Wednesday, May 26, 2010


In this shiur (lecture) by Rabbi Ally Ehrman, I heard a wonderful idea. Reb Ally explains how he has started a new type of GeMaCh (a free loan fund; can be comprised of anything from clothes and money to baby pacifiers and diapers) in his home in the Old City of Jerusalem: A GeMaCh Chiyyuch (a Smile GeMaCh); the idea is that you give a smile to someone you see on the street, and allow them to pass it on to the next person!

This is an important idea in Judaism; our sages teach us to greet everyone with a pleasant countenance, and we also learn that our faces are considered Rishus HaRabim (public property or thoroughfare). Smiles are catchy, and we cannot quantify the actual positive effect that one tiny upward stretching of the facial muscles can do.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, after hearing this lecture, I felt quite inspired. I resolved to try and spread more happiness through smiling at people; I realized that I do a lot of traveling, and on the road - where one may not be expecting to see a fellow Jew - a smile can wield some real power (not say that Gentiles don't deserve smiles, but I did want to target Jews in the specific context of driving).

The first morning after this resolution, I am driving southbound on the Garden State Parkway toward Yeshiva. At one point, I realize that there is a chassidishe guy sitting in the minivan next to my car. He looks preoccupied; his face is vacant. I turn to him - and when I get his attention, flash a smile, and give a little wave. The guy blinks in confusion for a moment, and then his face splits into a wide grin and he waves back. He turns back to the road, and I can see the smile lingering on his face.

I was so excited. My idea worked!

The trip home was less successful - at one point, I found myself driving alongside this really straightlaced looking fellow. His beard is meticulously trimmed, his tie is knotted all the way up, and his hands are at the 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock positions on the steering wheel. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get him to acknowledge me and my smile, despite its hundred-watt brilliance...

You win some, you lose some, but the main thing is to not give up!


Neil Harris said...

True Hasgacha Pratis!
I was actually looking through last night and saw this shiur listed, but download (not listened to, yet) "Knowing What Is Important"

Now, with your recommendation, I'll listen to the shiur you blogged about.

Shmuel said...

Well then, I am glad to be the messenger who brought you to the shiur. Enjoy it!