Monday, September 18, 2017

Parashat Ki Tavo

Shabbat Shalom! I'm spending this Shabbat in Portland as I visit for a friend's wedding, so I'm not delivering a d'var Torah this week. Here's just a little taste of Torah for you anyway.

This week's Torah portion, Parashat Ki Tavo, includes a warning to the Israelites to always follow the rules of Torah, as they have promised to do. The people stand on a mountain of blessings and a mountain of curses. They hear called out from one mountain all the good things that will befall them if God is pleased with them and they respond "Amen Amen Amen!" They hear from the other mountain all the terrible things that will befall them if they displease God. One of the curses given is: "Because you did not serve G‑d with happiness and with gladness of heart, in abundance of everything, therefore you shall serve your enemies . . . (Deut. 28:47–48)". 

On this, RaMBaM (aka Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon aka Maimonides) comments: "Even though you served G‑d, you did not serve Him with joy—that is the source of all afflictions." This struck me because in Maimonides' Ladder of Tzedakah, he says it is a greater mitzvah to give less than the proscribed 10% of your net income if you give joyfully, and less of a mitzvah to give more than is necessary but begrudgingly or only after being begged for it.

Obviously, it would be impossible to go through life with an endlessly joyful heart. All people have sorrows. But, there seems to be some consistency in RaMBaM's teaching to try your best to stay positive and grateful. Take joy in any good that you do, commandments followed or tzedakah given, because spreading joy is itself an act of tzedek, righteousness. Doing these things together exponentially magnifies the effects, and it reflects back onto you. Allowing yourself to feel good about your own ability to spread happiness adds to your own joy, making it easier to carry forward, and so on. Looking at all mitzvot, including tzedakah, as a chore, makes it harder to do them, and depletes your own energy each time you try.

May you find pride in your random acts of kindness, may you spread some joy today, and may we all emerge from the Shabbat ready to do tzedek, justice, with a smile.

No comments: