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Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Don't ever let them see you smile

Daf Yomi Nedarim 51

The president of the United States of America carries the weight of the world on his shoulders.  The incredible responsibility of the office is enough to give the most spritely person grey hair.  And so it comes as no surprise that most of the time we see the president, he appears stressed out and worried. 

Once a year, all that changes.  The annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner is an opportunity to see the president in a different light.  Instead of the sombre everyday picture, we get to hear a little self-deprecating humour and watch the leader of the free world kick back and laugh at the comedic performances.  It’s a wonderful minhag that should give us all a moment of pause to consider how we carry ourselves through life.

Any day Rebbe would smile, calamity would strike the world.   He said to Bar Kapara, “Just don’t do anything funny and I promise to give you forty measures of wheat.”
“Just know,” Bar Kapara replied, “I plan to take whatever size measure I choose.”  He then went and found a large basket, lined it with pitch and put it upside-down on his head.  He appeared before Rebbe and said, “Time to give me my forty measures of wheat!”
Rebbe smiled and said, “Didn’t I warn you not to be funny?”
“I’m just here,” replied Bar Kapara, “to claim the wheat you owe me!”

Bar Kapara was invited to the wedding of Rabbi Shimon, the son of Rebbe. 
At the feast, Bar Kapara asked Rebbe, “What is the meaning of the word toeivah?”
Any suggestion Rebbe made, Bar Kapara refuted, until he finally said, “Okay, so what’s the meaning?”
Bar Kapara replied, “Get up and do a dance for me and then I’ll tell you.”

Many people take themselves far too seriously.  They believe that if they so much as smile, the world will cave in.  They obsess over sobriety, eschewing any manner of lightheartedness and revealed joy.  Bar Kapara made it his mission to make people laugh.  When he noticed how serious the Chief Rabbi, Rebbe, was acting, he took it upon himself to lighten the mood.  Not only would he make him laugh, he was determined to keep on with his quest until he had Rebbe dancing in front of him!

Maintaining a stressful countenance doesn’t help the situation.  On the contrary, it just tells your mind that you should worry even more!  The more you smile, the easier and breezier life will feel.  Did you know that when you smile, you release endorphins in your brain, making you experience feelings of jubilation?  In other words, smiling is not the result of being happy, smiling and laughing make you happy!

I get so embarrassed when someone comments, ‘Rabbi, you look exhausted!’  Even if I am dealing with a stressful situation, I certainly don’t want to project that image.  I want the world to know that everything is under control and I have placed my complete faith in the Almighty Who knows exactly what He is doing.  And so when I hear someone question my countenance, I realize I need to instantly correct my visage.  I immediately beam, ‘Baruch Hashem, life is awesome!’

It’s time to lighten up.  Stop taking yourself so seriously.  If you’re feeling stressed out, get up and do a jig.  May you merit the brightest smile in the room and the ability to bring out the mightiest grin in everyone else!