Shabbat Shalom Weekly

Torah Portion:  KiTavo

September 21, 2019  |  21/Elul/5779

Parsha Point

Cultivating Gratitude
by Rabbi Ron Jawary
One of the underlying themes of the Torah is the importance of developing a sense of gratitude, both to God for all the blessings He has given us, and to anyone who does anything for us.
In fact, the Torah tells us that gratitude is one of the keys to experiencing real joy in life and the means by which we can live our lives to the fullest. That is one of the reasons why the first word that a person is expected to say in the morning is “thank you” — to be grateful for another day of life and to put us in the right frame of mind for the day ahead.
This week’s Torah portion tells us three times that the key to experiencing real joy in life is through gratitude and the cultivation of a good heart (Deut. 26:11, 27:7, 28:47). The essence of a good heart is an intrinsic ability to share with others. In fact, one of the reasons why it “isn’t good for man to be alone” is because you can’t live in God’s presence — or, in fact, in anyone’s presence — if you are unable or unwilling to share, and in order to share, you must have a sense of gratitude and a good heart.
The Talmud teaches us that in physical, mundane matters we should always look at those who have less than us, but in spiritual and moral matters we should always look at those who have more. This will inspire us to be grateful for all our blessings, while at the same time inspire us to become better people and leave our mark on the world.
Interestingly, you will notice that those who really inspire us and who are truly happy usually happen to be those who are grateful for everything they have and who can give graciously of life’s gifts.

The Guiding Light

The True Source of Joy
by Rabbi Yehonasan Gefen 
A great deal of this week’s Torah portion outlines the devastating punishments that would befall the Jewish people if they do not follow the Torah. In the midst of the rebuke, the Torah gives us a deeper insight into the cause of all the terrible punishments enumerated here; “Since you did not serve HaShem, your God, with joy and goodness of heart, from rov kol (the abundance of everything).”  The simple understanding of this verse is that the Jewish people did not perform mitzvot with happiness despite the fact that they were blessed with the abundance of everything.
The Arizal explains the verse according to the Kabbala in a slightly different way. He says that the Torah is saying that we may have performed mitzvot with a certain degree of happiness; however, our main joy did not derive from observing the Torah, rather from the joy of ‘rov kol’ which refers to all other sources of happiness. Thus, God is telling the Jewish people that the joy of Avodat Hashem (serving God) must be far greater than the pleasure derived from other endeavors. This is a lesson that is of great relevance to Rosh Hashanah: The main service of Rosh Hashanah is to make God “King.”  A significant aspect of this is to recognize that God is the only source of meaning, all other ‘sources’ of pleasure are meaningless. This is also a prerequisite to the teshuva (repentance) process leading up to Yom Kippur. because if a person’s desires are not purely towards serving God, then he will find it almost impossible to avoid sin. There will be times when his desires clash with God’s will and his service of God will inevitably suffer. Thus, any teshuva he does on Yom Kippur will be tainted by his outlook on life — that God is not the only source of true meaning and joy.
It is important to note that even if a person somehow avoids sinning whilst pursuing his other desires, he will still face unpleasant consequences. Rav Yissochor Frand tells a frightening story that illustrates this point. The Chiddushei Harim once traveled with a man on his carriage that was pulled by two horses. After a few miles, one of the horses died, causing great distress to its owner. A few miles later, the other horse also died. The owner was so distressed at the loss of his horses that meant so much to him that he sat crying for a long time until he cried so much that he died. That night, the Chiddushei Harim had a dream; in that dream he saw that the man who had died, received Olam Haba (the next world). But what was his Olam Haba? A lovely carriage with two beautiful horses. This story teaches us that our Olam Haba is created by what we value in Olam Hazeh (this world) — for this man, the most important thing in his life was his horses and carriage; therefore, that was what he got for eternity.
One may ask, it does not seem to be so bad for a person to receive in Olam Haba that which he cherishes so much in Olam Hazeh. Rav Frand answers this question. He says that when he was a young child, he always wanted a slingshot with which to play with but his parents refused. Imagine if, at the time of his wedding, his parents would come to him and say, “here is the slingshot that you always wanted!” As a child, the slingshot was valuable to him, but now he has grown out of it. So too, we may strive to acquire various pleasures in Olam Hazeh, such as money or honor, believing that they will provide us with contentment. But when we arrive in Olam Haba, we will see the truth of the words of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto in Path of the Just: “everything else [apart from closeness to God] that people believe are good is nothing but emptiness.” In the next world, we will see with perfect clarity, how meaningless are those things that we put so much energy into acquiring in this world.
The rebuke of Ki Savo is a stark reminder that it is not enough to merely observe the mitzvot, but that it must be the sole driving force in our lives. Honor, power, money, food and any other ‘pleasure’ are all illusionary sources of meaning — making God”King” means realizing that He is the only source of true happiness.


The Power of Joy
by Nesanel Yoel Safran
Anything we do — even if it’s hard — will go so much better and easier if we do it with happiness and joy rather than with a heavy heart. In this week’s Torah portion, God tells the Jewish people how much they would have gained had they been more joyful while doing what He had asked of them (28:47). God wants us to be happy and life is so much better once we learn to harness the power of joy.

“Turning the Tables”

This yucky job is going to take forever, Debbie sighed to herself as she gathered up the plates and silverware from the one of the long tables of the camp’s dining hall.
At her camp, they believed it was good for the campers to help out, so they gave everyone a few chores to do. Tonight it was her turn, along with another kid, named Joy, to clear the tables after dinner.
Why couldn’t they just use disposable? Debbie thought to herself as she reluctantly separated the knives, forks and spoons each in their own compartment of the collecting cart like they told her to do. She hated doing any chores, but this one was the pits.
From across the room she heard her partner, Joy, singing an upbeat tune. What is that kid so happy about? Probably because she’s slacking off and expects me to do everything. Well, I’ll take care of that, Debbie thought as she stomped across the room to investigate.
She saw that not only was Joy singing, but she was practically dancing around the tables.
“Hey, like it or not, we’ve got a job to do!” said Debbie firmly.
“Oh, hi Debbie. You surprised me,” Joy said with a smile as she turned around. “I’m sorry, what did you just say?”  “I said that I hope you don’t expect me to do the whole job.”
“Why should I expect you to do that?” Joy asked.
“You look like you’re having way too much fun to be getting much work done. I know it’s a really gross job, but I just want it to be a fair split, that’s all.” Debbie said.
“Oh, of course,” said Joy. “Well, how many tables have you cleared so far?”
“I’m half way through my second one, how about you?”
Joy giggled. “Hmm, I think this table here will make my fifth.”
Debbie couldn’t believe it. “You’ve cleared almost five tables already?”  She looked around and sure enough, there were four sparkling clean tables and a fifth one well on its way. All the plates, cups and silverware were stacked neatly — much more neatly than Debbie’s were.
“How in the world did you manage to do all that so fast, even though you were singing and having a good time?”
Joy smiled and shook her head. “It’s because I’m having a good time!”
“When a person’s happy, she can do anything. Being happy and joyful is like super-charged energizing fuel that can get you through anything in life.”
“But how can you be happy about clearing tables?”
Joy giggled. “Why don’t you try it and see how real it is? Just smile, then start to sing a song — at least in your mind — and before you know it you’ll be a new person.”
“No thanks,” said Debbie, “I think I’ll save my good times for good times and not for drudgery like this.”
Joy shrugged, gave Debbie a patient smile and went back to her table-clearing dance.
Debbie, still feeling down about the big job in front of her, shuffled back over to her half-cleared table and sighed. She just really was not into it. Suddenly, without thinking she found herself beginning to hum a tune. Joy’s weird ideas must be rubbing off on me, she thought. Strangely enough, though, she had to admit that the humming made her feel kind of good.
As Debbie went on, her humming turned into singing and she started to feel much more energized. She noticed herself working much faster, and without all the bad feelings that she was having before. Life was something she could be happy about — even now.
Before she knew it, she was done clearing, and even more amazingly, feeling great. Who would have thought it was possible? Debbie asked herself, glad she had shared the night’s task — and learned a great secret of life — from a kid who lived up to her name, Joy.
Discussion Questions
Ages 3 – 5   How did Debbie feel about her chores at first? at the end?

Ages 6 – 9   What can a person do to feel more joyful?

Ages 10 and up  In your opinion, is it hypocritical to try to act joyful if we just don’t feel that way? Why or why not? 
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“Work for peace in your family, then in the street, then within the community” — The Bershider Rabbi

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Morah Sarah was teaching her fourth grade class about the importance of curiosity.
“Where would we be today if no one had ever been curious?” Morah Sarah asked.
Little Yakov called out from the back of the class, “in the Garden of Eden?”

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