June 21, 2024
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June 21, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Every one of us possesses something that we can give to a friend without spending one red cent, yet sometimes the friend feels that he was given a dear treasure. A smile has the power to uplift spirits, encourage the downtrodden and bring sunshine into someone’s otherwise dreary day.

In Pirkei Avot we learn that Shamai exhorts mankind to greet everyone with a pleasant countenance, with a smile. The word everyone includes even non-Jews, as we see by our forefather Abraham. While sitting in front of his tent, looking for visitors, he saw three men—they were actually angels disguised as men—who he thought were Arabs, yet he ran to greet them with a smile and offered them water and food.

Shamai himself is often thought of as an irate, bad-tempered person. True, when it came to issues regarding the honor of Hashem or the honor of the Torah he was uncompromising, but in his daily give-and-take with others he was always friendly to everyone, practicing what he preached.

In every generation, we read about people who specialized in making others feel good. Reb Eliyah Dessler was so poor that often when a beggar approached him for alms, he had nothing to give him. Yet he would take the indigent man into his home and engage him in conversation, expressing interest in his family and his hometown. When the beggar left his house, he felt better than if he had received a donation.

It is written in Avot D’rabi Nosson that one who gives his friend a gift, even if it is a very expensive one, with a sour countenance is looked upon as if he had given nothing at all, whereas even the smallest gift, if given with a smile, has much value. So, too, does the Rambam in the laws of tzedakah state that alms must be given with a smile or the giver is not credited with his gift to the poor.

I know a young man whose first apartment after his marriage was next door to a house belonging to a non-Jew. Many of the neighbors knew that eventually this man would sell his house and move away. They all expressed interest in buying his house when he was ready to sell. When he did decide to sell, he offered the house, at a good price, to his young neighbor. When asked by another neighbor who had lived two doors away for 30 years why he had offered the house to that young man, he answered that he liked the young man because he never failed to greet him with a smile when he saw him in his yard.

I myself saw what a smile can accomplish last year, when I was recuperating from an illness that landed me in the hospital. When we were finally planning my discharge, I asked my daughters to buy some cupcakes decorated with smiles for me to hand out to my grandchildren when they came to visit. When I came home I was greeted by smiles everywhere! The doors and the walls were decorated with big smiley faces on which my grandchildren had drawn pictures and written refuah shleima notes. On a bright yellow tablecloth there was an array of smiley-face cupcakes and slinkies decorated with smiley emojis. My daughter even took off my regular kitchen clock and replaced it with a smiley-face clock.

One would think that for me, already a great-grandmother, this would just seem silly, but I must admit that something in that smiley faced welcome warmed my heart, and I am sure it contributed to my eventual recovery. Even five months later, when I came across the envelope with the smiley-face get-well cards, rereading them brought another smile to my face.

So just remember the old adage: “Smile and the world smiles with you.”

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