Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart,
    and good news gives health to the bones
. — Proverbs 15:30

We begin a new year of devotional teachings from Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein with a focus on joy, simcha — the joy found in the grateful acceptance and celebration of each day God has given to us. Join us as we explore Rabbi Eckstein’s teachings on the joy found in connecting with God and with others.

We invite you to dig deeper into the Jewish roots of Christianity with Rabbi Eckstein’s monthly teaching series, Limmud. Check it out here.

The news recently aired a wonderful story about a little boy in Savannah, Georgia. Jaden Hayes lost his father to an illness when he was 4 years old. Just two years later, Jaden’s mother passed away in her sleep, and when Jaden tried to wake her the next morning, he discovered that she would never wake up again.

What a sad story. What tragic circumstances this sweet child has endured. And yet, Jaden decided that he wasn’t going to live his life being sad all the time. In fact, after two funerals and many sad faces in his life, Jaden decided that he had seen enough sad people. So he came up with a plan – to make people smile. Jaden asked his aunt and now guardian, Barbra Di’Cola, to buy lots of trinkets, candy, and toys. Jaden’s plan was to seek out people who seemed down, give them a gift with a smile, and hope for a smile in return.

It worked! In fact, by the time the news carried Jaden’s story, he had “collected” 500 smiles. His aunt calls him a “ray of sunshine” who brings joy to all around him.

We read in proverbs: “Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart . . .” When we act as a messenger of God and approach people with an enlightened, happy face, we bring “joy to the heart.”

But whose heart?

As Jaden has demonstrated, we absolutely bring joy to the heart of the person we encounter. Hopefully, if we are warm and caring, we can elicit many smiles. With his simple gifts and love, Jaden has brought joy to hundreds. Some people even cried from joy after encountering this little boy and his giant heart. However, as Jaden’s aunt has noticed, the “smile campaign” — which is what Jaden’s project is called — has also lifted his spirits.

It has prevented him from becoming depressed and disillusioned with his life and has transformed him into a beacon of light with much joy in his heart. Although the sadness of his circumstances still exists and his parents are not forgotten, Jaden has found a way to bring happiness into his own life by bringing happiness to others.

Let’s be inspired by this young boy and his amazing reaction to difficult circumstances. Today, let’s greet everyone we see with a bright and cheery disposition. Who might we bring joy to today? Who can we get to smile? How can we make someone else a little bit happier?

When we live our lives looking for ways to make others more joyful, we are rewarded richly for our kindness. God gives us joy in our own hearts and strength to our spirits.

Check out Rabbi Eckstein’s study on Abraham, the father of our faiths, Abraham, in his Limmud (“study” in Hebrew) teaching, “Abraham: The Patriarch of Loving-kindness.”

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