And the Lord said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to distinguish between the day and the night.” (1:14) Rabbi Yisrael Salanter was often inspired during the sunrise to express his great joy and wonderment at the immense benefits that mankind derives from sunshine. “How fortunate we all are!” he would exclaim rapturously. “How thankful we must be to the Creator for His infinite kindness in bestowing such wonderful blessings upon us!” When Rabbi Moshe Rosenstein spoke about this habit of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter’s, he would marvel at how different Rabbi Yisrael was from the rest of us. Why don’t all of us feel this transcendent joy and gratitude when we witness a sunrise? The difference, he explained, is in our underlying attitude. It is human nature to derive the most pleasure from those things which are exclusively ours. If a beautiful article comes into our possession, it only gives us joy if we alone have such an article. If, however, everyone else also possesses one, our pleasure is immeasurably diminished. There is an ingrained pettiness and mean-spiritedness in human nature that causes us to feel this way. Therefore, we cannot have a full appreciation for the gifts of creation, because they are there for everyone. Rabbi Yisrael, on the other hand, had overcome this flaw in the human character. He truly loved everyone “as much as he loved himself.” Therefore, he could derive the fullest joy from the wonderful gifts G-d had bestowed upon mankind. Indeed, if anything, the free availability of sunshine for everyone only deepened his joy and gratitude to the Creator.
By Rabbi Jonathan Horowitz
Wlliam Island Shul