Rabbi Label Lam
Parshas Ki Savo - What We Really Think
...Because you didn't serve Hashem with joy and a good heart from everything
in abundance... (Devarim 28:47)
Serve Hashem with joy. Come before him with exuberance. (Psalms 100)
In this week's parsha we encounter the shocking forecast of tragic
consequences for the annulment of G-d's covenant. The entire litany of
terrible news is only for the lack of joy in service of Hashem. What’s so
bad about that? What’s important about knowing that people who were
expected have served with joy had everything?
After WWII two brothers were separated. One went to England and the other
went to Russia. They instituted a special code before parting so that the
brother in Russia could speak his mind without fear of reprisal from the
government. In order to pass the censor successfully it was agreed upon
that if the brother in Russia wrote his letter with blue ink then
everything in the letter was reliably true. However, if the contents of
the letter were written in red ink then everything in the letter could be
discounted and probably the opposite was true.
After a period of time the one in England received the long awaited letter
from his brother in Russia. He tore open the envelope and there was a full
page written in blue ink. He was very happy to read the glowing
report, "Life was so open and free. There was good food and plenty of
it. People were happy and generous of spirit. The economy was booming and
everyone was pleasantly engaged in productive activity. There was no lack
of good or goods throughout the entire land."
So glad was the tiding that the chap in England wondered if he hadn't made
the wrong choice by settling in England. Perhaps he would be better off if
emigrated and joined his brother in the prosperous land of Russia. That's
how he had begun to feel as he was reading the letter, that is until he
reached the postscript after the final salutation. "P.S. There’s only one
thing you can't get here...red ink."
For the lack of one small thing the entire meaning of something
changes. The superficial cover is removed and an opposite message
emerges. If there is no joy it cannot be that one is truly serving
Hashem. Perhaps it’s a mere social obligation or the inertia of tradition
that drives the machinery of service. The final test is marked by red
ink. What is in the heart? Is it heavy with the burdens of religious
demands or is it light with the joy of feeling closer and connected to the
source of all goodness? Only The One Who reads the heart of hearts can
grade that exam.
Rabbi Yonason Eibshitz centuries ago discovered a percentage point
difference between two statements about the darker side of human nature and
the human condition made by the sages of the Talmud. One statement says,
"If a person has one hundred he wants two hundred." Another statement
reads, "A person doesn't leave this world having fulfilled half of his
desires." The first aphorism indicates that a person achieves 50% of his
wants while the second implies that the person ultimately fall short of the
50% mark. He resolved the contradiction with the following whimsical
reply: The part that the person doesn't have is more important to him than
the part that he does have.
When The A-lmighty showers abundant good upon people it is a great
test. Will it generate a bigger appetite for consumption and petty
jealousies between people to arise? Will it inspire a celebration of
spirit, a profound sense of security and well being, and an overflow of
gratitude to become manifest?
Does a person see his stuff as all his, from and for himself or as a gift
from above? That will determine how a person feels about his sense of
obligation or obeisance to his Maker. Is Divine service perceived as a
heavy tax burden arbitrarily imposed or a privilege and a joy to
perform? Even when all the right words are recited and correct deeds done
at their proper time, still, the final exam, the color of the ink is what
we really think.
Text Copyright © 2000 Rabbi Dovid Green and
Project Genesis, Inc.