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Boker Tov!

Monday, 23 March, 2020 - 11:20 am

On this lovely Wednesday morning, I have the word “FARGIN” on my mind. It’s a Yiddish word. I can hear my grandmother saying it now. She uses this word all the time in conversation with me.

For those of you, that were in attendance at our Shabbat Womens Discussion group some time ago in which we discussed the topic of “FARGIN”, you know where I’m going with this conversation. But no worries- I deem it important enough to review and discuss again, so come along with me for the ride, be it a review of our previous discussion or for the very first time.

The first time I used the word FARGIN in conversation with my husband, Rabbi Yisroel, he asked me to translate, having never heard of this Yiddish word before. I tried. But no English translation I could think of seemed to do the word justice. The best I could think of was “rejoicing in another’s joy”.

But it means so much more. Let me try to explain. 

To FARGIN is a Middah- character trait- so fundamental to being a Jew. If the basis of the entire Torah is the Mitzvah of Ahavat Yisroel- loving another as we love ourselves- with authentic, unconditional love, then the Middah of FARGIN stands at its helm.

Because to FARGIN means to WHOLEHEARTEDLY and AUTHENTICALLY be happy for another’s blessings, joys, celebrations, successes, position of power etc.

What is the big deal one may ask?

A great Chossid by the name of Reb Mendel Futerfas once remarked: “To commiserate in another’s suffering, anyone can do, but to truly and genuinely rejoice in another’s joy, that takes a Chossid to do.

At first glance, it seems puzzling. Of course our knee jerk reaction upon being asked whether we’d rather celebrate another’s joy vs. sorrow G-d forbid, would be the former.

But stop and think for a moment:

Add the words WHOLEHEARTEDLY and AUTHENTICALLY to the way you rejoice.

Now throw in an area of life that you are currently struggling in or waiting for your blessing in. The other person is rejoicing upon reaching a place you so desperately yearn to be. A place you are struggling to be.

Ok now answer the question.

 And a Chossid means so much more than wearing the Chassidic garb. Reb Mendel was referring to one who works to study and internalize the teachings of Chassidic Philosophy. We can all do that, regardless of level of observance.

Because through the study and practice of Chassidut, a slow, subtle, yet transformative change begins to occur in the way we view ourselves and the way we view another. We begin to see life through a new lens: from a ‘soul perspective”, from a higher reality. Here are some of the ways this new perspective manifests:

1)   We begin to feel a true and genuine soul love for another developing within us. Such genuine and altruistic love to the point where I can put aside my own struggles in this very area of life that my friend is rejoicing about, and be truly happy for them!!

2)   We also learn to appreciate and truly feel that being happy for another’s success will only serve as a vessel for blessings in our own lives.

3)    We recognize that success in not a zero-sum game. The other person didn’t take anything away from you. Everyone has their own destiny and journey.

Yes, on second thought, the Middah of FARGIN can be a challenging character trait to attain. It has so many manifestations, often subtle and subconscious in nature.

Think about waiting years to get married, get pregnant, see “Nachat” from children.

Watching someone take on a leadership role at work, synagogue, volunteer organization that you wish you could have.          

Aaron, the brother of Moses was the ultimate “Farginner’.

It is fascinating to note that of all the worthy qualities that Aaron possessed, and there were many, the Torah chose to introduce him as a farginner.

It was at the end of a week-long negotiation session between G‑d and Moses. G‑d was urging Moses to accept the leadership position He was offering. Moses didn't want to hear of it.

"Moses' reluctance was because he did not want to assume 'superiority' over Aaron his brother, for Aaron was both older than Moses and a prophet."

Indeed, in the words of Moses, "Until I took his place, Aaron served as the Israelite prophet for eighty years!"

Moses' reservations were quite justified.

Just imagine being a leader of an entire people, in addition to being G‑d's communicator, for nearly a century, then having to step down abruptly—to be replaced by your younger brother, no less!

Anyone else would have been doubly devastated, barely coming to terms with the change and replacement, let alone rejoicing in it.

Not Aaron.

Said G‑d to Moses: "Behold, Aaron is going out to greet you and he will see you and he will rejoice in his heart…" "It is not as you think, Moses, that he will resent you because you are ascending to greatness…"

The later narrative demonstrated the truth of these words, completing the lovely portrait of Aaron drawn by G‑d: "Aaron went [to the wilderness] and encountered Moses at the mountain of G‑d, and he kissed him."

The Torah doesn't usually record family affections and sentiments. But this was no average show of love.

In Aaron's scenario it was one step beyond; remember the context: Aaron was about to be sidelined by his younger brother, to live out the rest of his life in Moses' shadow, relegated to second place.

This was the kiss of a farginner.

This exquisite act does not go unnoticed by the Midrash, which comments: "It was due to Aaron's heartfelt rejoicing that he merited to wear the sacred choshen, the high priest's breastplate, which is placed over the heart."

We have our work cut out for us😊 Let’s get to work on “farginning” another. Let’s try to connect with another from that place of positivity and abundance within us. And in this merit, may HaShem shower each and every one of us with ALL the blessings we need and are waiting for in our lives, materially and spiritually.


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