Every festival has its unique greeting. Before Pesach, we wish one another, “Chag kasher v’same’ach.” On Chanukah, we say, “Freilichen Chanukah.” And on Shavuos, it is traditional to wish one another to be “mekabel the Torah b’ahavah – to merit accepting the Torah anew with love.”
Fulfilling the Torah with love is a vital component of Jewish observance. In the tochecha, the Torah tells us that terrible things will, G-d forbid, befall the Jewish people “tachas asher lo avadata es Hashem Elokecha b’simcha u’v’tov leiv – because [we] didn’t serve Hashem with joy and gladness of heart.”
The Aleinu Leshabeiach asks: Why do we deserve horrific punishment for not serving Hashem with joy? He answers that joy is vital to the continuity of the Jewish people. Enthusiasm and delight are contagious. If we are excited to study Torah and do mitzvos, so will our children. If we, however, study Torah and do mitzvos with a krechtz (a groan), our children will see them as a burden and won’t be eager to perpetuate our religious legacy.
Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, once spoke about two families who lived during the Great Depression and succeeded with profound mesiras nefesh in keeping Shabbos. Surprisingly, though, only one family successfully raised their children to be G-d fearing Jews. The other family’s children went astray.
Rav Moshe explained that the family that successfully raised their children rejoiced every time they overcame an obstacle in their religious observance. The other family – although they were just as scrupulous – used to groan and complain at how difficult it was to be Jewish in America.
This constant bitterness rubbed off on the children and subliminally, after a while, eroded their dedication to Judaism. Rav Moshe would often say that one should avoid such statements as “Iz shver tzu sein a Yid – It’s hard to be a Jew.” Rather one should say with delight, “Iz glicklich tzu sein a Yid – How fortunate we are to be Jewish.”
We should pay heed to these words. If a father, for example is always complaining about how long Shabbos morning davening is or how tiresome and drawn out the rabbi’s drasha is, it will take a toll on the neshamos of his children.
I remember when I was growing up, many people wanted to hear a chazzan daven. People from many shuls, for example, would converge to hear the great Chazzan Koussevitzky bentch Rosh Chodesh. While some cynically say that davening is not the time to hear a concert (albeit many were spiritually moved by his profound melodies), people were excited to go to shul, and that’s a good thing.
Pirkei Avos states, “Al taas tefiloshcha keva – Do not make your prayer a mere routine.” Rather, believe that talking to Hashem can really help and really make a difference. Elsewhere we learn, “Al taas tefiloscha k’masui – Let not your prayers be like a burden.” We must at all costs avoid giving our children the feeling that davening or going to shul is a burden. If we give them that impression, we are giving them the worst kind of chinuch possible.
Mothers also shouldn’t complain about preparing for Shabbos or cleaning for Pesach. Fathers shouldn’t moan about putting up a sukkah or finding haddasim m’shulashim. If they do, they are failing in their parental duty to infect their children with the proper enthusiasm for avodas Hashem.
The Torah’s mantra is “Ivdu es Hashem b’simcha – Serve Hashem with joy!”
May it be the will of Hashem that we merit serving Him and learning His Torah with joy and happiness, and, in that zechus, may we be granted long life and good health to raise many generations of children who will serve Hashem with true Torah delight until the coming of Moshiach, may he arrive very soon.