Torah Fax
Friday, September 8, 2006 - 15 Elul, 5766

Torah Reading: Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1 - 29:8)
Candle Lighting Time: 6:58 PM
Shabbat Ends: 7:57 PM
Pirkei Avot: Chapter 3 & 4
Be Happy
A theme that runs through this week's parsha of Ki Tavo is the idea of joy in the observance of Mitzvot. It does not suffice just to do what is right. We must also feel joy and excitement when we perform a Mitzvah.
This requirement of joy can be found in at least three sections of the parsha. In the very beginning, the parsha discusses the obligation a Jew had in the days of old to bring his first fruits to the Temple , and give them to the Kohanim, the priests who served there.
When a person brought his first fruits he had to make a joyous declaration of gratitude to G‑d. In the Torah's own words: "And you shall rejoice for all the good that G‑d your G‑d has given you… The person who brought the first fruits must clearly show his joy at having the opportunity to bring first fruits to the Temple .
In the next section, the Torah describes how at the end of a few years of accumulating the various tithes of produce intended for the Kohanim, Levites, the poor etc., one must remove these tithes from one's home. And when they would appear in the Temple for the festival of Passover, they would make a declaration that they had carried out their obligation and distributed the tithes to their intended recipients.
Near the end of this declaration recorded in this week's parsha, it says: "I did all that I was commanded to do." Rashi explains that this meant, "I rejoiced and caused others to rejoice."
In other words, the Torah underscores that there are two dimensions of joy:
First, rejoicing is not a luxury and it is not an option. It is an absolute necessity; an outright obligation, as is indicated by the text of the declaration: "I did as I was commanded to do."
Second, it is not enough to rejoice ourselves, we have a responsibility to cause others to rejoice as well. As long as the joy is not shared, something is lacking in our joy as well.
In the latter part of this week's parsha the Torah speaks of how one must serve G‑d with joy and a contented heart. The absence of joy is implicated as the cause of much suffering.
Here, too, the Torah adds a twofold dimension to the significance and necessity of joy.
First, joy is not only key to the service of G‑d, failure to be joyous in the performance of G‑d's commandments can actually have undesirable consequences.
Second, it is not enough to have joy; one must also have a contented heart.
What is the difference between joy and a contented heart?
One explanation is that former is the external appearance of joy, whereas the latter is a genuine internal sense of joy that springs from the heart.
Another explanation is that the meaning of joy is excitement and enthusiasm for the opportunity to connect to G‑d by way of observing His commandments. A contented heart, on the other hand, refers to the sense of contentment one has for all of the material blessings that G‑d gives us. The person with the contented heart is not obsessed with material matters and the pursuit of elusive happiness. In the words of Ethics of the Fathers: "Who is a rich person, one who is satisfied with his lot."
Indeed, to fully experience the joy we must have a contented heart. The constant pressures in the pursuit of wealth and material pleasures stand in the way of experiencing the joy that emanates from our soul's excitement when we perform a mitzvah.
The numerical value of the two words "b'simcha u'btuv leivav,-with joy and a contented heart" is 414. In the teachings of Kabbalah and Chassidut we are told that that number has multiple layers of significance.
First, it shares the numerical value of the word "v'ahavta-and you shall love."
This suggests that joy in the performance of the Mitzvot can only come from love of G‑d.
Second, it is double the numerical value of the word "or," which is light. This connotes that these two levels of joy represent two forms of light that we generate when we do a Mitzvah, and the joy that the feeling of this light engenders. First it generates the light from above, and second it reveals the inner light of our souls.
Third, it is the same numerical value as the phrase "or ein sof-the Infinite light," and "mekor chaim-the source of life." Perhaps, one can add the following insight. In exile, G‑d's light is eclipsed. We can gain appreciation solely for the level of Divine light that "fits" into our limited and compromised spiritual forms. The forces of life that we can experience are secondary forces. We cannot fathom the very source of life.
In the Messianic Age, however, we will see the "veil" removed and the Divine light that will shine will be the unfiltered and unrestricted. In the words of the Kabbalists, we will receive and internalize the Or ein sof, the Infinite light. And then we will experience the full extent of life, including its very source and essence.
Thus, the Psalmists says, "Then we will fill our mouths with laughter." (Incidentally, the Hebrew word for laughter-schok-also adds up to the number 414!) Only in the Messianic Age will we have the capacity to express our joy in a completely unrestricted fashion, since we will be capable of receiving and appreciating the Infinite Light.
As we wait for Moshiach and the imminent Redemption, the best way to prepare for it to invest the performance of the Mitzvot with joy. The greater the joy the more we remove the filters and obstructions that prevent us from enjoying the Divine light.
Joy is both the consequence of the Messianic Age and it is the potent force that makes it happen.
Moshiach Matters
When we reach the month of Elul, we must take stock and ask: Is it possible that eleven months of this year have passed and Moshiach has not come?! The sum total of our stocktaking is "Ad Masei - Until when must we remain in exile." (The Rebbe, 30 Av 5751 - 1991)

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