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Thought for the Day: First Priority Is Appreciating the Good

Chazal (Brachos 9b) relate that R' Yose ben Elyakim testifies in the name of the Holy Congregation of Yerushalyim that any one who immediately begins shomne esrei as he concludes the bracha of "ga'al yisrael"/who redeemed Yisrael [from Mitzrayim] (aka, "someich g'ula l't'fila") will not suffer any damages the entire day.  That's a pretty bold statement!  So bold, in fact, the R' Zeira challenged it.  "Really!?", exclaimed a perplexed R' Zeira, "I did that once and I hit with financial damage!"  R' Yose apparently knew what happened and replied, "Hang on... are you talking about the fact that you were forced to deliver a load of myrtle to the king's palace at great personal expense?  Pshaw!  That's not damage... it's worth spending a lot of money to be able to see a king!"

The marshals support from a statement by R' Yochanon: I person should always endeavor to run to see kings of Israel; and not only kings of Israel, but even goyish kings.  Why?  Because when one see the glory and respect given to even a goyish king, he'll have a better appreciation for what it means to be a Jew and the glory to which we are destined in the coming world.

[Aside: in halacha, a king is a ruler who has absolute power over people's lives.  That is, he can sentence someone to death and the sentence will be executed without question nor due process.  By that definition, Queen Elizabeth is not a halachic queen.  I believe, though, that I once saw a real king.  In 1959, Nikita Khrushchev visited the United States and my parents took me to see him.  I was only two, but my father, a"h, told me that he thought is was an important historic occasion, so they took me to the train station and my dad placed me on his shoulders so I could see him.  I've wondered if that glimpse of glory shown to a goyish ruler of such stature was significant in nudging me toward the life I have sought and chosen.]

So even though R' Zeira felt he had suffered a financial loss, Chazal replied that he had suffered no loss at all; in fact, he had received adequate compensation for his expenses by being afforded such a great opportunity.

Yaakov Avinu also saw the goodness what many of us might see as adversity.  When Yaakov Avinu was returning home after 20 years, he is notified that his brother -- still carrying a hatred for Yaakov -- is approaching with an army 400 strong.  Yaakov sends presents, splits his family into two camps to prepare for battle, and then davens: "HaShem -- I feel small compared to the abundance of kindness I have already experienced Your promise of more!  I left home with only the staff in my hand, and now I have two camps!"  Even though Yaakov Avinu had split the camp in preparation for a battle that he hadn't chosen and didn't want, his used that experience to appreciate just how much HaShem had graciously given him over the last two decades.

One detail I decided to leave to the end: Tosafos note that since the halacha is to "someich g'ula l't'fila", it seems a bit odd that it should be rewarded with not suffering any damage the entire day.  Tosefos therefore concludes that the Chazal were actually meant anyone who is someich g'ula to t'fila precisely at sunrise (you know, as the vasikin davened) will not be harmed the entire day.  Just saying.  Actually, I'm not just saying, Tosefos is just saying.  Just saying.

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