebody gave you his name for a shidduch for your daughter – and the mashgiach tells you in a calm tone of voice, “Yes, I know him. He’s a nice bochur, a nice boy,” then forget about it. He’s not the one! Drop him!
It’s good advice by the way. Because there are people who don’t know this – they never learned Mishlei and so when they hang up the phone, the wife says, “What did the mashgiach say?” so the husband says, “He said he’s a nice boy,” and they think that settles it. “He’s a good boy,” so it’s settled now. No, that’s a serious error.
Math and the Mashgiach
Now if the mashgiach is excited about him, if you can hear the excitement in his voice when he speaks to you on the telephone, so now you know there’s something there maybe. You should subtract about 60% and you can understand that he might be a very good boy. You have to subtract at least 60% because the mashgiach is a kind hearted man and he loves the boys – but no matter you can still judge the bochur according to the excitement you hear in his voice. So it’s Ish – if you want to know what a man is, lefi mahalalo – listen to how much people are excited about him. If he’s praised only faintly, you have a right to suspect that something is wrong. But if they are very excited about him, then that tells you a lot.
Same thing with the girls. Many times it happens that bochurim approach me and they have a shidduch in mind. They want my opinion but I don’t know her. I didn’t talk to her. How could I know? And therefore when they ask me these questions, I say, “Call up the teachers in the Bais Yankev school where she went. Some of the teachers will tell you something about her.” You can learn a little bit if you keep your ears open. Listen for the enthusiasm. If the teacher will say that she’s a very fine girl, so you can take off 60% and you know there’s something there. She’s 40% good. But if the teacher will say, ‘Ooooh! That girl is an extraordinary girl!’ so now you know that she’s a pretty good girl. She’s about 70%, 80% maybe.
There’s More Than One Truth
So again, the first peirush in the possuk is: How can you know a man? וְאִיש לְפִי מַהֲלָלוֹ – The way people are excited about him; the way he’s praised by other people. That’s one pshat. But there’s another explanation – Rabbeinu Yonah in Shaarei Teshuva gives a different pshat entirely. Not that the first pshat is wrong.
Before I go on, I want to explain something. It took me many years to discover this so I’ll share it with you. When you see two peirushim – let’s say you’re learning Rabeinu Yonah on Mishlei, and after he explains the possuk he says there: V’yeish l’faresh – “Or you could explain it like this,” so you get discouraged. If there are two ways of explaining it, so you don’t know which one is true – you’re left hanging in between. You want to learn some moral out of this possuk, and now you don’t know which one is true.
The answer is both of them are true! A possuk can mean more than one thing. Shlomo HaMelech was a wise man and he was able to have all the perushim in mind. And according to Rabbeinu Yonah he thought about this peirush too: How can you test a man? Ish–What is a man? How can you know a man? Lefi mahalalo – By listening to what he’s excited about. You can know a man according to what he’s enthusiastic about. Listen to what he’s excited about! That will tell you all about him.
Gemara or Cornflakes?
So let’s say you’re a Beis Yaakov girl and somebody arranged that you should go out with this boy and you want to know who he is – you want to know if he’s a real ben Torah – so you should listen very well to what he talks about and how he talks about it. Let’s say the boy is telling you all about his yeshiva and how he enjoys the shiurim and how they’re learning interesting mesichtas and how he wants to learn all the time, how he loves to learn. Now, it could be he’s putting on a good show, but at least he’s putting on a good show. If he talks about his yeshiva, he’s probably interested in the yeshiva. If he talks about his hopes to become a talmid chacham, about his rebbi, about the mashgiach and rosh yeshiva, and he’s enthusiastic about it, you can surmise that he’s the real thing.
But let’s say he talks about traveling; he traveled on the subway over here, and he traveled in the car to this place. He knows all the roads; he explains how you can travel: “You can take this thruway or this parkway and then there’s a good exit over there with a shortcut!” Or he talks about business things, he talks about other things, so you know that that’s his interest in life. Let’s say he talks about kosher things to eat – there are a lot of good kosher things to eat today; today you can get kosher cornflakes, and kosher ice cream, and kosher desserts. Paskesz candies and Lieber’s chocolates! A blessing on the heads of all the frum Jews who have made life so pleasant now with kosher things to eat. But this young man is speaking about it and he’s praising them. So she sits and listens – she has to listen very carefully. Because that’s what he is. Like someone once translated the words in the Hagadah: Chacham mah hu: omer – What he is, he says. What he is excited about, that’s the man. He’s a food man.
Three Perspectives on Third Meal
As I told you more than once but I’ll say it again – it’s a famous story. Once at shalosh seudos in the shul three people were sitting near each other. And the rebbe was saying divrei Torah and people were singing zemiros. So after it was all over, right before ma’ariv, one of them said, “Ah! What a good piece of Torah the rebbe said. It was wonderful!” Another man praised the zemiros. The Torah he didn’t talk about but he said “What sweet zemiros they sang.” And the third man; he praised the herring!
And so, ish– Who is a man? Lefi mahalalo – According to what he‘s excited about. If he’s excited about everything else except what he’s supposed to be excited about, then that’s who he is – it could be he’s a herring person. How do you know what type of ish he is? Lefi mahalalo – according to what he is most excited about. That’s the test. You can know him from the way he talks about things.
Shidduchim in The Olden Days
Same thing when you meet your prospective kallah. Listen to what she’s excited about! It means you should speak to her and see what she talks about. Now, in the olden days, it was different. In the olden days, the grandmothers came together to make a shidduch. You didn’t have to talk to the girl at all because you could rely on the grandmothers; they knew what they were talking about. And they weren’t fooled by a curl in the hair or some paint on the lips. But today, there’s a different minhag today; what can we do – it’s the minhag hamakom today to not do it that way.
So you speak to her and see what she’s excited about. Find out what she thinks about having a big family. Does she like the idea of a big family? Is she excited about setting up a Torah home, about being a homemaker? Is she enthusiastic about bringing up the children as talmidei chachamim, as ovdei Hashem?
Now, if she comes to these lectures so she knows how to fool you. But keep on asking – keep on asking questions. Sometimes she might plopple. She might say something careless – she might stop bluffing you and you might hear the truth. Anyhow, talk. That’s all – talk – what else can you do? Of course, sometimes a chance remark is not enough – you might have to collect a number of such remarks – but that’s the way. That’s the advice of Shlomo Hamelech. See what excites her. That’s the way to know a person
You Are What You Speak
But now we come to a third pshat – Rabbeinu Yonah doesn’t say it, but it’s included in the words of the possuk and it’s very important for our subject tonight. Ish– How can you judge what’s going to become of a man? Lefi mahalalo – According to what he’s excited about now. Not only that he is now what he’s excited about, but that’s what he’ll become in the future. All the things he’s excited about now, that’s the direction where he’s heading. If a man is excited about his rebbe in the yeshiva, if he’s excited about tzadikim, if he’s excited about gedolei Yisroel, he’s excited let’s say about certain sugyas in the gemara; why not? Why shouldn’t he be excited about Abaye and Rava? What else is there to be excited about? If he’s excited about yiras Shomayim and about middos tovos, that’s a good sign of what’s going to be with him. וְאִיש לְפִי מַהֲלָלוֹ – A person will become what he’s excited about!
If a girl is excited about her home, she wants to have a nice home, she speaks about it with idealism; with a fire, she wants to have a home with many children. She doesn’t say it in a quiet way, in a lazy way; she’s enthusiastic about it – she wants to have a house that’s a little Beis Hamikdosh, a holy home where there’ll be kedusha and avodas Hashem. She wants beautiful children who will serve Hakodosh Boruch Hu and walk b’derech haTorah. It doesn’t mean she has to be jumping up and down, but you can hear the way she talks. Lefi mahalalo – That’s how she’ll become. Not only does that tell you about who she is, but it tells you what she’s going to become. She’ll become that.
How To Become a Nothing
That’s why Moshe Rabeinu was so distressed when he heard the kol anos, the shouting over nothing, that was coming from the camp. You’re excited over nothing?! It means that you are a nothing and you’re heading in that direction too – you’ll become even more of a nothing!
Now, suppose people are all worked up about fighting with their relatives. And they are! You’d be surprised how many people are excited about that. It’s remarkable! I myself was shocked. I didn’t know until I got into the business a little more – when I entered the rabbanus that’s when I realized what’s going on in the world. People are excited about fighting. People are busy fighting with their relatives. Daughters-in-law with their mother-in-law, brothers with brothers, they’re talking all the time about each other. That’s their main interest in life – that’s what’s bubbling in their minds always. So what happens? וְאִיש לְפִי מַהֲלָלוֹ – What excites them, that’s what they become. So they become mushchasim – they become people with ruined character.
And it’s the one who speaks about good things – he’s excited about Hashem – he’s the one who becomes more and more perfect. He’s always talking about avodas Hashem – and he’s enthusiastic about it too – and he becomes an eved Hashem. It’s a great yesod of how to live in this world, how to be a success – you become what you’re excited about.
Part III. Excitement Makes a Man
The Career of Speaking
Now, this brings us to the very big subject of what we should be talking about in this world. Because what does a person usually speak about? Whatever is important to him, whatever excites him, that’s what he talks about. And we learned just now that the more you speak about something – and the more you’re excited about it – that’s what you become.Because when you say something, it’s not only that you’re thinking a thought – thinking is good – but when you hear it being said, it goes into your ear and it bounces back into your mind with much more force.
The Chovos Halevavos taught us that hamachshava nimsheches achar hadibbur – a man’s thoughts are drawn after the words that he says (Sha’ar Cheshbon Hanefesh: Cheshbon 9). When you say something it goes into your head; the expression settles onto your mind and it has an effect. Now, you might not notice it at first. But as you keep repeating an idea over and over again, it makes an impression on your mind and on your personality. Trust me, it has an effect. It becomes part of you, part of your personality, and you’re not the same person anymore. When your mind changes, you’re a changed man.
How To Become a Tzadik
So, the people who are busy praising tzaddikim, they become tzadikim. You hear that? It’s a great merit to praise tzadikim constantly in your home. To teach a child to be excited about talmidei chachomim, to talk in the home about the tzadikim, that’s a neglected trade today. You have to speak of bnei Torah with love in the home. As much as you can you look for opportunities for that. And the child catches onto the idea; he catches on to the idea that in a Jewish home talmidei chachomim are admired.
We love the Bobover Rov! We love Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky. We love Rav Moshe Feinstein! We love the Satmerer Rov. I was once present in front of the old Satmerer Rav, zichrono livracha, when he was saying hoshanas. Four hours he was saying hoshanas! He didn’t make it one, two, three and hurry up. I was watching him – four hours – walking back and forth saying hoshanas. Four hours! It was a pleasure to see a tzadik. We love all the gedolim, all the roshei yeshiva and we speak of them with admiration and enthusiasm.
Praising the Little Tzadikim
Not only the famous tzadikim. If there’s somebody who is a ba’al chesed, you should praise him. Be excited about him! Although he never did a favor to you, still Hashem oheiv tzadikim – Hashem loves tzadikim. Now, tzadikim don’t do any favors to Hashem and He loves them anyway – He loves them because they’re tzadikim. So we should love tzadikim too, not because they did us any favors. So if you know people who are oisek in gemillas chassodim, helping people, supporting poor people, collecting money for tzedakah, you should praise them. And not just praise – halelu! Go wild about them!
Now, while we’re talking about that subject, it’s also very important to keep in mind that being excited about Hashem includes that you shouldn’t speak highly about anybody else. Excitement is not something you can hand out at your own will. Praise is only to be dispensed according to the will of Hakodosh Boruch Hu and therefore an ordinary person should never be praised exceedingly – unless maybe you’re doing it for a purpose of trying to give him an incentive to change his ways. Maybe you see something good in him and you hope that by praising it he’ll continue to do better, then it’s mutar. Otherwise, you must be aware that praise is reserved only for those who deserve to be praised.
And therefore, when people honor those who don’t deserve honor, they’re making a very big mistake. Some people do that – they praise reshaim. Now, frum Jews in general don’t praise reshaim but sometimes you find them going overboard with somebody who’s not a tzadik – you find that sometimes. I don’t like to give any examples, but it happens sometimes.
The Man of the Year
There was a “Jewish” organization that once made an annual banquet and they chose for the Man of the Year award, a man whose wife was a goya. Not that she was a giyoress; she was a goya – she wasn’t interested in becoming a giyoress at all. But they called him up and they gave him a big diploma in a glass case with a frame and all the yiddelech are clapping for him. He’s the “Man of the Year!”
Now, that’s an extreme example, but even if a person is not a chotei, even an orthodox Jew, but if he doesn’t have good character, if he’s not an oived Hashem, we shouldn’t go all out for him. We don’t get excited about people who are not shomrei Torah, who are not tzaddikim. עֹזְבֵי תוֹרָה יְהַלְלוּ רָשָׁע – If anybody is excited about a rasha – even a little bit excited – he should know he himself is an oizev Torah, he’s forsook the Torah. He’s forsaking the tremendous lesson Moshe Rabeinu taught us when he came down from Har Sinai to bring us the Torah.
Intolerance in America
Now I don’t care what you say. You’ll say it’s intolerant. Yes! We’re intolerant of the ozvei Torah! You don’t like it? Who cares?! שֹׁמְרֵי תוֹרָה יִתְגָּרוּ בָם – A shoimer Torah is hostile to people who are reshaim (Mishlei 28:4). Now, this doesn’t mean you have to insult the rasha. It doesn’t mean you have to make fights with anybody – no. But you have to be careful in the honor that you accord to them – honor can’t be handed out willy-nilly. Because what is honor? It means you’re handing out excitement; it’s the kol anos anochi shomei’a.
Therefore, in this world, we have to be careful what we praise. To praise people just because they can dance, just because they can make tricks or make noise, actors or people who can play the violin, to praise them for things that are unimportant is an avlah, it’s wrong. It’s an important point you’re hearing now. We cannot praise indiscriminately. If it’s a good person, yes, praise him. וְהִצְדִּיקוּ אֶת הַצַּדִּיק – You should justify the just man. Always be excited about the tzadik. Be enthusiastic about the tzadik to no end!
The Tzadik Of The World
And if that’s the case, then we have to remember that צַדִּיק הַשֵּׁם בְּכָל דְּרָכָיו – Hashem is the real tzadik. And people who are busy speaking about Hakodosh Boruch Hu, they’re the ones who will be most successful in becoming tzadikim. That’s why Dovid HaMelech said, אֲהַלְלָה הַשֵּׁם בְּחַיָּי – I’ll go wild over Hashem as long as I’m alive! That’s what we want too – we want to speak only about Hashem!
People won’t listen to you? So talk to yourself! As much as you can, talk about Hakodosh Boruch Hu because you’ll become lefi mahalalo – according to what you are praising. The ish who spends his life speaking about the greatness of Hakodosh Boruch Hu, that’s the man he is. Hashem looks down and He says, “That’s My man! A man who is excited about Me!” It’s a pretty good indication of who he is and also, just as important, it’ll change him and he’ll become better and better.
Chometz Cleaning Is Fun
Now praising tzedek is a different career, but it’s the same idea. We don’t only praise the tzadikim, we have to praise righteous acts too. Praise tzedek. It’s a very big achievement to praise avodas Hashem. So when you’re a father of a family, make up your mind when you’re sitting at the table, you won’t waste the opportunity. You’ll say some good words. Shabbos! What a wonderful thing it is to honor the Shabbos. What a big mitzvah it is! Oneg Shabbos! How important it is to eat the ma’achalim with the intention of kovod Shabbos. Eating the Shabbos challah! Shabbos is fun! It’s exciting!
And Pesach time we should be excited about cleaning for chametz. We should be excited about bedikas chametz; talk to your family about the pleasure in the mitzvah of eating matzah. Whatever mitzvah you’re talking about, make the people understand the happiness of the mitzvah, the importance of the mitzvah. Elevate it; be excited about it. Of course, we’re talking to good people here and therefore it’s unnecessary for me to admonish, but it’s very important for us to understand that’s what Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants – that’s called good in the eyes of Hashem.
Excited About Yeshiva
Let’s say you’re a yeshiva man. You come home from the yeshiva. You talk about something at the table so if you want to make the most of the opportunity that you have, praise your yeshiva. Say, “What nice boys there are in the yeshiva.” Say that. Let the family think that all the bochurim in the yeshiva are very nice boys. Praise your rebbes. Praise everything about the yeshiva. Praise the cooking too – they give good meals in the yeshiva. How clean the yeshiva is! And you should try to make it clean! If you’re excited about the Torah so you don’t drop anything on the floor in the yeshiva!
Speak about how good it is to learn. Ah! What a pleasure it is! We’re sitting in yeshiva all day and we’re enjoying the gemara. When you come home tell your brothers and sisters that there’s no joy in the world like the pleasure of learning a piece of a gemara! Going through a sugya well, there’s no happiness in the world greater than that. And even though you yourself have not reached that madreigeh yet, say it anyhow – because it’s true. And the more you say it, the more it will come true in your own life. Like we say v’haarev na Hashem Elokeinu es divrei sorascho b’finu – Make the words of the Torah become sweet in our mouths. Try to make it sweet in your mouth.
Praise davening. Speak about how good it is to daven with kavanah. Ah! A mechayeh, a pleasure to daven with kavanah! Say, “This morning I davened such a good shachris! It was a pleasure! I remember when I was eleven years old, I was standing outside the shul and I heard a man – an old European Jew – he said, “Ahh! That was a geshmake ma’ariv.” With his hands he made motions of excitement: “It was a pleasure!” I was eleven years old and to this day I can’t forget it. I learned then that ma’ariv is fun!
The Career of Excitement
That’s your career in this world – to say hallel over everything connected to Hakodosh Boruch Hu. And that means that the more you‘re excited about Hashem and the more you say hallel about the important things of this world, the more you’re preparing for the Next World. And that’s what Moshe Rabeinu was teaching us on that day when he was coming down from Har Sinai. This nation, chosen by Hashem to be His people forever, can’t be a nation of kol anos, a nation of shouting with enthusiasm over nothing.
And therefore we sing, אַשְׁרֵי הָעָם שֶׁכָּכָה לּוֹ — Praiseworthy is the nation that thus is its lot, אַשְׁרֵי הָעָם שֶׁהַשֵּׁם אֱלוֹקָיו – Praiseworthy is the nation that has Hakodosh Boruch Hu as its God. Because the nation that is excited about Hakodosh Boruch Hu, that’s the nation that will be with Hashem forever in this world and the next.
Have A Wonderful Shabbos