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  • Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier

Here's something to harp on

The Alter of Kelm once davened for the amud and fumbled the words. He later explained to his close students that there was, lo aleinu, a fresh yasom in shul who was embarrassed to daven for the amud because he fumbled his words. “I wanted him to see that it’s okay, it can happen to anyone.”


The Gemara says that on the 15th of Menachem Av, the Jewish girls would go to the vineyards and make a whole ceremony and dance in order to make shidduchim. One of the remarkable elements of this ceremony was that all the girls dressed in white, but no one wore their own clothing. Rather, they borrowed from one another. This was done so that the girls who didn’t have their own should not be ashamed to borrow.


Consider the position of the girls from affluent families. They were accustomed to wearing the finest on any given day, let alone for the purpose of a shidduch! And yet, for the sake of another Yid’s feelings, these girls were willing to forgo their own comfort and rightful standard of living.


The 15th of Av follows Tishah B’Av, because it’s ahavas Yisroel such as this that will reverse the destruction caused by sinas chinom.


The harp is called nevel in lashon hakodesh. The word nevel can also mean “degenerate” or “despise.” Chazal say that the harp’s music is so beautiful that all other music is ugly, “despised,” in comparison.


Says the Chidushei Ho’Rim: Beauty which accentuates ugliness in others is ugly, and deserves the name nevel.[1]


The Rebbe uses the same logic in the reverse as well.[2]


The Torah tells about one woman called Shlomis bas Divri who didn’t preserve her sanctity while in Mitzrayim. Chazal say that the reason the Torah mentions this is to emphasize the greatness of all other Jewish women—that everyone but her did preserve their sanctity.


For this reason, the Rebbe explains, she deserves to have the name “Shlomis,” (peace and harmony), because her denigration accentuated the praise of others.

The fumbled davening of the Alter of Kelm was the most eloquent davening one can aspire to.


Many Yidden kein yirbu! are blessed with wealth and have the means to make beautiful simchos. And they’re entitled to do so. But there are, unfortunately, still many who can’t. The story of the 15th of Av gives us something to consider: I know that I’m entitled to spend my money as I please, and I’m also not responsible for how others choose to feel. But still, I want to go beyond myself. Will my simchah be a cause of sadness for another Yid? Will my lavishness make others feel inadequate?


A simchah that’s modest in an effort to persevere the dignity and happiness of another Yid is the most beautiful simchah possible.


There are other areas in which we can use similar sensitivities.


My brother once did something special for my mother. She was overwhelmed with nachas and was planning to post her feelings on a WhatsApp chat of fellow almanos, lo aleinu. When I asked her why she didn’t post anything, she said, “I realized that some woman don’t get this kind of nachas. I didn’t want them to feel bad.”


May we gather inspiration from this day to have more ahavas Yisroel, even when it deprives us of what’s rightfully ours, and bring about the ultimate dancing which will happen when Moshiach comes, may it be very soon.[3]


Gut Shabbos,


Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier


[1] Imrei Ho’Rim parshas Shemini.

[2] Likutei Sichos vol. 32, pg. 70, footnote 32. The hashgocha protis that this lesson of love of our fellow Jew is taught in footnote numbered 32, the numerical value of lev, heart, is not lost on me.

[3] Based on the sicha of the 15th of Av 5742 (1982).


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