Only Nochas

Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Parshas Shemos

Let’s try a free association exercise. I’m going to say a word and you tell me the first word that comes to mind. “Contribution”. What is the first word that comes to mind? I submit that the greatest contribution that any of us can make to our children, to our community, and perhaps to the Jewish people is much greater than anything money can buy.

Moshe was eighty years old. He was commanded to become the leader of the Jewish Nation. G-d determined that he had what it takes to be the greatest Jewish leader of all times. Yet, he insisted on the approval of his older brother Aharon.

Let’s take a closer look. Aharon was only three years older. Moshe hadn’t seen his brother or heard from him in sixty years. Even during his first twenty years in Egypt Moshe hadn’t grown up with Aharon being the big brother. As a matter of fact, Moshe hardly knew Aharon at all! Yet, to Moshe, Aharon’s approval was a deal breaker. “If my big brother Aharon is happy with this, I go ahead – if not,” said Moshe, “I’m very happy retiring as a shepherd in Midian.”

As G-d predicted, not only did Aharon agree, he came out to greet Moshe in the desert. Not only was there no jealousy or envy on Aharon’s part, there was a deep simcha! Aharon was actually excited for his eighty-year-old kid brother Moshe. His warm accepting smile in the desert is just what Moshe was waiting for. It was this smile, Aharon’s genuine simcha and nachas, which encouraged Moshe to become Moshe. It was Aharon’s smile that created the Jewish people. Moshe needed Aharon’s nachas.

Why did Moshe need Aharon’s smile? He had just received a seven-day prophecy from G-d himself! He had just witnessed a miraculous burning bush! There are no obligations, halachic or otherwise, that Moshe had toward his long lost brother. So why was this so important?

Moshe didn’t need Aharon’s approval; he had G-d’s approval! He didn’t need Aharon to organize an army or to do door to door solicitations. He needed Aharon’s support, his nachas and his smile. “If I’m going to lead a couple of million Jews from slavery to freedom – I need someone to have a little nachas!”

All of us need someone to have a little nachas from us. It is a basic human emotional need that we all have. No matter what our age or our standing in life we yearn for a father, mother, wife, child, grandchild, friend, Rebbe, talmid – almost anybody – to have nachas and be proud of us. When someone is having nachas, when someone is b’simcha over our accomplishments we gain the strength to continue. Even a man as great and as mature as Moshe needed Aharon, his big brother, to smile. He needed the pat on the back from Aharon that says “Not only don’t I mind that G-d appointed you and not me, but I’m happy for you, I’m proud of you, Moshe.” This empowered Moshe.

We all pray for nachas. We all try to give our loved ones a little nachas. There is a mitzvah to give nachas, but there is a much bigger mitzvah. Have nachas and share it! We all need someone to have nachas from us. Be that person that has nachas! If you’ve lost a parent or a close teacher you will have felt the pain of the nachas vacuum. Who is happy for me? Who is proud of me? Even the holy and mature Moshe needed Aharon’s smile!

Why is it so important to be “mesameach a choson and kalla? I remember almost twenty five years ago announcing my wedding engagement to my friends. How I yearned for their smile, their outburst of song, and how I craved their simcha. At a Jewish wedding there is only one focus: being happy for the choson and kalla. That is the purpose of the wedding party and that is the mitzvah to attend. A wedding is an exercise in being happy, proud and having nachas from our friends. At a wedding we all empower the young couple to take on life together. They can get through the big challenges because we are all rooting for them.

That is why we must go to the plays, performances and siyumim of our children and grandchildren.

The Torah teaches us to fill the needs of a yusom, an orphan. We think about how sad it is that this orphaned child has no one to feed them, to clothe them, to take them to the football game. It’s much worse than that! A yusom has no one to applaud when he takes his first step. A yusom has no one that gets ecstatic when he comes home from school with a hundred on a test. A yusom has no one to cry tears of joy when he or she has the lead role in the school play. A yusom has no one to have nachas.

Imagine living in a community where everyone had nachas from each other. There would be no jealousy, there would be no fights. Everyone’s success would be a source of joy, and in turn our joy would be a source of encouragement. Just imagine what the world would look like if we were all able to increase our contribution of nachas.

Aharon introduced us to a chesed that we can all perform. It doesn’t cost money and it hardly takes any time -- just by having a little nachas from the people around us we can change their lives.

The Medrash says that Aharon himself didn’t realize how important his smile was; if he had realized it, says the Medrash, he would have brought the whole Negina Orchestra to greet Moshe!

May we all shep nachas! Share that nachas to empower our children, spouses, grandchildren, friends, neighbors and community.

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