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Rabbi Yaakov Hillel Speaks Out About the War

Rabbi Yaakov Hillel, the great rosh yeshiva and ambassador to our nation, gave recommendations on how we can all turn around the situation and bring blessings to our brethren during these difficult times.

Whether it’s taking on an easy mitzvah or improving slightly, it has major ramifications on all of Israel. We are all aravim ze la-zeh.

I’d like to focus on one thing he said. He quoted the Gemara (Ketuvot 111b) that notes, Rabbi Yoḥanan said: One who whitens his teeth to his friend by smiling at him is better than one who gives him milk to drink, as it is stated: “And his teeth white [leven shinayim] with milk” (Genesis 49:12). Do not read this expression as leven shinayim; rather, read it as libbun shinayim, the whitening of teeth.

The Rav noted that we have no idea how much a smile can uplift a person from a downtrodden state. One smile has the power to lift a person from depression and transform his whole situation. Engaging in this act is a powerful chesed which brings great blessings.

Recently, we read a verse (Genesis 13:7) in the Torah that specifies how unity, which a smile generates, brings military victory.

When the Torah discusses the arguments between the shepherds of Avraham and Lot, it says, “And there was strife between the herdsmen of Avraham’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. Now the Canaanites and the Perizzites were living in the land at that time.” This verse gives direct support for the fact that “because” there was strife “the Canaanites and the Perizzites were living in the land.” Absent strife no enemies will have a presence on our land.

My late relative, Rav Avrohom Genechovsky, zt”l, brings a Mishna in Pirkei Avot to illustrate another way to reach unity. The Mishna (Avot 5:7) delineates the ten miracles that existed in the Mikdash. One was that “people would stand crowded but could bow with enough space.” He noted that the message was that if someone is willing to be mevater on their own space, “to bow” and be willing to accept the faults of others, there will always be room for everyone. 

We find the word yachdav in Genesis. It was used to describe how Avraham and Yitzchak went together to fulfill the will of G-d. If we all join yachdav with each other to walk with G-d, we can see G-d’s manifestation of echad at the end of time which will ensure peace for everyone.

Showing the white of our teeth, which can bring unity, reminds one of the verse, (Ecclesiastes 9:8), “At all times, let your garments be white, and let oil not be wanting on your head.” Not only should we focus on pure deeds but also relish in being bereft of sin.