Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

13 Elul 5759 - August 25, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Home and Family
As Valuable as Some Milk
by Tzvia Ehrlich-Klein, Jerusalem

Offering someone some milk to drink is a special kindness because milk is not only thirst quenching, it is also nutritious. Drinking even a small quantity of milk is filling, at least for a short while. And milk is tasty, refreshing and chock-full of vitamins and minerals.

But there is even something more about drinking milk. As we drink it, it actually becomes a part of us, coursing through our bloodstream and, actually creating new teeth, stronger bones, shiny hair and so on.

Yet, there is a simple, easy, free-of-charge item that the Sages view as comparable to giving a person this valuable, enjoyable and beneficial drink of milk.

Yes, that's right: a smile.

A simple, no-energy, no-bother, no-pain, no-expense, no having-to-buy-or- borrow - a SMILE.


Because it's a `nice' thing to do. Because it is more pleasant to see a smiling face coming towards you than to look at a scowl. Because it makes the person on the receiving end feel good, especially if something is bothering or hurting him/her. And smiles are nutritious -- they feed the soul.

Because it makes the person on the receiving end feel that someone in the world cares, which is a nice feeling, even if neither person knows the other and doesn't ever plan to make acquaintance. Because it makes a person feel a little happier when s/he sees that someone else is happy, even if s/he doesn't know him/her. It reflects a happier world, and that is reflected again, by the viewer. Especially since smiles are contagious.

Because it makes us into the kind of person who is less self- centered and not oblivious to others coming into our purview, and because it trains us to acknowledge the presence of every other human being when we pass them by on the street. And because, if we remember that Hashem specifically created the face of whomever we are looking at, we will gain a tremendous awareness of Hashem and the divine element in the human personality. Awareness of Hashem (shivisi Hashem...) is one of the Seven Constant Mitzvos.

Additionally, by showing a happy face, we are making a Kiddush Hashem, which is one of the finest things we can do, anytime, anywhere.

How? I can think of two ways:

1. People get a better feeling about a person who looks friendly than about one who looks glum, and, as most people agree, a person tends to judge and generalize about a culture/people/group by observing their outward appearance.

If a frum person looks downcast, it will not draw others to him and make them feel favorably inclined towards him. We should reflect the inner joy that our lifestyle engenders, and become good-humor ambassadors. [Black hats and suits sometimes mislead others into thinking that they go together with black moods. A friendly smile will go far to dispel this misconception.]

2. Keeping the Torah should make us glow with inner satisfaction. Looking happy on the surface should be the minimum one could expect as a side benefit of keeping Hashem's word, living according to His code. It is important for us to project that.

Ever look at the people around you on a bus? How many of them are smiling, or look happy?

Doesn't a smile automatically give you a lift? Even when it's on the next person's face? Doesn't it make you smile, if not to them, at least to yourself?

Our faces need to reflect our love of Hashem, and His love towards us! It needs to show the happiness we feel in performing His commandments, living the life He prescribes. It must also demonstrate the joy we feel in experiencing the constant beauty and bounty in Hashem's world.

And yet, we persist in scowling, without realizing it. Scowling over silly, little things.

How much does it cost to train ourselves and our children that when standing in line or sitting at a bus stop, or waiting in an office, to remove a grim, sad or frustrated look and force the appearance of a little, bemused smile? It might feel somewhat strange or silly, at first, but that's our fault; we aren't used to it, yet. And surely, there are enough pleasant things we can find to smile about! The more we practice smiling, the more natural it will feel.

There is a common axiom that the external affects the internal. We don't wait to feel holy before putting on a kipa; we put it on and let it take effect since the very physical act of wearing it will impose the feeling of Hashem's presence more tangibly, internally.

So it is with a smile. By forcing our faces to form a small smile, to turn up at the edges, even while walking down the street, even if we are not particularly happy at the moment, we can definitely create a mood shift. And, smiles are contagious; for all of those people seeing our face, it is a more uplifting and pleasant experience, even if no words are exchanged. Just think of the ripple effect in the lives of so many people who react to your initial morning smile, and smile for the next person...

A smile need not be a rare commodity, saved for those unique times when we feel a particular joy, or come across an old, dear friend. Like milk, it should become part of us, and should nourish others in turn. A smile should be the usual state of being, our natural facial expression that can only be temporarily erased by something truly distressing.

We are supposed to emulate Hashem at all times. How easy it is to force the muscles of our face into a smile while trying to walk in His ways. For He smiles on us at all times.


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