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LAND OF OPPORTUNITY

by Stuart W.    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

"Grandpa, can I have twenty bucks to go to the Braves game?"

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"Grandpa, can I have twenty bucks to go to the Braves game?"

"What's that, Davey? You want to waste my hard-earned money on some frivolous activity?! In my day, we didn't get to do fun things. We worked 18 hours a day in the hot, boiling sun, with 20-pound packs of books strapped to our backs, and then we had to walk three miles to school in two feet of snow - uphill both ways."

Many of us have parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents who came to America with little or no money and possessions, looking for a better life in this country. They were very successful, thank G-d, and we reap the benefits of their toil.

In this week's portion, the Torah lists many curses that will unfortunately befall the Jewish people if they do not follow in the ways of Hashem. The Torah stipulates, "You will be a sign and an example (of a downtrodden people) because you did not serve Hashem while you were in a state of happiness and satisfaction, and had everything that you needed" (Deuteronomy 28:46-47). The Torah is talking about a time when we will be blessed with much material wealth. During this time, the Torah says, people may decide to use their wealth in ways contrary to what Hashem intended it to be used for.

Most of our ancestors came from Europe looking for a better life, free of the poverty and persecution of the shtetl. Many of them also came for a different reason - they wanted to live in a place where they could practice their religion freely, where they could find the economic means to be able to perpetuate more Torah learning and mitzvot observance. There are countless stories of Jews who were told by their employers, "If you don't come to work on Saturday, don't bother coming in on Monday," and they still stubbornly refused to work on Shabbat. These immigrants were filled with a simple belief in their Creator, a faith which was born and nourished by their experiences in the beautiful Jewish societies of Europe.

Their self-sacrifice can be an inspiration to all of us, for if they made room for Judaism in their lives at such a great cost to themselves, surely we can make more room for religion in our lives, where, thanks to their efforts, it is at a much lesser cost. Let us take this lesson to heart as we approach the High Holidays, to become more active in our synagogues, to attend classes in Torah learning, and to say to the world, "I am an affiliated Jew and there is meaning and purpose in my life." In this merit, Hashem will hopefully take away the curses from our lives and only bestow blessings upon us.

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