May 18, 2024
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הוֹדו לַה’ קִרְאו בִשְׁמוֹ, הוֹדִֽיעו בָעַמִּים עֲלִילתָֹיו….יִשְׂמַח לֵב מְבַקְשֵׁי ה’

Why do we say “Let the hearts of those who search for Hashem rejoice”? Shouldn’t the pasuk instead say “Let the hearts of those who found Hashem rejoice”? Sefer Siach Yitzchok explains that searching for Hashem is not only good because you are on your way to finding Hashem, but that searching for Hashem is good as an end to itself. The searching alone brings joy to those seeking Hashem. In fact, those are the very next words that we say: “Look for Hashem and His might, search for His presence continually.” It is a good thing to constantly, consistently, and continuously search for Hashem.

Years ago, when the tidal wave of ba’alei teshuvah was a mere trickle, the noted darshan and talmid chacham Rav Yaakov Galinsky gave a drasha in a shul in Bnei Brak. Since it was only a few days before Rosh Hashanah, he spoke about the importance of reviewing one’s actions from the past year and doing teshuvah in preparation for Rosh Hashanah.

As everyone was leaving, a veteran reporter from the secular Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv, who was assigned to cover the speech as part of an upcoming series of in-depth articles the newspaper was planning on the new phenomenon of ba’alei teshuvah that was quickly spreading across Israel, caught up with one of the many ba’alei teshuvah who attended the drashah and requested to have a few words with him.

After a series of questions and thoughtful responses, the reporter then asked: “I really appreciate your time and insight. May I just ask you one more question, albeit perhaps a little personal?”

“Sure,” he replied. “Tell me,” continued the reporter, “whom do you think will receive more reward for living a religious life? Is it you, who had to overcome many difficulties and totally change around your life in order to be religious, or perhaps it is the people who were born into a religious family who only had to live the way they were raised?”

The few people who remained to listen to the live interview knew just what the ba’al teshuvah would answer. After all, the Gemara does say, “In the place where ba’alei teshuvah stand, even complete tzaddikim cannot stand.”

How surprised they were to hear him respond, “Of course, the people who grew up observing their religion will receive greater reward from Hashem for their strict observance.” He could not help but notice the puzzled look on everyone’s faces. So he explained: “I have, unfortunately, experienced and tasted all the ‘goodies’ that a ‘free’ and non-religious man’s life has to offer. Let me tell you, I became religious because I realized how empty, fake and worthless all those pleasures were. Sure, they were tempting and alluring, but believe me, once you indulge in them, it does not take much to realize they are all empty and destructive. It’s really a life of smoke and mirrors. On the other hand, people who were religious their entire lives must think about all the exciting things there are to experience out there; how exciting and fun they must be. And yet, they don’t even come close to doing anything the Torah prohibits them. They have such resolve, such willpower. Oh, how they will be rewarded! Me, on the other hand, how much reward could I receive for not doing something I already know is really useless and empty?!”

Those lucky enough to have been present during the exchange went home that night with a clearer understanding and appreciation of the unique service they had to offer their Creator.

The pasuk is also telling us the type of person whose heart will rejoice in searching for Hashem. It is not someone who is just searching until he finds Hashem. Rather, it is someone who realizes that it is the searching for Hashem itself that brings joy, as we say, “Happy is the heart that searches for Hashem continually.” There are some who feel they have completed their search for Hashem and that’s it; they found Him. That way of thinking leaves quite a bit of room for error in one’s approach in their service to Hashem—indeed, with their whole approach to life.

By Rabbi Eliezer Abish


Rabbi Eliezer Abish learned in Telz Cleveland and Mir Yerushalayim. He received his semicha from Rav Shraga Feivel Zimmerman. A rebbe and principal for more than two decades, his lectures and workshops inspire his listeners to believe in themselves and reach new heights. His best-selling book, “Portraits of Prayer,” continues to enthuse and motivate thousands with actually enjoying their davening. Rabbi Abish is a rebbe in Yeshiva of North Jersey.

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