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Whilst walking to Shul this Shabbos, a sweet Yied stopped me to share a Torah thought. I have no idea who this kind Yied was, his mask covered his face to his eyes. The Rain was falling, (this is Manchester) and combined with my own mask, I struggled hearing the vort.  I am hard of hearing, have been for many years. Despite wearing hearing aids, I subconsciously lip read as well. Try that with everyone wearing masks, it’s sort of impossible and leaves me straining to make sense of what others are saying. This column is named, ‘A Rabbis Journal,’ and as such, I would be remiss if I didn’t share some personal aspects of my life in today’s COVID world.

This pandemic has brought complex levels of drama to each of us. We are all touched in different ways but one thing is shared by all, we each are living through this epoch together despite our individual needs.

This all is the Rotzon of The Borei Olam, and obviously Hashem wants us to overcome the individualised challenges that the times have wrought. I don’t want to make light of anyone’s challenges, despite the greatest of will we are all feeling the stress of the times.

We are in the month of Elul, the days tumble by and Slichos is around the corner. My phone is busy with questions of how we are going to set up our Shtieble for these extraordinary Hieliga Teig. People wonder where and how they will daven given the limited spaces available.  It is almost as if we have forgotten what these days are meant to do for us. It is time to shake off the dust of stress and open our hearts to a positive New Year.

At the beginning of the Parsha Ki Savo we read:

“It will be when you enter the Land Hashem gives you for an inheritance…..”

Chazal tell us that whenever the word ‘Vehoya’ (It will be) is used it means Simcha, also when we find the word Asher (when) it indicates Hakoras HaTov, showing thanks for good.  With this, the Bendiner Rav Ztl explained that the Torah is telling us of the great benefit we have from living with simcha. He brings us the Gemorah in Taanis (22) where the Tanna Rav Bruka was once in a crowded market place and asked Eliyahu Hanavi who from all those in the crowd would have the merit to go to Olam Habah? The Navi showed him two Yidden who were wedding entertainers that went from one chasunah to the next bringing joy to the Choson and Kallah. Because they brought simcha to Yidden, even those with broken hearts, they would definitely be given Olam Habah.

Said the Bendiner, this is then the message of our passage, ‘If we will be besimcha, then the Eibishter kaviyuchal will thank us with the gifts of joy.’

This is a time of the year when we must all make a cheshbon hanefesh, a personal accounting of our inner selves. Given where we are now, I believe that it will be all too simple to emotionally self-flagellate ourselves and beat ourselves up over stuff we can’t do anything about.

No! Now is the time davka to seek simcha, to thank Hashem for all that is good in our lives. It may sound simplistic and obtuse to speak in such terms, yet, if we allow ourselves to sink into moroseness, we will only be doing the work of the Yetzer Horah.

I know I am writing to good and holy Yidden and we are all in this together. We may have difficulty hearing everything behind our masks, but we all can see one another with our eyes. It is the smile of our eyes that speak of the life in our souls. I have suffered great losses this year, today we finalised the wording for the Rebbetzin’s A’H matzeiva. Yet, I know that without finding the simcha to go on further, I would be defeating the Rebbetzin’s effervescent will to bring life to others.

This is my Journal, one written with a heart that hopes it is being heard. Let us find our simcha from within and be blessed with a year filled with Hashem’s eternal gifts of good. Amen!

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