Friday, August 22, 2008


The experiences that most impact us involve words, as a single word can be a bullet or a cure. The word VeHaya appears prominently at the start and end of parshat Eikev. Chazal tell us that this word indicates happiness. The contexts of VeHaya in our parsha relate to mitzvot. The implication is that mitzvot should be done with joy. In the Tochacha we are told that punishment is the consequence of serving Hashem joylessly. Implicit in the word VeHaya is the idea that keeping mitzvot brings joy.

The first instance of VeHaya precedes "eikev tishmeun". Rashi's understanding of the rare word eikev is that it is a noun, the subject of the verb tishmeun, and his reading of this pasuk is: "And it will be when you listen to eikev." Rashi identifies eikev as a code word for neglected mitzvot. This approach fits nicely with VeHaya. In the end, keeping the unpopular details brings reward and happiness.

The lines that comprise the second paragraph of Shema also convey this idea. Here VeHaya continues with "im shamoa tishmeu". Happiness results when mitzvot receive continuous attention When we see violations of mitzvot around us, rather than merely condemning we should look at our own performance. As a teacher in a yeshiva I'm paid to pray. Sometimes I don't look at it that way. We think our job is to get students - a.) to doven and - b.) to do it with feeling. I think that if we get ourselves to that level then the bonus is that it affects others, and that's the only way.

Part of our frustration with the deficiency in others' performance of mitzvot is our own insecurity. It's like what a wise man once said - only someone who's not relaxed tells someone else to relax. Perhaps those who much protest the mitzvot of others are projecting. This idea is in the words im shamoa tishmeu, not only that if you listen now it will cause you to listen more in the future (as Chazal say) but also that shamoa/you listen and that leads to tishmeu/ others listening as well. And listening means with essence - heart and soul, not ears.

Two dear friends shared thoughts with me that fit with my thoughts. One told me about a woman that converted to Judaism and told him about it with such joy that he was jealous, wondering "shouldn't we all feel this joy?" The other said he tries to be the colloquial Good Jew. This doesn't come easy to my friend, he said, as it means "actively fulfilling mitzvot. Not in the robotic sense, but with enthusiasm and simcha."

May we be blessed to love mitzvot and may our joy spill over to the people we love.


goooooood girl said...

Feel good......

rabbi neil fleischmann said...

i wish i knew how to erase comments here. anyone?