I am uncertain whether it is ever appropriate to make a lavish simcha! There is a fine line between rejoicing amid a profound expression of gratitude to Hashem for the simcha itself and the divine gift of affluence – and showing off for one’s relatives and friends. Actually, it is a pretty clear line, and the difference is easily discernible (even if they won’t tell you). Certainly, during an et tzarah (a time of travail) it is inappropriate to engage in profligate celebrations.
Chazal considered it a virtue (and one of the forty-eight ways the Torah is acquired, Avot 6:6) to be nosei b’ol im chaveiro, to share the burden with other Jews, to feel their distress and misfortune. Nothing signifies more the disconnect between this value and its application than taking a luxury vacation at this point in history. It means that the vacationers do not feel the pain of other Jews. Indeed, with Jew hatred on the rise across the world and including the United States, indulging in extravagant pleasures now indicates that the vacationers are oblivious to the et tzarah that afflicts them as well.
There are hundreds of thousands of Jews in Israel today who have been forced to leave their homes, who have seen their homes, possessions, and livelihoods destroyed, who have close relatives serving on the front lines or who are mourning the murder of their loved ones. Far better than spending excessive sums on smachot or vacations would be to channel most of that money to assist your brothers and sisters in Israel during these perilous times. Just like Moshe was rewarded for going out to personally witness the suffering of his brethren (see Malbim, Shemot 2:11), it behooves all Jews in the exile not only to support Israel financially but also to come and visit us, see firsthand how you can assist, and experience some of the challenges, resolve and grandeur of Jewish life in the land that Hashem granted to the Jewish people.
– Rav Steven Pruzansky is Israel region Vice President of the Coalition for Jewish Values and author of six books, including the recent “Road to Redemption,” available at Kodeshpress.com.
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In the current backdrop of Israel’s crisis, hosting lavish semahot or going on luxury vacations raises ethical considerations on two fronts.
First, it becomes a challenge to engage in lavish semahot or leisurely pursuits of this nature when our brothers and sisters in Israel are in a time of crisis, dealing with the aftereffects of the Hamas terror attacks of October 7th, and with the current war Israel is engaged in with Hamas in Gaza. The current situation calls for solidarity and shared empathy rather than conspicuous displays of lavishness.
Second, the funds used for extravagant events could serve a better purpose if redirected to aid those directly impacted by the crisis in Israel. Whether it be contributing to humanitarian efforts, supporting displaced families, or supporting the IDF’s efforts in dismantling Hamas and protecting Israel from Hezbollah, these financial resources could make a real difference.
While individuals retain the autonomy to determine their actions, there is a hope that people will consider the gravity of the situation and allow their moral compass to guide their decisions. While no one can enforce a change in plans, it is a call for a serious reflection on how personal choices can be aligned with a broader sense of responsibility and compassion during challenging times.
– Rabbi Nathan Dweck is the mashigah ruchani and Judaic studies teacher at Barkai Yeshivah’s Middle School in Brooklyn, NY. He serves as the high school minyan rabbi and Torah programming director at Congregation Beth Torah. He is also the executive director of Tebah Educational Services.
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One is mandated to suffer along with the community and be sensitive to the sufferings of other Jews. In this way one emulates G-d who is described as “Imo anochi b’ttzara – I am with you in your travails.” Hence, if one out of insensitivity to times of communal misfortune goes on an extravagant vacation or other pleasurable excursion or frivolous undertaking, this is definitely not proper.
However, if the pleasurable experience will be done as a means to relax and enable one to function better as a person in their service of Hashem and their interpersonal relationships with other people and thereby be more sensitive to the communal misfortune and be able to contribute better to alleviating the suffering of others physically, materially, and spiritually, then that good end goal may justify the pleasurable experience as the means necessary to reach that desirable goal. One should ask advice from a qualified spiritual mentor before embarking on such a pleasurable endeavor.
– Rabbi Zev Leff is rav of Moshav Matisyahu and a popular lecturer and educator.