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Simcha: Sad or Super?

Rabbi Yehoshua Alt

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EXCITING NEWS: I’m happy to announce the release of the book Incredible Insights. The essays contained in this book, written from a Torah outlook, deal with a wide array of assorted topics that are unique, inspiring, interesting, thought-provoking, encouraging, enlightening, and transformational. The book includes Haskamos from R’ Shmuel Kamenetsky, R’ Yisroel Reisman, R’ Moshe Wolfson, R’ Yitzchak Breitowitz, R’ Zev Leff and R’ Yitzchak Scheiner. Over the last number of years these insights have inspired thousands around the world, in more than forty countries. This read is for all ages. It has something for everyone, for beginners and scholars, and students and teachers. It makes a great gift for friends, relatives, business associates, and learning partners. You can purchase the book and get it delivered to you from Amazon at or by sending an email to [email protected]Please spread the word about it.  

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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg Ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the books, Fascinating Insights and Incredible Insights. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

Simcha: Sad or Super?

                We know that there is no man so righteous on earth that he always does good and never sins—אדם אין צדיק בארץ אשר יעשה טוב ולא יחטא.[1] However, when one sins how does he feel? Is he happy about it or does he regret it?[2] There are those that while they are sinning, wish they could withdraw from it.


When Moshe descended from the mountain and saw the Jews worshipping the Eigel he smashed the Luchos. Is that why he broke them? He already heard from Hashem what was happening? The wording of the Pasuk is וירא את העגל ומחלת…וישבר, he saw the calf and the dances…and he smashed the Luchos. Once he saw they were happy—symbolized from their dancing—he got angry and then broke it.[3] In this light, the Kotzker translates תחת אשר לא עבדת את ה’ אלה-יך בשמחה[4]: not only did you not serve Hashem, but you did it with Simcha.


We need to transfer this energy and perform our Mitzvos with Simcha. It was the day after Succos, while the Chassam Sofer (1762-1839) was writing replies to questions from all over the world, that he heard a knock at the door. It was the wealthiest person in the community whose business collapsed and was now penniless. The Chassam Sofer offered words of encouragement until the man regained self-confidence. The man then said that at this time of the year he usually goes to the Leipzig fair, but now he doesn’t have money to make the trip, let alone for purchases. The Chassam Sofer lent him the money[5] he needed and instructed him what to do at the fair. Following his advice, he made a huge profit. Not too long after, he became even wealthier than before. Overwhelmed with gratitude for the loan and advice, he bought an expensive gift. When he presented it to the Chassam Sofer, his face lit up with joy while praising the beauty of the diamond. After admiring the jewel for a few minutes, he said he can’t accept it since it would be a violation of taking interest. When the businessman left, the Chassam Sofer explained to his students there that he felt so joyous upon seeing the jewel since it was the first time in his life that he had the opportunity to fulfill the Mitzva of not taking interest.[6]


In a related story, R’ Nosson Adler was once traveling with the Chassam Sofer on a cold winter day in a wagon being pulled by two horses. Suddenly one of the horses tumbled over and died. Since only one horse remained, the wagon driver traveled on foot to the nearest town to procure another horse, as one horse didn’t have enough strength to pull the wagon. The driver later came back with a donkey. Upon seeing this R’ Nosson Adler descended from the wagon and began to dance with joy. When his student asked him why he was so happy, he replied that since the driver brought a donkey he could now fulfill לא תחרש בשור ובחמור יחדיו, you shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.[7] Sitting in my home in Frankfurt, I would have never dreamed that I would be so fortunate to fulfill this![8]


Now, listen to this incredible report. As R’ Aryeh Tzvi Frumer[9] (1884-1943), also known as the Kozhiglover Rav, was taken to the gas chamber in the Majdanek concentration camp to be killed, he clapped his hands and proclaimed aloud, “Let us sanctify G-d’s Name with joy. Blessed is He who has kept us alive and sustained us to have this great merit.”


The great Talmid Chochom and Tzadik, R’ Betzalel Goldstein, who was the milkman in Shaarei Chessed,[10] was extremely poor. A Talmid Chochom, named R’ Yaakov, once saw R’ Betzalel on the street with his face shining as he found an enormous amount of money. R’ Yaakov expressed his excitement to R’ Betzalel on his newfound treasure, thinking now he can live off that money for years. R’ Betzalel related to R’ Yaakov that he had a question in Hashavas Avaida: When someone returns, for example, 20,000 Shekel, is it one Mitzva or is every Shekel he is returning a separate Mitzva? R’ Betzalel said I have ten proofs that every Shekel is a separate Mitzva. Consequently, I am so happy because I’m getting thousands of Mitzvos. R’ Yaakov told him who said you are obligated to give back the money as maybe it doesn’t have a Siman. Upon hearing this, R’ Betzalel became saddened since although he surely wasn’t going to keep the money as he would return it, if there was no Siman then there is no Mitzva. Then it would be classified as a אינו מצווה ועושה, one who performs a precept having been commanded to do so is greater than one who performs a precept without having been commanded to do so.[11] When R’ Yaakov saw that R’ Betzalel was upset, inconsolable, he reversed the conversation and said I think there is a Siman thereby rendering it a Mitzva of Hashavas Avaida. Upon hearing this, R’ Betzalel was so excited that he hugged and kissed him R’ Yaakov.


In another incident, the students of the Magid of Zlochov asked their Rebbe, who always had great Simcha, how he could recite the Bracha העושה לי כל צרכי every day since he had tremendous afflictions and poverty. The Magid answered that it must be poverty is what I need. Therefore, I can say with Simcha that He gives me all that I need.[12]

[1] Koheles 7:20.

[2] A wise man once remarked “I never saw a complete Malach created from a sin,” as there was always some regret or the like.

[3] Shemos 32:19. Sforno s.v. וירא. See Emes L’Yaakov, Shemos 32:19 and Devarim 34:12.

[4] Devarim 28:47. See Mayana Shel Torah, Ki Sisa, 32:19.

[5] The word הלואה, loan is rooted in לויה, to escort, because when one extends himself to another person, it’s as if he is saying to the other person that he is not alone, I’m with you.

[6] חוט המשולש, pp. 132-8.

[7] Devarim 22:10.

[8] At their behest the driver returned to the town and brought back a horse instead of a donkey.

[9] He had one brother and two sisters. His mother died when he was three years old. After his father remarried, he was sent to learn in a cheder in a nearby town, where he boarded with his mother’s relatives. After his bar-mitzva, he moved to the yeshiva of the Sochatchov Rebbe, the Avnei Nazer. At age 18, he married his cousin and was supported by his father-in-law so that he could continue his Torah studies. He didn’t have any children. In 1913, R’ Frumer published his first seferSiach HaSadeh, a series of essays explaining topics in gemara, especially those in Seder Moed. In 1910, upon the death of the Avnei Nezer, his son and successor, R’ Shmuel Bonsztain, known as the Shem Mishmuel, appointed the 26-year-old R’ Frumer to succeed his late father as Rosh Yeshiva in the yeshiva in Sochatchov, a position he held from 1910 until 1914. During World War One the city of Sochatchov and the yeshiva were destroyed in a fire, so R’ Frumer moved with his family to Warsaw.  In 1934, he was chosen to be the successor to R’ Meir Shapiro (who was the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin) who had died suddenly in late 1933. He served as Rosh Yeshiva there from 1934 to 1939, until the Germans closed it down. In 1935, R’ Frumer spent four months visiting Palestine. In 1938 he published his second work, Eretz Tzvi (the title being another name for Eretz Yisrael and a play on his own name), a book of responsa. At the second Siyum Hashas in Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin in June 1938, R’ Frumer initiated the Mishna Yomis worldwide daily study program, as a complement to the Daf Yomi daily gemara study program. After the Germans closed down Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin, R’ Frumer fled to Warsaw and moved into the Warsaw Ghetto, where he continued to study Torah and produce chidushim (original Torah insights). He and another Sochatchov Chassid, R’ Avremele Weinberg, directed the covert education of several hundred Sochatchover yeshiva students in the ghetto under the direction of the third Sochatchover Rebbe, who was also incarcerated there. As the Nazi deportations increased in frequency, R’ Frumer and his Rebbe joined other Torah scholars who disguised themselves as workers in a large shoe factory owned by Fritz Schulz. R’ Frumer worked in the Wooden and Fur Shoe section, which produced wooden clogs and fur slippers and supplied footwear for the German soldiers on the Russian front. While he worked, he reviewed his Torah studies by heart.

[10] When R’ Zelig Reuven Bengis (1864-1953) became Rav of Yerushalayim in 1937, he met this milkman and commented that if this is the milkman in such a city, I don’t know how I can be the Rav of such a city.

[11] See Avoda Zara 3a.

[12] This is how the Rebbe from אלעסק interpreted the Bracha: העושה לי כל—that which the הכל יכול (Hashem) does to me, is the way it needs to be—צרכי (Taamai Minhagim, p. 103, ובספר המאור הגדול).

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