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
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
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
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.