“I am not in the mood.” Have you ever had that feeling? You are just not in the mood to do x, y or z. You are feeling a bit down, life has thrown you a few curveballs, and you just want to wallow in your feelings of being down.
Many of us have certainly experienced that feeling. Those of us who are older, or much older, who have been educated in the hashkafah of “Who cares about what mood you are in? Just get up and do what you have to do despite your bad mood,” have certainly heard their children and grandchildren say things to the effect of “Leave me alone. I am just not in the mood!”
I remember something that a seventh grade rebbi told us on the posuk in Shema that we say every day: “V’ahavta eis Hashem Elokecha bechol levovecha uvechol nafshecha uvechol me’odecha.” That rebbi made a play on words using the last words of the posuk, “bechol me’odecha,” He explained them to mean, “You should love Hashem with all of your ‘moods.’ That means whether you are in the mood or not in the mood!”
I find that this idea of not being in the mood is the most difficult to combat when one is not in the mood to be happy. When we are upset or feel like things are happening in our lives that we cannot control, we get down. We become almost lethargic and are simply “not in the mood” – not in the mood to do anything, be it learning or davening, doing chesed, or even simply smiling at others. We just want to walk around with a long face, wallowing in our feelings of despair.
This thought hit me when I came across an interesting thought in a sefer, a thought that is relevant to this week’s parsha and in general to this time of the year.
A Year of “Going Through the Ringer”
We are now in the month of Tammuz and are rapidly approaching the Three Weeks, a period when we sort of feel apprehension. Yes, the Three Weeks are coming. No music. No simcha. The concept of churban is already in the background. Later, it will be no fleishigs, no swimming, and even some limitations when it comes to showers. There are those among us who sort of wish we would just wake up and it will be Shabbos Nachamu, when we prepare to do something, go out, and have fun on Motzoei Shabbos Nachamu.
In addition, it is no secret that we have been through the ringer this year. There was corona and Meron and anti-Semitism rearing its ugly head in an unprecedented way here in chutz la’aretz, with the progressives determined at all costs to eradicate Hashem from public discourse and do everything possible to rebel against Him. Now, we have a leftist Israeli government, too. Who knows what that will bring?
So, I hope readers will forgive me for being a bit down and “not in the mood.”
The Picture Preceding the Shirah
Back to the sefer. The sefer reminded me that in this week’s parsha, there is a shirah, where we sang to Hashem. No, it may not have had all the bells and whistles of the Shiras Hayom, when the Bnei Yisroel experienced such profound nissim, with the sea splitting, walking through the now dry seabed on dry land, and the Mitzriyim in hot pursuit being drowned in the crashing waters and washing ashore as the Bnei Yisroel saw their oppressors drown, dead, relegated to the dust heap of history.
Yet, the shirah of the be’er is a shirah. The Torah calls it a shirah. Before we explain why it is a shirah, I think it is important to delineate why, at that point in our history, the Bnei Yisroel had more than enough reasons to not be “in the mood” to sing.
Let us try to paint a picture of that period of time: The Bnei Yisroel had been in the midbar for forty years. Their forty-years of wandering were a result of the sin of the meraglim. They had gone through the parsha of Korach, suffered from plagues and Kivros Hataavah, when so many died. They had been through so much.
Finally, they were almost at the cusp of entering Eretz Yisroel and what happened? Miriam Haneviah passed away. Miriam, in whose zechus they had fresh water, was gone. Not long afterwards, Aharon Hakohein passed away. Suddenly, the giants, the leaders upon whom they had relied, who had led them out of Mitzrayim and in the midbar, were gone. Perhaps most troubling of all was the result of the chet of Mei Merivah, the sin that would prevent Moshe Rabbeinu from leading them into Eretz Yisroel. How could they enter Eretz Yisroel without Moshe, their faithful shepherd who had led them and saved them from Hashem’s wrath on so many occasions? It was completely unthinkable.
Indeed, when looking at the plight of our ancestors from this perspective, we can understand why it could have been difficult for them to sing.
The Ambush and Moving of Mountains
Chazal tell us that as they approached the borders of Eretz Yisroel, the Bnei Yisroel had to cross a valley that traversed two towering mountain ranges. On one side was the country of Amon, while on the other side was Moav, which was the mountain range that was part of Eretz Yisroel. The Bnei Yisroel were walking through this valley on the way to Eretz Yisroel.
As we can imagine, the goyim in the area were very concerned that the Bnei Yisroel were coming. They weren’t happy, to say the least, and the Amonim came up with the perfect plan. They would hide in the many caves hidden in the high mountains and, as the Bnei Yisroel would walk in the narrow valley below between the mountain ranges, they would stealthily come out of the caves shooting arrows and catapulting stones, killing and maiming them.
That is exactly what the Amonim did. They waited in ambush, armed and ready to pounce on the unwitting, unprotected Yidden below. What did Hashem do? He made a phenomenal neis. Before the Amonim could begin their attack, Hashem made that the Moav side of the mountain range facing the caves where the Amonim were hiding begin to shake and move. The rocks and crags sticking out of Eretz Yisroel began to move towards the Amon side, and those rocks that were sticking out fit snugly into the caves where the Amonim were hiding, crushing and killing them. They did not even have a chance to shoot one arrow or sling one stone.
A question arose, however. Hashem said, “Who will tell the Bnei Yisroel about this neis?” After all, they were walking below and had no idea that Hashem had just miraculously crushed their enemy. So, what happened? After the Yidden passed through, the mountain range returned to its previous place, and the blood, limbs and bones of the Amonim fell into the valley below.
Overcoming Despair Through Shirah
What happened next? Hashem caused the be’er, the well, to go down and bring up all the blood and limbs. When the Bnei Yisroel saw the remains of the Amonim, they recognized the magnitude of the neis that Hashem had performed for them and they began to sing shirah to Hashem.
They had been through so much. They had faced so much difficulty. I am sure that many were not “in the mood” to sing, but because they recognized that a neis had been done for them, they burst into song.
That song is the Shiras Habe’er named after the well that brought up the limbs, thereby alerting the Bnei Yisroel to the tremendous neis that Hashem had performed.
The lesson here is clear. No matter what is happening in a person’s life, whether one is experiencing difficulties in ruchniyus or gashmiyus, one must try to infuse himself with simcha, perform mitzvos with simcha, and sing to Hashem.
We must look within ourselves and realize that, despite difficult times, there are so many daily miracles that we experience. There is so much good even amidst that which is concerning us for which we must be thankful.
When one tries to overcome feelings of despair and serves Hashem with simcha, this gives Hashem great nachas.
Yes, it is Tammuz. Yes, the Three Weeks are almost here. Yes, we have experienced many challenges this year. But let us sing to Hashem anyway. Let us sing and sing and sing. Singing to Hashem for all the good in our lives is not a contradiction to being cognizant of the challenges. On the contrary, when we are b’simcha, we are infused with the energy and drive to overcome the challenges.
So, now get out there and get in the mood!