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by Rabbi Shmuel Weiss    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

The outstanding feature of this week’s Torah portion is the infamous rebuke, the chilling warning of the horrible consequences that may await us if we fail to follow Hashem’s prescribed lifestyle.



At the heart of this admonition is the reason why all this could come down upon us: "Because you did not serve Hashem with joy." You see, it is not enough to go through the motions and learn Torah, do mitzvot, and pray. All these acts must also be infused with happiness, joy, and distinctly positive energy.

Wait a sec: You mean, I gotta do all this stuff, and I gotta like it, too?! Yes, you do, for a simple, basic reason. When a person performs a mitzvah and is happy about it, it becomes clear that he perceives that the mitzva is being done not for Hashem’s benefit, but for his own. And whenever we do a thing for our own good, which gives us benefit and pleasure, we are happy about it. Understanding that mitzvot all "go into our own pocket" invariably increases our zeal for mitzvot and our attitude when performing them.

But there is yet another flip side to understanding this verse. The Kotzker Rav, one of the leading Chassidic Rebbes of the mid-19th century, suggested that we read these words with a comma before the word, "happily." So, now the meaning becomes: "Because you did not serve your G-d, happily." In other words, not only did we reject G-d’s way; we happily rejected it. That is why we’re punished.

Once, I encountered two of my congregants who were violating the Shabbat. Later, I said to my wife that one of these people will probably do teshuvah (repentance) and change for the better. "Which one?" she asked with a puzzled look. "The one who was embarrassed when I saw him," I replied. That one had a red face and looked down at the ground, clearly ashamed of what he was doing. The other fellow was perfectly content — even happy — about his actions, and so his chances of overhauling his behavior were slim.

We all know the adage that a sin, once committed, is repulsive; twice committed, it becomes as if it is allowed. Rav Yisrael Salanter added, "Thrice committed, it becomes as if it was required."

During these weeks prior to Rosh Hashanah, as we try to heighten our sensitivity to mitzvot and devotion to holiness, let us try to discover joy in our Judaism. But if we slip and don’t quite get there, let us at least acknowledge our short-comings, and never be happy or satisfied with them.


Rabbi Shmuel Weiss, a close friend of the Torah from Dixie family, is the director of the Jewish Outreach Center in Rana’ana, Israel.

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