We learn in the Mishnah: אֵיזֶהוּ עָשִׁיר הַשָּׂמֵחַ בְּחֶלְקוֹ (Avot 4:1).
I grew up with the understanding that a wealthy person is one satisfied with what they have, it’s enough. This clearly makes sense and is an appropriate way to read it.
Jump ahead to around 2016, working with Rav Meir Goldwicht at YU. Rav Goldwicht shared the way he learned this: אֵיזֶהוּ עָשִׁיר “Who is wealthy?” poses Ben Zoma. הַשָּׂמֵחַ בְּחֶלְ–קוֹ (chel-KO). Rav Goldwicht laughed, pointing away from himself, at someone else! The one who is happy with the other guy’s portion! He laughed. I laughed. It’s funny. It also rings true.
Simcha is inextricable from connecting to one’s “portion.” As we also learned this week in our Gan Eden class, galut/exile seems to be the result of a disconnect from who we are and the great potential we have… our chelek.
This made me think of how I daven to greet people or to do things b’simcha. I wondered about today this during my Shemoneh Esrei. I then thought of our Shabbos davening and what made Moshe Rabbeinu zt’l happy. יִשמַח משֶׁה בְּמַתְּנַת חֶלְקו. “Moshe rejoiced in the gift of his portion.” Moshe’s chelek, his portion, was, as pointed out in the beautiful Siddur Nesivei Emes (thanks, Rebbe): Torah. This was a gift to Moshe, as opposed to us, for whom it’s an inheritance: תֹּורָ֥ה צִוָּה־לָ֖נוּ מֹשֶׁ֑ה מֹורָשָׁ֖ה קְהִלַּ֥ת יַעֲקֹֽב. (Devarim 33:4)
So we have — at minimum — a weekly reminder every Shabbos to consider — and be happy with — our gifts as we recite our Shemoneh Esrei. And if it seems difficult to see one’s gifts on Shabbos, begin with Shabbos itself: מַתָּנָה טוֹבָה יֵשׁ לִי בְּבֵית גְּנָזַי וְשַׁבָּת שְׁמָהּ. “I have a good gift in My treasure house and Shabbat is its name.” (Shabbos 10b). How appropriate this is, for Shabbos itself, is a gift from Hashem, exclusively to us.
As for the other days of the week, we begin each day acknowledging our gifts from Hashem:
מוֹדֶה אֲנִי לְפָנֶֽיךָ מֶֽלֶךְ חַי וְקַיָּם שֶׁהֶחֱזַֽרְתָּ בִּי נִשְׁמָתִי בְּחֶמְלָה, רַבָּה אֱמוּנָתֶֽךָ
I give thanks to You, living and everlasting King, for in my awakening, You have restored and renewed my soul with mercy and love. Great is Your faithfulness to also bring us to life in the coming future. (Translation based on Siddur Yesod Malchus.)
We soon then almost punctuate this first acknowledgement of waking with:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה׳ אֱלֹ–הֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר נָתַן לַשֶּֽׂכְוִי בִינָה לְהַבְחִין בֵּין יוֹם וּבֵין לָֽיְלָה
Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the Universe, Who gives the rooster understanding to distinguish between day and night.
A gift, given from God, for the binah to discern.
How numerous are the gifts we receive every day, every minute.
May we all merit this gift of the ability to distinguish between day and night, dark and light, between what seems a vast challenge to our faith and what is, rather, a gifted opportunity to grow. May we see the many gifts in our lives from Hashem, from parents and children, students and teachers, our loved ones. And may this result in great simcha among us all, simcha that keeps growing and spreading in the world, and that results in the ultimate simcha we will all share, b’ezrat Hashem bimheira b’yameinu, in the gift of our redemption.