Shoin: Let’s begin with a summary of kimat the entire parsha, this time in two sentences, mamish. If the Yiddin (we) will obey the RBSO’s commandments, He will shower us with many blessings. A few of them – there are only a few- are spelled out below. Conversely, if we do not hearken to the voice of G-d, then the RBSO has many curses in store for us – just shy of 100- but who’s counting? The gory details are very specifically delineated in our parsha and are designed to cause nightmares, heart palpitations, bad dreams and to otherwise scare us straight. Did the Yiddin listen and internalize Moishe’s words? Ver veyst. Most of the curses are quite unpleasant; after hearing them, it would appear that death may be the best option ober it’s not always what one gets. First comes great suffering.
Last week we learned that a newlywed in his ‘shono rishoina’ (first year of marriage), has an obligation to gladden, if you chap, his wife. He is exempt from military duty, from shooting on the battlefield, so that he can take better aim and shoot at home, if you chap. And we can kler that if he taka gladdens her, that she might gladden him, ver veyst. This week we will chazir (review) another aspect of the mitzvah of gladdening. We will learn in the paragraphs below – halt zich eyn- that not just is it a mitzvah to gladden one’s wife, but being glad in general, being b’simcha, is perhaps one of the greatest mitzvis ever. One thing is zicher: it’s not a mitzvah to gladden someone else’s wife, ever!
It’s a dovor yoduah (plainly understood) that congregational rabbis- most of them- frown upon congregants that leave the shul for a break they call the ‘kiddish club’. It’s a time when mispallilim (worshipers) feel almost obligated to exit the shul -sometimes en masse- and make a bee line to someone’s locker, or at times, to a mini watering hole where they enjoy Kiddush over their favorite scotch- single malt only-or other drink of choice. There, after a few lechaim’s and drinks, they talk about their wives and other persons of interest, if you chap. They are zicher glad, happy mamish.. They also discuss the rabbi, his contract, politics, Obama, Israel, business and shoin, by the time it’s over, and after imbibing the kiddish club required minimum number of drinks in but 5-10 minutes, the world s problems are solved. If only it were that easy.
Ober this week as we get ready to read parshas Ki Sovoy, it wouldn’t be a terrible idea for the rabbis to order the entire congregation to partake in kiddish, or at least, to order an emergency evacuation just as the baal koirah (Torah reader) gets set to read the 98 different klolois (curses) the RBSO has in store for those that choose not to follow in His ways. Why scare the people needlessly? Why give them unnecessary heartburn? Moreover, even our chachomim (wise sages) chapped the terrible side effects that the Toichocho might have on a person and taka the minhag (custom) is -in most shuls- that the reader deliver them in an undertone so that the great majority of the shul cannot hear the reader. And if the sages so decreed and if one cannot hear them anyway and if one has no idea what the reader is saying and if one is not in the mood to be admonished with words that according to some- Moishe Rabaynu himself decided to give over after the RBSO had already forewarned us about punishments with his own list of 49 individual punishments, why not taka leave? Mistama the reader does not want us to hear and mistama, it’s not us he is has in mind or warning. Avada we are clean of sin and givaldig: NOT! Moreover, do we come to shul to become aggravated, frightened and mamish scared out of our hoizen?
Why do we taka read the Toichocho this week? As it turns out, nothing is accidental. And says the heylige Gemora (Migilah 31a) that a fellow by the name of Ezra enacted a takona requiring that these admonitions be read while we are still in the month of Elul. Elul is of course the month that precedes the High Holy days and we are to be thinking of repentance daily as we hear the shoifer being blown. Grada the Oisvorfer has been blowing the shoifer daily. There’s no real tshuva in sight but the blowing is getting better daily. Ezra was famous for a few takonis.
Ober, efsher we should read this parsha on or near Yoim Kippur, a day when we are in general way more receptive to being admonished and threatened. We read and recite other frightening passages that day; adding a little Toichocho couldn’t hurt. And wouldn’t Yom Kippur, the day we tell the RBSO how sorry we are for being shlecht, for chapping what we shouldn’t have, for bad-mouthing the innocent, for spreading false rumors, be a better day to hear these? Isn’t Yom Kippur the day we make promises, albeit at times falsely, to the RBSO that we will be better Jews and people this year, a good day to hear these?
Moreover, some have difficulties with this Toichocho. Just before the 98 punishments the RBSO threatens to mete out, we are presented with a very short list of rewards the RBSO will offer for good behavior. So happens that earlier this week, the Oisvorfer was corresponding with a reader who wanted to know azoy: why is it that good people- mistama he meant himself- people who have done so much good in this world, have helped so many, have saved lives mamish, have arranged transplants for those in need, have helped the poor and have supported myriad families and worthy institutions, let alone random individuals who came calling for help, could be suffering great indignities?
Where are the rewards the RBSO promised? Was there fine print attached to His program? Did the promised rewards which include material wealth, plentiful fruit, as do other rewards programs, come with black-out dates? Why can’t he claim these when he needs them most? Why can’t his good deeds go into a proverbial bank account so that he may draw down to help pay for his bad one’s? Isn’t that how a bank works? And taka, these are good questions. And avada we all know such people; in real life we see and experience just such inconsistencies. Is there a system of reward and punishment in this world, or, is it just punishment for now and maybe one gets his just rewards in the next world. Ver veyst? Though many sources -none of which are presently available, if you chap- will teach us that rewards for good deeds come in the next world, that may be little consolation to those suffering now and in need of a break.
So happens, that one of the few blessings (the curses outnumber the blessings 5-1) states azoy: Blessed you will be when you COME IN and blessed you will be when you GO OUT. Grada these words are ringing in my head, if you chap, ober what do they mean? Nu, poshit pshat is azoy: Our daily interactions and transactions will be blessed with peace, tranquility and success. It is a reward, is it not? Ober one medrish who was mistama bothered by the realities on the ground where some good people suffer while some bad guys seem to lead the better lives, said azoy: These words are a reference to birth and death. Pshat is azoy: Just as people will and do celebrate your arrival into this world by preparing parties or a bris and are otherwise gladdened and overcome by joy, if and when you leave it with a boatload of good deeds, and mitzvis of every variety, your departure will be celebrated as they good-mouth you and remember you for the good person you were. Does that help when you are alive, ver veyst? Veyter.
Though it’s only Wednesday at approximately 12 noon, the Oisvorfer is already farzurgt (worried) about the upcoming parsha. How can he explain to two wannabe Yiddin what’s in store for them as they read parshas ki Sovoy which as you know contains not one and not even 10 or 20 but 98 different curses the RBSO has in mind for those that do not follow in His ways? Is this a religion they should be considering? Why not stick with one where one can say a few hail-marys’, and ask forgiveness from the Father who mistama himself needs more than a few to atone for his avayris? Efsher they should explore one that promises a few meydlich for good behavior, maybe a few dozen or as many as 70 virgins, ver veyst?
Moishe describes the list of 98 curses that will befall the Yiddin should they stray from the RBSO. Illness, famine, poverty, and exile are the best of the bunch. And the worst of all sins the Yiddin could violate? Says Moishe “because you did not serve Hashem, your G-d, with happiness and with gladness of heart, when [you had] most of everything.” (Devorim 28:47). What s the difference between “happiness and gladness of heart”? What does joy have to do with it? Why is the lack of joy so giferlich? Don’t we know people that we perform some mitzvois regularly without much joy, if you chap? Ver veyst but That’s what we read and avada many of you, who have a litany of much worse chatoim (sins) on your list, chas v’sholom, are breathing a sigh of relief. Ober what’s taka pshat?
Says the Medrish: one of the reasons the heylige Toirah states why we will receive the curses of the Toichocho is because you did not serve Hashem, your G-d, amid gladness and goodness of heart when everything was abundant. The direct quote is, of course, from the heylige Toirah (Devorim 28:47, if you don t believe me) “tachas asher lo avadata es HaShem Elokecha bisimcha uvituv leivav meirov kol”. That’s why we’re getting these and many other curses, oy vey!! Can you imagine that all this Toichocho and the curses attached to them are coming our way because we weren’t happy? Because we didn’t serve the RBSO with gladness and goodness? Can you imagine what’s coming your way when the RBSO finds out about your wayward ways and how glad and happy you were taka mamish while performing them? When He hears about how you’ve been oiver (violated) on kimat (almost) every single loi sah-say (thou shall not dos) in the Toirah, some multiple times each week since high school, loi olaynu? You’re done, finished, kaput!
Seemingly, the proper performance of mitzvois requires that we be happy during the performance, if you chap. And just going through the motions, is epes not enough, not acceptable to the RBSO, and for those who do just that, the rebukes and other zachen that await you are not fun. All these acts must also be infused with happiness, joy, and distinctly positive energy. Grada this sounds gantz gishmak (quite pleasing) if you chap; efsher time for a shmuz with the eishes chayil?
Nu, the Oisvorfer once heard from his Rebbe in between beatings, who heard it from another source, who efsher made it up, that pshat is like this: When a person performs a mitzvah and is happy about it, it becomes clear that he perceives that the mitzvah is being done not for the RBSO s benefit, but for his own. And whenever we do something or anything for our own good, which avada gives us benefit and pleasure, we are happy. Shoin! Understanding that mitzvois go into our proverbial bank accounts (to be offset against the many horrendous things we do) invariably increases our zeal for their performance, and our attitude when performing them.
Said The Kotzker (among the leading Chassidic Rebbes of the mid-19th century) azoy: the words of the Toirah must be read with punctuation and vus meynt dos (what does that mean)? We need to insert a comma before the word, “happily.” And with that comma, the true meaning of theverse in which Moishe tells us that we will be severely punished because we performed without happiness, looks epes a shtikel different. Let s see. “Because you did not serve your G-d, happily.” In other words, not only did we reject the RBSO’s ways; we did so happily. We were naughty and bad and enjoyed being bad. Avada for such chutzpa, we deserve to be afflicted with the 98 curses. Gishmak mamish!