Yisroel Simcha z’L: a Study in Opposites

We spent this past Shabbos at the beautiful home of our cousins who hosted a yahrzheit Shabbos for our dear cousin, Yisroel Simcha.   It was an uplifting Shabbos of inspiration, learning, delicious food and ambiance and beautiful Divrei Torah (words of Torah). There was an incredible siyum by family and friends who gathered to spend Shabbos together reminiscing about Yisroel Simcha.   I spoke during the Shabbos about the lessons and legacy he exemplified.


Parshas Toldos is very much a study in opposites.

We encounter Yitzchak and Rivka who come from opposite backgrounds.

We are introduced to two male twins, Esav and Yaakov, who are opposite physically and ideologically

When thinking of something to speak about, I couldn’t think of a better topic than opposites because…

Yisroel simcha z’l was really the paradigm study in opposites:

  1. Brilliant v Simple. There was a simplicity to Yisroel Simcha’s brilliance and a brilliance to his simplicity.
  2. Serious v. Hilarious Yisroel Simcha’s humor was never silly or sarcastic.  It was him finding the absurdity in his illness and the difficult circumstances of his life.  Yisroel Simcha used humor to elevate himself and to make everyone around him feel good.
  3. Wisdom of an elderly person v. effervescence/naivete of a toddler
  4. Knew everything about the material world and yet that relationship w materialism didn’t affect his neshoma one iota
  5. Respectful v irreverent

While thinking about Yisroel Simcha’s opposite attributes, the one thing that I found no opposite for was his sense of simcha.  There were times, I cried my eyes out, worrying and thinking about all that he was going through.  I remember his Bris and his Bar Mitzvah vividly.  During the celebration of his Bar Mitzvah, I locked myself in a bathroom stall and each time I tried to emerge, I just couldn’t.

But Yisroel Simcha didn’t cry.  Esther didn’t cry, even when he came to dance with her.  And, I never, ever saw Yisroel Simcha sad.

So when I look for the opposite for the attribute of simcha, I pair it with the attribute of Yisroel.

Yisroel Simcha was Yisroel, the man who rocked the endurance game and was victorious.  Why? Precisely because he was b’simcha (in a joyous state).  It seems supernatural and yet that was instilled in his very nature and his nurture.  That was what made Yisroel Simcha unique, brilliant and funny.  And, it was all effortless.

Here we are at his Yarzheit Shabbos and we are transported back to all that we encountered when we were with Yisroel Simcha.  Why?  Because that effortless sense of being b’simcha while enduring b’emunah (with faith) is rooted right here and that will endure forever.   Those symbiotic qualities that are so rare and that so affected each one of us are in Esther and Menachem.  And, they were a part of Aunt Regina a”H,  Temma a’H and of course, this was Yisroel Simcha’s greatest legacy.

Rifka was the parent entrusted with the nevuah (prophecy) during pregnancy that made her understand Yaakov’s mission.  She was willing to sacrifice everything for Yaakov to help him reach his full potential, much like Esther who spent tens of thousands of hours bandaging and selflessly helping Yisroel Simcha to be all that he was in the face of great adversity.  Esther and Menachem do not need to speak a word and yet, we can connect to all that they represent.

For us, to recreate that, would take enormous effort.  But for the Possicks, it is in their nature and it is in their home.  And, this family had the amazing ability and zechus (merit) to allow the effervescence, the hilarity, the wisdom, the emunah, the effortlessness and the brilliance of Yisroel Simcha to shine through.

I believe that when you are evaluating any type of relationship, never, never judge the other person.  Always judge who you are in their presence.

Perhaps, that explains the most perplexing set of opposites in our parsha:

וַיֶּֽאֱהַ֥ב יִצְחָ֛ק אֶת־עֵשָׂ֖ו כִּי־צַ֣יִד בְּפִ֑יו וְרִבְקָ֖ה אֹהֶ֥בֶת אֶת־יַֽעֲקֹֽב:

Yitzchok loved Esau for the hunt was in his mouth while Rivka loves Yaakov.  There are two interesting differences in describing the love of Yitzchok toward Esav v the love Rifkah feels for Yaakov:

  1. Their love is described in different tenses: Rivka’s in the present while Yitzchak’s in the past
  2. Yitzchok’s love was based upon the taste in his mouth while Rifka’s love is not dependent on anything

Perhaps, Rifka understood that her love for Yaakov was never dependent upon what was בְּפִ֑יו,  For Rifka her love was just that ubiquitous feeling of her being her most elevated self in Yaakov’s company.

If we were to evaluate our relationship with Yisroel Simcha based upon who we were in his presence, we would probably all say the same thing:  In Yisroel Simcha’s company, we were all:  funnier, happier, smarter, more connected, more elevated and even weightless.   Why? Because Yisroel Simcha had this effortless quality about all that he was and all that he did.  He should have been the most complicated person we knew and yet, he was the least complicated.

For us, we need to work on reconnecting, through this Shabbos and through recreating that person we were in Yisroel Simcha’s company.   So, what we can do is to be in touch with that hilarious, joyous, witty, clever and elevated self in each one of us with whom Yisroel Simcha put us in touch. And, with that extra confidence in ourselves and in our tefilos (prayers), we can transform this yahrzheit Shabbos into a celebration of true simcha for this incredible family with the coming of moshiach b’mehara ub’simcha (speedily and with great joy).



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