SUMMER 2019 The Summer of Torah, Hesed, and Charity

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STRAIGHT TALK



It’s been said here many times that man possesses a deep wellspring of happiness within him. How does one open this “wellspring”?


Here’s the secret: Happiness is not one thing; it’s ten thousand things.

First, learn to be happy that you have a roof over your head. Somewhere there is a poor woman, homeless, mildly demented, pushing a shopping wagon. All her worldly possessions are in the shopping wagon; she has nothing. She doesn’t have a bathroom, a kitchen, or a bed to sleep in. Where does she go when it’s raining? A pity on her. She’s bedraggled; it’s heartbreaking to look at her. If she could only have a place to sleep. In freezing weather, she’s trying to take a nap on a park bench.

She’s freezing and has no place to sleep – but you have a house with a roof over your head. How lucky she would feel if she could have just a little place, a shack with a roof! She’d be the happiest person if she had that. Even if there was no heating, she could at least lie down on the floor and sleep. But she doesn’t even have that.

So first learn to enjoy having a roof over your head. It takes a long time to properly appreciate a roof – but that is a reason to be happy.

Then learn what it means to have running water in your house. Running water! It takes a long time to learn to enjoy that, too.

In Europe, we didn’t have any running water. There was no such thing. In the yeshiva, there was a keg of water filled by the shamash (attendant). Nobody dared drink from it. It was poison, that keg of water. No water was cleaned by the city! Water came from a well, and there were germs in the keg – they never washed the keg, for years. Any water had to be boiled before you drank it in Europe.

And when you wanted to take a bath, there was no bathroom. So, either you went to the shvitzbat – the public bathhouse, or they brought in a tin tub. Balabatim [homeowners] had a large tin tub, and they boiled water in a teakettle, pouring one full kettle after another into the tub until it was half full. Then you bathed in that water, in a room someplace, in a bedroom. So, you bathed in a tin tub filled with water which was boiled in teakettles. When you got through with it, if you had a little brother, he bathed after you in the same water, because you couldn’t afford to fill it up twice.

Nobody had a bathroom. When you needed to go to the toilet in the wintertime, in the middle of the night, you had to put on your boots. I stomped through the snow at nighttime. We walked through the snow with heavy boots to the bathroom. You think the bathroom had a seat? No! You crouched over a hole. In the summertime, when you came out, you had to wait about an hour before the odor would leave your clothing.

So start enjoying bathrooms and running water in your house. Even if you had no hot water – just having cold water in your house is cause for great joy. Hot water? That’s a luxury!

Then you start enjoying the fact that you have a chair to sit on. In Arabia, they sit on the ground; they don’t have the luxury of chairs.

The nomads have tents. When they want a bathroom, what do they do? They dig a hole in the bottom of the tent, and they do their needs. Then they cover it up with dirt. In the tent! That’s “luxury” in an Arabian tent.

But you have a bathroom. So, you’re a millionaire already. You have everything!

Little by little, you study all these things, and you start becoming rich. After a while you see you have ten thousand things that other people don’t have.

All this takes time, but after a while, you become so full of happiness that you don’t know where to stop. So much happiness!

So, happiness consists of knowing many things. And if you invest some mental effort in studying each individual thing, after a while, it adds up to an enormous amount of happiness.