Happy to Serve You

Parshas Ki Savo

The Torah discusses at length many curses and catastrophic results that will befall our people. These are effects of failing to properly keep Hashem’s Mitzvos. Ninety-eight curses are enumerated, and the heart shudders when reading through them. Among the curses is the assertion that this outcome develops “in lieu of not serving Hashem your G-d with happiness and a glad heart”.

Question 

Doesn’t this seem an overly harsh consequence for lacking happiness? We are talking about people who performed what they were meant to perform, avoided what they are required to avoid, and such people are punished? One can speculate that perhaps withholding blessing might be more appropriate.

Answer

In Parshas Ki Savo  it is written “cursed is one who doesn’t uphold Torah” Rabbenu Yonah in The Gates of Repentance explains this refers to rejecting even one of the minor Mitzvos. For example one who accepts the whole Torah except Shatnez is called an apostate and is considered as though he has rejected the entire Torah. Imagine a servant who says “I do whatever you want, except I won’t bring you breakfast in bed”. This is a break on his whole servitude.

A person who doesn’t enjoy what he is doing breaks his whole attitude of service. If a person does what he must, and does not enjoy it, is evidently doing it from a feeling of duty. Such a relationship is a strained relationship. It is built only on the power and strength of one party and the submission to that power. Given the chance to release himself he would jump at the opportunity. That is not a true servant.

Conversely, the Arizal says all the exceptional levels he reached in understanding the hidden attributes of Torah was due to his enjoyment in doing Mitzvos.

Lesson

Perhaps more important than correcting particular deeds, let us focus on the relationship we have with Hashem.

Story 

Two centuries ago in Eastern Europe, a kosher set of Lulav and Esrog was difficult to obtain largely due to the local climate. Even when available they were very costly. Communities would pool their resources together in order to acquire kosher set.

Rabbi Eliyahu Kramer – the Vilna Gaon (1720 -1797) once sent his students on a mission to purchase a set of the four species on his behalf. “Spare no expense” he instructed them. That year was a particularly difficult year and they couldn’t find neither a set nor a possible vendor. At long last they heard of a merchant who had a full kosher set. They immediately hurried over to make contact with him. To their dismay he refused all their offers; he was a wealthy man and was not interested in their money.

“So tell us”, the students asked “What will entice you?” The merchant replied, he is prepared to give away the set at no cost, but for this year he will receive the reward in the World to Come for the Gaon’s mitzvah of taking a Lulav and Esrog. The students were stunned by the offer, this is not what they had in mind. After much deliberation decided to go ahead with his plan and completed the “sale”. On returning to the Rabbi they reluctantly told the Gaon about the deal. The Gaon was ecstatic, he taught “All his life he had been striving to perform a mitzvah without any personal intent – solely for the sake of heaven and this was a perfect opportunity”.

Weekly Halacha

One is permitted to wipe a spill on Shabbos (without squeezing) even though the napkin will become stained.

2 Comments

  1. What if somebody DOES do all the mitzvos scrupulously but only because “it’s the thing to do” pretty much leaving Hashem out of the picture? They certainly aren’t serving Hashem from love when they hardly give him a thought, but they ARE going through the motions. where do they fit?

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