After bringing 110 wounded IDF soldiers to NYC over 11 separate trips, I thought I had seen it all: Amputated arms, amputated legs, missing fingers…But this week I met Ron Abdan. A few months ago Ron was manning a guard post in Beit Jalla when an explosive device was thrown at him. He maintained severe injuries, including the loss of his left eye, where he now wears a prosthetic.
This week we were at Ripley’s Believe It or Not, a museum dedicated to the unbelievable. Ripley’s goal is to stun the viewers with all kinds of oddities and extremes. The soldiers were laughing, chatting, and just generally having a good time checking out all the displays.
Now, Israelis are particularly partial to black comedy, so Ron approached the people at the front desk and told them that he, too, has a “believe it or not” trick. When he removed his false eye from its socket, he indeed stunned the crowd!
Looking beyond the surface, I realized that Ron is in severe pain and discomfort most of the time. His life has changed irreparably, but he makes light of his situation. He manages to find the humor and opportunities to laugh and make others laugh. This is his way of dealing with the pain and suffering.
In fact, we know from the Talmud that Judaism considers it a great mitzvah to find the humor any given situation and lighten the atmosphere. Rabbi Beroka used to frequent the marketplace, at times accompanied by Elijah the Prophet. Once, while conversing, they passed two men, and Elijah remarked that these men were destined to have a special portion in the World to Come.
Rabbi Beroka approached the men and asked, “What is your occupation?”
“We are jesters,” they explained. “When we see someone miserable, we cheer them up.”
For this, they merited a special portion in the afterlife.
There’s a lot for us to learn from Ron, too.
If we take careful note of what causes us to laugh, we’ll notice it’s usually a sharp and improbable juxtaposition of opposites. The more extreme the contrast, the more intense the laughter.
Our sages tell us that when Moshiach comes the earth will be filled with laughter. Why will we laugh? Because our new life will be in such sharp contrast to what we are accustomed.
Can you imagine a situation where the Palestinians will lay down their weapons? It’s unheard of! Can you imagine that there will be a cure for cancer? It will make us laugh with joy! Can you imagine a world with no gossip? What will we talk about?
Things will be weird and different, but wonderful, and therefore we will laugh. People will live forever. Nobody will be sick. Nations will be at peace with each other. This is the ultimate juxtaposition of opposites.
How do we bring Moshiach? Be being happy and laughing! Our sages tell us that "Simchah (joy and happiness) breaks through boundaries." We all possess internal walls surrounding our minds and hearts, creating our inhibitions and making us scared to grow and change beyond our comfort zone. When we are sad and gloomy, these walls are strengthened. Our positive energy and vitality is drained from our system, causing us to slip into apathy and complacency.
I look forward to joking with Ron. You see, when Moshiach comes Ron and I will go back to Ripley’s, where we will perform a new trick—we will show them Ron’s two healthy eyes, and oh, how we will all laugh! When Moshiach comes, all sickness will be cured and no one will suffer again. When we think of that, how can we not laugh?