An Eternal Song of Gratitude

A Yid in Bnei Brak earned a reputation that each night he attended a chasunah. He often had no idea who the chassan and kallah were, nor did he know any of their relatives. But without fail he attended a wedding and danced ecstatically in front of the chassan.

It is told that the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, the Yeshuos Moshe, zy”a, once met this Yid and asked if it was true that he regularly attended weddings as an uninvited guest.

The Yid confirmed this fact.

“Why do you do this?” the Rebbe asked him.

“Every day that goes by and I am healthy, baruch Hashem, and all goes well in my personal life is a tremendous chessed from Hashem. I feel that every day I should go into the streets and shout out my gratitude to Hashem. But I am afraid that if I do so, people will think I am crazy. So, instead, every night I go to a chasunah. I try to be mesamei’ach the chassan, but even more importantly — I get to dance and sing and express my gratitude to Hashem for all his kindness.”

Recognizing the benevolence of Hashem when His kindness is clearly evident and remembering to express our gratitude is itself an area in which most of us can use chizuk. But in reality, even at times of challenge and crisis, we must focus on thanking Hashem.

When the Skulener Rebbe, Harav Eliezer Zusia Portugal, zy”a, was imprisoned by the communist government of Romania, together with his son, the present Skulener Rebbe, shlita, there was a very real fear that they would be killed.

“It seemed like there was no way out,” the present Rebbe related, “yet my father, zt”l, was composing a song for the day of our liberation …”
In his sefer Kedushas Levi, the Berditchever Rav, zy”a, teaches that when Bnei Yisrael were still in Egypt, they were so certain Hakadosh Baruch Hu would free them from their torment that they thought of Az Yashir — the song they would sing at the time of their geulah.

In his sefer Eish Kodesh — written in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Holocaust — the Piaseczner Rebbe,& Hy”d,& adds that not only did they compose a shirah for their liberation while in Egypt, but Bnei Yisrael also expressed their gratitude to Hashem.

Chazal (Brachos 7b) wonder about the perek Tehillim that begins with “Mizmor l’Dovid… — A Psalm of Dovid, when he fled from Avshalom his son.”

“A mizmor of Dovid”? He ought to have said “A kinah — a lamentation — of Dovid!”

The Gemara responds with a mashal: To what is this to be compared? To a man who has an outstanding debt. Until he pays it he worries, but after he has paid it, he rejoices. So it was with Dovid Hamelech. When Hakadosh Baruch Hu said to him: “Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own home,” he began worrying. He thought: It may be a slave or a mamzer who will have no pity on me. When he saw that it was Avshalom, he was glad, and therefore he said ‘A mizmor.’

The Piaseczner Rebbe explains that when facing times of great anguish and crisis, an individual must and can accept his troubles with ahavah, and certainly, someone of the lofty spiritual stature of Dovid Hamelech, did so.

But to be able to sing a song of praise to Hashem, a song that emanates from the depths of one’s heart, at such a time is a great challenge. Chazal wondered how is it possible that Dovid Hamelech sang a mizmor at a time when his own son staged a coup against him and he was forced to flee.

The answer is that he reflected on the fact that things could have been even worse. It could have been a slave or a mamzer. By focusing on this realization, he was able to attain the necessary level of joy needed to sing a mizmor.

When our ancestors stood at the Yam Suf and recited a shirah that they had already prepared in Egypt, they also instilled into all generations to come the ability to sing a song of praise under all circumstances. At times this is a daunting task. But by recognizing that there are circumstances that are worse than those we are facing, and searching for the silver lining in every situation, this can be achieved.