Greet every person in a pleasant manner (Ethics of the Fathers 1:15).
Occasionally, when I walk into an office, the receptionist greets me rudely. Granted, I came to see someone else, and a receptionist's disposition is immaterial to me. Yet, an unpleasant reception may cast a pall.
A smile costs nothing. Greeting someone with a smile even when one does not feel like smiling is not duplicity. It is simply providing a pleasant atmosphere, such as we might do with flowers or attractive pictures.
As a rule, "How are you?" is not a question to which we expect an answer. However, when someone with whom I have some kind of relationship poses this question, I may respond, "Not all that great. Would you like to listen?" We may then spend a few minutes, in which I unburden myself and invariably begin to feel better. This favor is usually reciprocated, and we are both thus beneficiaries of free psychotherapy.
This, too, complies with the Talmudic requirement to greet a person in a pleasant manner. An exchange of feelings that can alleviate someone's emotional stress is even more pleasant than an exchange of smiles.
It takes so little effort to be a real mentsch.
Today I shall ... ...
try to greet everyone in a pleasant manner, and where appropriate offer a listening ear.
Love Yehuda Lave
There are four categories of people who give tzedakah ... [the fourth of which is] one who does not give and discourages others from giving; he is wicked (Ethics of the Fathers 5:16).
Since this passage is listing varieties of those who give tzedakah, why does it include a category of someone who does not give? Not giving is not a sub-type of giving.
In the effort to streamline everything and make life less complicated, we have centralized many things, including tzedakah. Communities often have one organization that has one major fund drive a year. Those people who wish to operate in this manner are certainly at liberty to do so, but when they insist that this unified drive be the only one in the community, and they discourage all other tzedakah collections or campaigns, they are actually infringing on the privilege of others to dispense their tzedakah as they see fit.
I have the right to invest in mutual funds and allow others to diversify my investments for me, but I also have the right to choose for myself which stocks I wish to own. No one has the authority to deprive me of the right to make my own selections.
The passage cited is indeed considering only those who give, but among them there is a sub-type of those who give only once to a centralized drive and refuse to give to any other collection. While they certainly have the right to do so, when they try to exert their authority to prevent other collections in the community, while insisting that everyone must give only as they do, their behavior is unacceptable.
If you give tzedakah once, you have done one mitzvah. If you give tzedakah twenty times (even if you give a smaller amount each time), you have done twenty mitzvos.
Today I shall ... ... retain my right to give tzedakah as I see fit.
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Do not say that the earlier days were better than these, because this is not a quest that comes from wisdom (Ecclesiastes 7:10).
I have been in the practice of relaxing myself each day with self-hypnosis, which allows me to go back in time and relive some very pleasant childhood experiences.
One time, I was relaxing (after having just emerged from the whirlpool treatment in a spa), and I used the opportunity to go back in time to enjoy a fun-filled day in a summer camp, some forty years earlier. Only later did it occur to me that at the spa I was also having a wonderful time! Why could I not enjoy this present moment? Why did I have to go back in time to an experience of the past?
The reason, I think, is because that enjoyable day at camp had closure; it had ended having indeed been a great day. While the spa was equally pleasant, there was still an uncertainty as to whether this spirit would be maintained. At any moment, there might have been a call from the office with some disturbing news. The subconscious expectation that something upsetting might happen did not (and still does not) allow me to fully enjoy the present.
King Solomon says that it is not wise to reflect upon the past as idyllic. Why? When circumstances are favorable, wisdom allows us to actually enjoy the present. As the Psalmist says, He will not fear bad tidings, his heart being firm in trust in God (Psalms 112:7). There is no reason to have an attitude of foreboding. While it is foolish to build castles in the sky, it is equally foolish to build dungeons in the cellar.
Today I shall ... ... try to enjoy whatever I can to the utmost, and trust in God for the future.
Who was Shlomtzion?
There is a street near the Jerusalem city hall named after Shlomtzion HaMalka. Do you know who she was? While the name suggests that she was a queen, I have not seen any references to her. I would appreciate any information that you could provide.
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
Shlomtzion was the queen of Israel circa 100 BCE. She was a righteous woman whose brother was the famous Sage known as Shimon ben Shetach. In truth, her name was actually Shulamit, but she was called Shlomtzion (literally: "the peace of Zion") because the Jewish people loved her so much. She became the sole ruler of Israel after her husband died. This was a time of great peace and prosperity for the Jewish people.
The sources about Shlomtzion HaMalka are scattered throughout the Talmud and in the writings of Josephus. For a thorough treatment, I highly recommend the book "Echoes of Glory" by Rabbi Berel Wein (Shaar/ArtScroll).
The following beautiful story is from a book called "A Mother's Favorite Stories" (ArtScroll).
After the war in 1948, the government gave my father assistance to renovate a storefront in the area which was close to what is now Jerusalem City Hall. He was informed by the authorities that when the sign was painted, the address for the store should read "Princess Mary 15."
My father came home that night, sat down at the small dinner table and said, "It's a shame to have such a name on the front of the shop. A street in the holy city of Jerusalem to be called Princess Mary! I won't have it. We are changing the name. As of right now, the address is Shlomzion HaMalka 15."
We were accustomed to my father's fierce love for Jerusalem and all things Jewish. No one questioned how he intended, single-handedly, to implement his decision. But he did, with my mother's help.
First, he instructed the painter to paint his address – the way he wanted it – in bold black letters. Second, every single time a letter arrived addressed to proprietor Princess Mary 15, he crossed it out and wrote, "Return to sender. Please use correct address."
My mother would faithfully bring each and every one of these letters back to the post office. And, as everyone can see, his sincere love brought about a triumphant success. Very few people walking today on Shlomzion HaMalka know that the name was born from a heart of a fiery lover of Zion.
See you tomorrow
Love Yehuda Lave
Rabbi Yehuda Lave
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