Perashat Ki Tabo 5777
Perashat Ki Tabo 5777Friday, September 08, 2017
Perashat Ki Tabo always comes near the end of the Jewish calendar year, and the subject of happiness is specifically mentioned twice.
The perasha opens by commanding the Missva of Bikkurim, the Commandment of the First Fruits. A Jewish farmer was required to take the first ripened fruits to the Beit Mikdash and present them to the Kohen in a ritual that included a moving declaration of gratitude to Hashem for the bounty. The Torah then commands the farmer to be happy with the produce that Hashem granted him as it says, "You shall rejoice with all the goodness that Hashem has given you...". (Debarim 21:11)
"You shall rejoice with all the goodness", teaches us that to attain true happiness, you must think about your ability to see, hear and talk. You must think about the fact that you have a bed to sleep on, clothes to wear and most importantly, you must appreciate the gift of life itself! If you constantly focus on what you don't have, you will never fully appreciate what you do have. The Yesser Hara wants you to dwell on the negatives in life and forget all the things that you do have.
Then the pasuk continues: "You shall rejoice with all the goodness that Hashem has given you". Why are the words "that Hashem has given you" added? Why doesn't the Torah simply write "rejoice in the goodness you possess"?
The Torah adds these words to remind us that the One who gave us all we have is none other than Hashem, our creator, who loves us! How could it possibly be that Hashem, who loves us and is all-powerful, would not give us all we desire? It is no doubt because His wisdom and perspective is much higher than ours and He knows what is best for us! Each person has his own unique set of circumstances that correspond with his mission in this world. For example, even though one has a hard time with parnasa or has a child who is struggling in school, one should still feel content with his/her lot. To achieve one's mission in this world, Hashem presents us with the obstacles as well as the tools for one's circumstances. The Mesorah teaches that trials and tribulations purify oneself and lead us to contemplate life's path and are therefore ultimately for the eternal good.
Perhaps one's predicament will lead to a wonderful success and is a blessing in disguise. With such an outlook, one understands that there is no such thing as something intrinsically bad. This is what the Zohar tells us about the pasuk in Tehilim 3:1, Mizmor leDavid, A Song of David, when he fled from Abshalom, his son. Abshalom, David's son, wanted to murder him. So, why is the pasuk saying "A Song of David" when there is nothing to sing about? When someone's own son wants to kill him, a lamentation should be recited, not a song! The Zohar answers that when King David saw that Hashem wanted to cleanse his sins in this world through the troubles that he was experiencing, he became happy and decided to express his gratitude through song, not lamentation.
Perashat Ki Tabo is also known as Perashat Hatokhahot, the Perasha of Admonition, because of the "curses" mentioned in it. In reality, we are not cursed in this perasha. Rather, we are being awakened to pay attention so that we will not be cursed, Heaven forbid. After a long treacherous road, we must know how to inherit the land and not relinquish the blessings that we were promised in connection to it.
In the midst of talking about the importance of serving Hashem with happiness, the Torah includes a list of sufferings and tragedies that could, G-d forbid, happen. The Torah goes on to clarify what the cause of all these curses are: "Because you did not serve Hashem, your G-d, amid gladness and goodness of heart, when everything was abundant". This is the underlying cause of all suffering.
Being happy when doing missvot means that we have a close connection to them. The curses mentioned in the perasha are meant to implore us to perform all the missvot by paying attention to every detail, not doing them by rote. For instance, when a person comes to services every day but does not do it gladly, this means he doesn't feel connected to the missva. It is a burden, something to cross off the checklist.
We should not be doing the missva out of a feeling of guilt but because we enjoy the opportunity to come close to Hashem. "The orders of Hashem are upright, causing the heart to rejoice."
In the coming days, as we prepare for the day of judgement, we should increase our connection to Hashem through happiness.
May 31 2020
Sivan 8 5780