Thursday, May 27, 2010


The other day I was speaking with someone by phone and describing some of the on-going challenges of moving to Toronto, of shifting from the pulpit rabbinate into running a kollel, and so on. He said to me, “And yet, I can hear that you are smiling!” To which I replied, “Is there any other option?”

The truth is that I do not always smile. Sometimes it’s too opposite to what I’m feeling. Sometimes it’s too much effort. And sometimes I simply forget that it’s important.

One Yom Kippur I actually committed to smile intentionally at least once every morning that year. My parents like it when I smile, my wife likes it when I smile, my kids like it when I smile, I like it when I smile. I'm not half as ugly when I'm smiling. And it's important for bein adam lachaveiro (working with other people); it can even be an act of chesed. לעולם הוי מקבל כל אדם בסבר פנים יפות, Greet everyone with a pleasant face - Shammai knew it.

Now, though, I don’t need to make any special commitment, because I have a reminder. Our kollel meets in the Clanton Park shul, and I usually enter from the parking lot. Right by the entrance is the following graffiti – it’s been there since before I ever got here, and for all I know it's been there for decades:

I love it. Every time I get to that door, no matter what’s been going on, I see that reminder and it yields an instant, even reflexive response, like those studies that say people naturally alter their facial expressions to match those of others around them.

Is it the simple message and goofy grin?

Is it the incongruity of positive graffiti?

Is it the chassidic payes and hat?

I don’t know, but it works for me. I see it, and my morning changes. And if I leave the building for lunch and return, I see it again and it helps my day again. And again when I come in for night seder.

What a wonderful sign. I think I might graffiti my house with one, too.


  1. I can imagine graffitiing it on your house might have the opposite effect on your rebbetzin...

  2. i *love* this! truly, lemons-to-lemonade! keep smiling! (sorry, i just couldn't resist that one! :))

  3. Thank you for sharing this with me. One of my favorite (and uniquely favorite I'm sure)things about Eretz Yisroel is that it is the once place where there is positive graffiti. Where else are you constantly reminded of "Ein Od Milvado!" :)

  4. Kindred-
    Glad you read it, and thanks. Not sure everyone appreciates the נ-נח-נחמ-נחמן, but I hear it.