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Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz – I Put A Smile On

Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz – I Put A Smile On

Operation Inspiration

When my daughter got her learner’s permit for driving, she wanted to get practice whenever she could. One way we achieved this was that she started driving to her bus stop. It’s a central location for about 50 girls and it’s a little less than a mile from our house. It’s a couple of minutes in the car with a few turns and some light to moderate traffic depending on the day so it’s good practice. Once there, we wait for her bus to arrive and then I go to shul.

One day, as we were sitting there in a drizzling rain, I got out to get something from the trunk. When I came back, I paused for a moment. As she looked at me through the rain-spotted window, I drew a large circle on it. I added two more small circles about one third of the way down from the top and finished it with an upwardly-curving arc towards the bottom. In non-mathematical parlance, I had drawn a smiley face. I added a few scraggly hairs on top and ears for good measure, and then got back into the car with a grin on my face.

I think she may have given me a patronizing smile while trying hard not to roll her eyes are her aged father making pictures on the glass and I knew I may have offended her teenage sensibilities somewhat, but that, of course only made it more worthwhile and pleasurable for me. In this serious world, I think we can all use a little silly once in a while.

That might well have been the end of the story if not for one thing. When you draw on a wet glass or foggy mirror, your finger leaves behind oils which affect how the water droplets form on it later. The next time you shower in that bathroom, for example, what you wrote on the mirror may reappear and it can be that way for months depending on the industriousness of your cleaning.

In my case, when I got into my car a few days later, and it was dry, the sunshine streamed through my window and I saw the happy face smiling at me in the daylight. Perhaps the window collected some dust or something else, but the smiley face I made stood out clearly. I thought about it.

When I made that happy face, the rain immediately blurred it both as I was drawing it and afterwards. It wasn’t visible that well. However, once the rain cleared and the sun was out, I still saw the happy face I’d put on and it remained there proudly.

It made me think about how true-to-life this is. So often we have difficulties and things seem depressing or challenging. We feel down and perhaps hopeless. As a child I read a book of Peanuts cartoons by Charles Schulz and I recall one poignant picture of Charlie Brown with his face on his hand as a storm came down upon him. His thought bubble said, “It always rains on the unloved.” Essentially, the message was that of adding insult to injury, and the rain was a sign of Divine displeasure for the person, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Rain may make things like traveling difficult, and I often feel bad when someone makes a simcha on Shabbos in the rain when people have to walk, the rain is actually a blessing. It helps things grow and without it life would cease to exist. The “rainclouds” in our lives, when things seem gray and dreary, are also really times of growth. One day the rain will clear and if we’ve handled the problems right, we’ll be stronger for it. Which brings me to my window:

In the rain I drew a happy face on the lass. When the rain cleared, the only memory of the bad weather was the beaming smile that remained. Likewise, when we face problems with Bitachon, secure in the knowledge that Hashem loves us and is not trying to pain us, we are able to put on a happy face. When the clouds lift, that smile will still be with us and enable us to look back with pride and joy at how we weathered the storm. It will be a measure of our own greatness that will stay with us and reappear time and again.

I wish I could show you a picture of this jolly smiley face so you could see for yourselves how uplifting it is to look at. It puts things in such a stark perspective that enables me to recognize that storms in our lives merely pass through, drenching us with growth opportunities, but that growth is what stays with us. And guess what?

That thought makes me smile. J

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