As Jacob neared his death, this week’s Torah reading quotes the blessings
he gave to each of his children. Every child got a unique blessing. To his son
Judah he said (49:12), “Your teeth shall be white from milk.” Meaning, he should
be blessed that his land in Israel would be extremely fertile with plenty of
pasture for animals to graze, which will result in an abundance of milk
production. The Talmud tells us (Ksubos 111b) that there is another meaning
alluded to in these words. The Talmud says, “Rabbi Yochanan says, ‘Greater is
one who whitens his teeth to his friend more than one who pours him milk.'”
Meaning, one who shows the white of his teeth by smiling at someone is doing
a greater act than one who supplies physical nourishment to another.
To enhance comprehension of this point, the Alter of Slabodka, Rabbi
Nosson Tzvi Finkel, demonstrated this concept as follows: Imagine a man, out of
his own will, is standing in the morning by the entrance of a school with a large
vat of milk. As every student approaches the school, the man graciously pours a
cup of milk for each student, paid for from his own pocket, so that each student
should be well-nourished for the long day of studying. What a marvelous act of
kindness! Now, imagine someone else standing there. This man does not
sponsor anything of monetary value. However, he stands by the same entrance
of the school, and as each student approaches, the man greets the student with
a big smile. The actions of the latter surpass those of the former! While being
generous with one’s money is certainly praiseworthy, an act of kindness that
uplifts a fellowman’s spirits is even greater!
My uncle was a very jolly person. Whenever I saw him, he was always busy
cracking jokes. His constant laughter was his trademark. I remember he once
came to the school where I was studying, and a faculty member commented to
my brother that he can’t remember the last time he met such a cheerful human
being! I always used to think it was just his personality to be that way. He was
outgoing and liked sharing corny jokes. It wasn’t until he passed away that I
learned the truth. When my father eulogized him, he revealed to us that it
wasn’t merely his nature to be bubbling with humor. He definitely had a serious
side to himself, which I witnessed as well. He deliberately walked around, willing to give the impression he was lightheaded, just to bring happiness to all those
who surrounded him! He was on the constant alert to find ways to cheer up all
those he came in contact with. And he did!

Kindness in the form of contributing to the emotional state of others is
often overlooked. While there are many organizations collecting funds to help
the needy, no “happiness fund” exists to distribute good spirits to melancholy
folks. Every one of us needs to establish his own “happiness fund.” There are
countless opportunities we have every day to disperse happiness to those we
come in contact with. A smile alone can make someone’s day. There is no telling
how far an encouraging word can go. Not all of us are in a position to offer
financial assistance to others, and even those who are, have their limitations.
But when it comes to offering a kind word, a friendly smile, no one can say they
can’t afford it. Furthermore, giving someone an emotional boost is of greater
value than monetary aid! With this in mind, there are so many great deeds we
can accomplish just by purposely putting on a smile whenever we are in
company of others. In addition, by looking out to give a compliment or an
encouraging word to others, there is no end to how much we can achieve.

Rabbi Yitzchok Aryeh Strimber

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