The Right DelightMay 24, 2012 - 5:00 am
“Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.” — Nehemiah 8:12
Rebecca just got promoted at work. As soon as she leaves the office with her new paycheck, her first stop is the car dealership down the block. She drives away with a brand new car.
Tom just celebrated a milestone birthday. In honor of the occasion he drives over to the jewelry store and buys himself a snazzy, new watch.
These stories sound familiar to most of us, and chances are that most of us either have done something like this, or know others who have. And in fact, there’s nothing wrong with these actions. People certainly are entitled to mark happy occasions with personal celebrations. Turning to the Bible, however, we see that perhaps there is an additional component to celebration that we might have overlooked.
In the wake of Ezra the Scribe’s success in reviewing the Bible’s teachings with the large crowds that had gathered, the people declared a holiday marking their spiritual achievements. Strikingly, the resultant revelry was marked by people sending to others less fortunate “portions of food” (in Hebrew, manot) as gifts.
This recalls a similar mass act of giving recorded in the Book of Esther, where we are told that in commemoration of God’s salvation of the Jewish people from the hands of the evil Haman, the Jews of Persia sent “presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor” (Esther 9:22).
In both of these examples, we find a celebration of thanksgiving marked not just by self-indulgence, but also by a desire to ensure that one’s neighbors and friends – as well as those in need – are included in the joyous occasion. Indeed, what more appropriate reaction to God’s abundant kindnesses could there be than to share the bounty of His goodness with others who have less than we do?
Over the course of our lives we all hopefully have the chance to experience success or joy, even if only small or fleeting. When we do, let us remember these biblical examples and share our happiness with others. And in turn – and perhaps more importantly – let us commit to rejoicing with our fellows – our coworkers, spouses, children, next-door-neighbors – when they succeed.
For after all, as we learn from the books of Nehemiah and Esther, when we spread happiness and good tidings with others, we are engaged in the truest form of gratitude to and worship of the Almighty.