When Communism swallowed up Russian industry, private enterprise became illegal. Many people, struggling to make a living, would smuggle contraband through the cracks of the Iron Curtain to then sell illegally on the black market. One group came up with a creative method for transporting the contraband across the borders. Feigning a funeral procession they would carry a coffin full of goods right past the Russian guards who never suspected there was anything other than a dead body in the coffin. Unfortunately they grew too accustomed to the success of their scheme and at one funeral procession the border guard noticed that none of the "relatives" of the deceased were crying; in fact they were quite cheerful. Suspicious, he insisted that they open up the coffin.

When he arrested them for illegal trade the group leader began to sob. The guard laughed noting the irony. "If you had cried earlier, you wouldn't have to cry now."


Sometimes a good cry can be a great investment.

As parents, there is often good reason to cry these days. Young people contend with such challenging societal influences, the likes of which their grandparents could have never imagined. It's painful for parents to see their children lured into a culture of conspicuous consumption and moral ambiguity, in an environment where being a mentch and living a soulful life is not given the emphasis that it deserves. The media inspires teens to have perfectly good looks, society encourages them to plan their life around making money, and their youthful idealism becomes stifled. It's sad to watch.

Yet if we allowed ourselves to feel the pain now, we'd ultimately be better offBut how sad is it really? Sad enough to pay the price tag for a private Jewish education that can run in the thousands of dollars? Especially in today's economy! Is the fear of the next generation losing their identification as Jews enough to motivate a large financial sacrifice?

It's almost too painful to entertain the daunting possibilities: assimilation and intermarriage, lack of moral clarity, and spiritual sensitivity. It's easier to sit back and hope for the best.

Yet if we allowed ourselves to feel the pain now, we'd ultimately be better off—if that pain inspires us to take proactive measures, if it motivates us to instill a stronger sense of morality and Jewish identity in our children. In fact, a preemptory dose of pain can bring a lot of long-term pleasure, like the pleasure that comes from having children who have a strong sense of identity.

This pain/pleasure principle played itself out vividly in the life of Miriam and her soul-sisters.

The Torah describes how after successfully crossing the Red Sea, the Jewish people broke out into song. After recording the song of Moses and the men, the Torah writes:

" Miriam, the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women came out after her with tambourine and with dances" (Exodus 15:20).

Moses just sang, without any musical accompaniment, but Miriam came well prepared with instruments to enliven her song. Apparently, before Miriam left Egypt she packed a case of drums and tambourines, assuming that they'd be needed for the final celebration.

Because for the women it wasn't just a song, it was an intense emotional release, euphoria; one that needed musical accompaniment.

Just as the Torah described the pain the women underwent in Egypt, it describes the commensurate joy they felt when they were freed. It was the children that were most brutally tortured by the Egyptians. Pharaoh decreed that all boys should be executed, and girls should be forced to assimilate into Egyptian society. As mothers, we can only imagine how these laws tortured them the most—constantly worried sick about their kids. With each birth they held their breath waiting to see if this baby would be the victim of infanticide. Nevertheless, despite all odds, they continued to have children and raise them as Jews.

After their acute pain and perseverance, their ecstasy would be palpable. Singing would not be enoughNaturally after their acute pain and perseverance to grow Jewish families, their ecstasy in freedom would be palpable. Singing would not be enough. They'd need to pound on drums and jingle tambourines to begin to adequately express the thrill of seeing the possibility for Jewish continuity.

The Torah vividly exposes the pain/pleasure transition of the Jewish women to inspire women of all ages to continue their legacy. It is constructive to be pained sometimes, to worry about the negative societal influences and challenges that our children confront. Because the pain shakes us out of complacency and motivates us to take actions, dramatic or subtle, to invest in the most delicious long term pleasure—nachas from our children!1