Thursday, September 7, 2017

Parsha Perspective

By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman

This week’s Parsha Perspective is dedicated in memory of Elka bas Zisel OBM

Dedicated in memory of Leah bas Rochel OBM

Dear Friend,

We are currently in the Hebrew month of Elul, just a few weeks away from Rosh Hashanah and the High Holidays – a time of reflection, introspection and taking on new resolutions with which to enhance our lives, spiritually and meaningfully.

Cheder Chabad of Monsey hopes that these weekly Torah thoughts will help inspire to achieve those goals. All the students, staff and administration of Cheder Chabad of Monsey wish you and yours a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. May this year be the year of the full and complete redemption with the coming of our righteous Moshiach - NOW!

For most people, the vacation is well and truly over. The relaxed atmosphere of the summer has been replaced by the challenge of a new season, whether in academic study, business, or simple daily life. At this point people sometimes ask themselves: am I really happy? Wouldn't I always prefer the carefree atmosphere of the vacation, traveling, doing as I please, being free...?

Indeed there are many for whom the summer months themselves were tense and problematic, for whatever reason. How do they look towards the coming months of the autumn? With joy or with foreboding?

At this point this week's Torah portion of Ki Sovo (Devorim [Deuteronomy] 26:1-29:8) is enlightening. It reveals that joy and gloom are not, as we might suppose, a kind of thermometer of our general situation in life: if everything is alright, the person is happy; if not, he feels miserable.

The Torah suggests that joyfulness is a state of mind which we should aspire to achieve in virtually every situation, especially when things are going well, but even if unfortunately there are set-backs.

A long section of this Torah portion describes the terrible suffering which will come to the Jewish people if, when they are in the Land of Israel, they do not properly serve G-d. The Torah speaks of destruction, famine, war, illness, exile. The sins which provoke this terrible punishment seem to be those of idolatry and general rebellion against G-d's law.
Yet then comes a surprising statement. Why have these terrible things happened? "Because you did not serve G-d with joy and a happy heart, when you had everything" (Deuteronomy 28:47).

Maimonides writes that this verse shows that one must serve G-d with joy. The same comment is made by the great Kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria, and this is a central theme of the Chassidic movement. Our lives as Jews should be joyful; keeping Commandments should be joyful. Even when we have done wrong, perhaps something seriously wrong, and we regret the past and attempt to mend our ways for the future -- we should at the same time be joyful that G-d grants us this possibility of change.

The Chassidic masters ask us to be joyful also when we have serious problems! Rabbi Schneur Zalman gives advice in his Tanya (chapters 26-31) how to achieve a state of joy even if, G-d forbid, a person has grave worries concerning health, children or lack of livelihood; or if one has distressing guilt feelings about the past; or if one regards oneself as a terrible person in the present. In each case he presents a path towards a balanced and joyful state of mind, despite all. That joy, he says, is the key to inner mastery. It enables the person to win as a human being and as a Jew, despite the pain.

Paradoxically, a person can experience grief and at the same time feel a sense of joy. This can only come from the realization that happiness, as well as that which seems to be distressing and uncomfortable, all emanate from G-d Al-mighty and we need only to appreciate that only goodness comes from Above, whether we understand it or not and that ultimately, it is all for our benefit !!

(Excerpts from Chabad.org – by Rabbi Tali Loewenthal)

May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos!

If you would like to dedicate the weekly Parsha Perspective in honor or memory of a person or occasion, please contact Rabbi Shusterman at yshusterman@chedermonsey.org

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