The power of the Jewish joy

There are Jews who do keep the mitzvot, but they do not do that with joy. They need to be shown the beauties of a Torah way of life.

Phil Chernofsky ,

Joy of mitzvah: Reception held at Ben Gurion Airport for new immigrants
Joy of mitzvah: Reception held at Ben Gurion Airport for new immigrants
Flash 90

Ki Tavo begins with the second half of the mitzva of Bikurim. Way back in Parshat Mishpatim, we have - and count - the mitzva to bring from the first-fruits of the ground (7 Species only) to the Beit HaMikdash. That command was repeated in Ki Tisa.

And now, in Ki Tavo, we find the command again. And before we can say, Hey we had this twice already, we keep reading and find the other part of the mitzva, the part that wasn't mentioned back in Sh'mot. The part that requires the Bikurim recitation.

That declaration is familiar to us all, because the editors of the Pesach Hagada 'borrowed' four of the p'sukim around which to build the Magid portion of the Hagada.

The Bikurim-bringer expresses his delight at being a Jew, and specific- ally, one who lives in Eretz Yisrael. And one that thanks G-d for the bounty that allows him to bring Bikurim.

The Torah them commands him (us) to be happy with all the good that HaShem has bestowed upon him and to share his goods and produce with those in society who need his help.

Then come the blessings and the opposite of blessings, the warnings that we must heed the Torah and be faithful to G-d. Repeatedly, we are shown the reward for keeping the Torah and the horrors that await the community that does not stay faithful to G-d and does not keep the Torah.

The portion of the sedra that we call the Tochacha, the harsh rebuke, is filled with morbid detail of what can and will befall the people of Israel if they turn away from G-d.

And it will be, if we do not listen to the voice of G-d... that all the curses will befall us. And then the gory details.

There are really two warnings in the Tochacha. Up front, we find the 'IF we don't listen to G-d...' warning.

But in the middle of the Tochacha, we find a second warning. You want to know why all these terrible things happen? Because we didn't listen? Yes, but there is another reason.

Bad things will also happen because even when we did keep the Torah and mitzvot, we did not serve G-d with JOY and a good heart... even when things were good.

Flash back to Bikurim. The Torah is telling the Bikurim-bringer that he should not only be thankful but he should be happy for all he has. No threats. Just be happy.

Later in the sedra, the Torah tells us that the bad things came because we didn't listen to G-d... and also because even though we did, we did not serve Him with joy.

There are Jews who do not keep the Torah and its mitzvot. Sad. We need to find the right way to show our fellow Jews the beauty of a Torah way of life and inspire them to go for it.

Then there are Jews who do keep the mitzvot, but they do not do them with joy. They are not enthusiastic in their observance. They do not get excited to study Torah and to practice the Torah's mitzvot. They too need to be shown the beauties of a Torah way of life.

And really, we need to start this project on ourselves. And on our families.

The Baal Shem Tov is quoted as saying,


- the reward for keeping mitzvot is the joy we get from doing mitzvot.

So the Tochacha gives us a 2-point agenda. Learn Torah more and better, do mitzvot better, encourage and inspire others towards Torah... and do all of the above, serve G-d, with the joy that will elevate our lives...