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An Eighteen-Million-Dollar Smile

Friday, 4 March, 2016 - 11:29 am

 A Reflection

IMG-20160302-WA0009.jpgThey say the world is a global village; linked into a single community with today's advanced communication methods. If the world is a global village than the people of Chabad Lubavitch live in a global cul-de-sac, where everyone knows everyone, cares for everyone and everyone is family; there almost isn’t a place on earth where you don’t have a cousin, best friend or classmate; or at the very least, your best friend’s classmate’s cousin.

Global village notwithstanding, the world is still very big geographically and getting from place to place takes time, energy and resources. So when my brother-in-law Sholom Ber, my wife’s ninth- and last-to-get-married sibling, announced his plans to marry Muka Groner in Melbourne, Australia; Dobi and I immediately knew we couldn’t possibly take our entire family there, much as we’d love to. She would have to go alone.

So on Sunday evening she took off to spend a week in Melbourne and celebrate the wedding of her youngest brother, which took place on Wednesday evening in Melbourne (which was Tuesday night in Arkansas) and was very beautiful.

Since I wasn’t the only sibling-in-law “babysitting,” those that stayed behind asked those that went to send us as many pictures and video clips as possible so we can feel just a bit as if we're part of it. Throughout the night I received several dozen pictures and clips which my children and I truly enjoyed.

While all of the pictures were nice, there was one picture in particular which made a very powerful impression on me. It was not sent to me by any family member, rather it came from a friend of mine in Liverpool (and I’m still unsure who sent it to him. He must be living in the aforementioned global cul-de-sac. :) )

It was a picture of my dear father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Y. Pewzner, sitting on the side and observing the celebration. There is some commotion around, yet no one is sitting with him, just he alone, observing the scene, and smiling – not an ear-to-ear smile – rather a more thoughtful smile, a loaded smile; though I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

I'm not a mind reader and I can't possibly know for certain what he was thinking. I had also not spoken to him since. What follows is what I imagine the feelings and emotions going through one's mind at such a time must be like.

My in-laws never amassed much in terms of material assets, yet they are very happy with their lot. Whenever our conversation shifted to the ‘haves and have-nots,’ my father-in-law often told me in his unique humoristic way: "G-d gave me nine wonderful children. If I had to put a value on each, it would be a minimum of two million dollars. So my net worth is at least eighteen million dollars."

I know that while he says it in a humorous way, there is infinite meaning and truth to that statement (it also makes me feel like I am a multi-millionaire with my own brood of seven.)

My in-laws raised nine children. The eldest, my wife Dobi, was born in 1979. So for the better part of four decades, they’ve been actively raising their children. Now, as they marry off their last it is time for them to enjoy the next generation, their wonderful grandchildren, the eldest of which will be celebrating his Bar Mitzvah right here in Arkansas in five short weeks.

If there is a time that marks the conclusion of raising a child, when he or she are fully ‘on their own,’ it is their wedding day. As the Torah puts it (Gen. 2:24) “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and cleave to his wife.” Marrying off your ninth child, having had endless nachas from each and every one of them, witnessing this awesome moment, must feel like closing a really really good deal. An awesome deal. An eighteen-million-dollar deal, at least. And that’s when I realized that what I was seeing on his face, was in essence 'an eighteen-million-dollar smile;' one of inner contentment and satisfaction, one of pure joy and gratitude to Hashem.

IMG-20160303-WA0069.jpgI wish my brother- and new-sister-in law a tremendous Mazal Tov on their wedding day; may you build and everlasting home in Israel, the next link in the golden chain of Klal Yisrael. To my dear father- and mother-in-law, the best thing I can wish you on this monumental moment is that as the family grows, with Hashem’s help, the value of your smile should continue to increase exponentially.

Gut Shabbos,

Rabbi Mendel Greisman

Comments on: An Eighteen-Million-Dollar Smile
3/4/2016

Sylvia Garrett wrote...

So beautifully said.
3/7/2016

יוסף wrote...

חזק וברוך אחי היקר