middot enthusiasm daily living enthusiasm… real or put on?

enthusiasm… real or put on?

Written by  rabbi michael schiffman

art-excitedOver the few years of my life, I have encountered many people who were enthusiastic over one thing or another. Sometimes they seemed too excited over whatever it was than I thought was necessary for that thing.

I met someone who was beside himself with excitement because I was Jewish. I love being Jewish, but I don’t see it as a reason for someone to get giddy. I could have been an imbecile to him and that wouldn’t have mattered, because I would have been an JEWISH imbecile. It was as if I didn’t exist as a person. I was just something he thought as special. It put me off.


I have met other people who were very excited to meet me. That turned me off, because who am I that they should be so excited. I figured their bubble would burst as soon as I lit up my first cigar. It reminds me of an old video I saw of Germans in the 1930's who met Hitler at a rally. One woman had a crazed look in her eyes. It was as if she met God Himself. Meeting another person, even if they are famous is an exciting thing, but how excited can you be? They are, after all, just another human being. I met Yitzhak Perlman. I was excited to meet him, and love his music, but he is a human being.

People can be genuinely enthusiastic about what they are doing, what is happening or what they discovered, and that’s a good thing. It usually makes other people feel good, and encourages others along their own paths. When I meet someone excited by their Torah study, it usually encourages me to be a better Torah student. When I meet people excited about some project they are doing, it encourages me to be excited about my projects.

Enthusiasm is a good thing in its proper place. I believe enthusiasm is best expressed in the things we do. When we do a mitzvah, we should be enthusiastic about it. When we do our best and are excited about Mitzvot, it encourages others to do the mitzvot as well. WHen we study Torah, we should be enthusiastic about it. We will be more diligent, and it will encourage others to also be diligent in their Torah study.

We have a chavurah, a small group religious gathering, that meets in our home twice a month. It started out as a gathering of a few friends. We have dinner, study Torah, and celebrate Havdalah, the end of Shabbat. Other people heard about it and visited. Some came once or twice, others come on a regular basis. We have between 25-35 people on an average evening. Half the people drive over two hours each way to attend. It would be very easy for me to say, it’s just a group coming to my house, but the enthusiasm of everyone, especially those who drive long distances to be there makes it more exciting for all of us, and I realize how truly special this small community has become.

Enthusiasm is a good thing, if its real, and not put on. If you act excited because you think you are supposed to act excited, it’s still an act. Enthusiasm is good when it emulates values, ethics and morals. It’s not good when it puts people up on pedestals.

When you do something that benefits others and is a blessing to others, that is something to be genuinely excited about. Nobody gets excited over someone else’s put on enthusiasm. Shallowness is not exciting. In a world of virtual everything, people are still looking for the real deal.

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