Shabbat Re'ey

Candles - Friday, August 10th @ 7:41pm
Havdalah - August 11th @ 8:34pm
Rosh Hodesh Ellul - Shabbat and Sunday

It is a feature of the book of Devarim that its emphasis on past events is often at variance with earlier books. And that certain ideas are introduced that are also new. The Torah this week, repeats several times the obligation to worship God with Simha, Joy. To be happy on our festivals and in life in general!

In truth Simhadoes not mean happy. It means joyful, and joyful is a word that describes doing things that have a positive effect. It involves delighting in the gifts of this world but also in helping other people.

So, we have three examples here. One is eating. Enjoying food but being careful what we eat. The second is helping the people, the poor and the disadvantaged because that too makes us appreciate what we have. And the third concerns our lifestyles. Celebrating holy days together with our families. All these give us joy. And in all of these we appreciate the greatness of God in giving us these rules to remind us of creation, humanity, and our relationship with God that helps us cope with the pressures of life.

And that is why in this same parsha reminds us three times do the right thing. Vasitah haYashar beynei HaShem. Another example of something not said in earlier books. You must do what is right in the eyes of God. But isn’t doing the right thing simply keeping the commandments? Obviously not otherwise there would be no need to add this. The Torah tells us what commands we should keep in order to try to be a good person. But it is not enough just to do them as a boring routine. We need to try to achieve the spirit of the law too and that is what joy really means.

As the great mystical Rebbi Nahman of Bratslav used to sing: “The biggest of commandments is to be in a state of simha, joy, all the time.”