Rav Eliyahu Gateno is Former Rosh Kollel in Montreal (2019-22)
In this past Shabbat's Parasha, the Torah mentions the matter of joy and happiness twice. At the beginning of the Parasha regarding the commandment of 'Bikurim' – the obligation to bring one's first fruits to the Temple, the Torah says: "You shall rejoice in all the good that Hashem your God has given to you and to your household".
Later on, in the long sequence of curses, the Torah says that the lack of joy in serving Hashem is the cause of all the undesirable things, as it is said there: "because you did not serve Hashem your God with joy and with gladness of heart".
Throughout our lives, we all seek and desire to be happy. However, it seems that joy, like many of the dimensions of the soul, is not something that a person tires and strives to achieve, but is something that appears when certain conditions are met. Sometimes it seems that on the contrary, the more a person tries to be happy, to bring himself to joy, the farther he will go from it, but if he does the good and right deeds, joy will come naturally in his heart and he will always be happy.
From this week's Parasha we might learn about two basic conditions from which joy can grow.
There is a famous quote from the Or Hachaim that addresses the first words in the parasha saying the following: "The Torah introduces this paragraph with the word והיה, indicating a joyous event; the message is that the only true reason for being joyful is when one is privileged to live in the Holy Land.
"Compare with what David HaMelech had to say about the return to Zion: 'then our mouths will be filled with laughte'r"
The explanation is that one of the fundamental things that brings joy is the feeling and recognition that the person is in his place. Belonging, permanence and peace of mind to the place where the person is, in the broadest sense, both physical and mental, personal and familial, in his house and in his occupation, creates joy.
This can be pinpointed in the three parts of the verse.
כִּי תָבוֹא אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לְךָ נַחֲלָה – when you will come into the land that Hashem your God is giving you – The recognition that the earth, the place where man is or should be, is the place that God has given him, and therefore it is certainly the right and worthy place for him, and that in this place he can grow himself and those around him. וִירִשְׁתָּהּ - and you take possession of it – The second stage after this understanding is the labor and efforts that man has to take on, invest and fill the place that God has given him in content and meaning. וְיָשַׁבְתָּ בָּהּ - and settle in it – Good and right efforts can and should create in man the desire and understanding that this is his place, and he settles in his right and true place.
The second condition from which joy can grow, is also evident from our parsha, and is that joy appears from giving. After the person brings the first-fruits, he immediately receives joy in all the good, which is also on the condition that he shares in this joy the Levite and the convert who is among him.
Although the giving of the first-fruits is related to the aforesaid recognition, that all abundance is a gift from heaven, and man must recognize it, but the giving of the first-fruits is part of the gifts of the priesthood, and immediately adjacent to this mitzvah the Torah mentions the Confession of the Tithes.
Baal Haturim learns from the juxtaposition of the joy and the Tithes that this is one of the ways to achieve joy, and he is basing his words on the following teaching (Talmud Shabbat 119a):
"Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi raised a dilemma before Rabbi Yishmael, son of Rabbi Yosei: With regard to the wealthy of Eretz Yisrael, by what virtue do they merit their wealth? He said to him: Because they tithe, as it is stated: “A tithe you shall tithe [asser te’asser] from all the crops of your seed that come out of the field each year” (Deuteronomy 14:22). The Sages interpreted this homiletically: Take a tithe [asser] so that you will become wealthy [titasher]"
The simple meaning of the Gemara is that giving tithes causes a person to material wealth. However, this can be understood in another way. Giving tithes causes a person to spiritual wealth that there is nothing more precious than him, and that is joy.
In other words, the ability to rejoice in the material good is by using it for spiritual things. If you give first fruits and tithes from your possessions you will have true joy in it, for wealth will become from a clumsy and low thing to a spiritual and supreme thing of eternal significance.
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