Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Ki Savo) Joyful Celebration
In the early 1900’s in Newark, New Jersey, a very wealthy businessman’s mother passed away. After the burial, he returned to her house to sit Shiva. The next morning, he felt it impossible to stay away from the office for the week, and wished to head to work. However, he knew that there would be a stream of visitors and it wouldn’t be right if he was not there. He came up with the following solution. He hired his friend to sit Shiva for him and accept all the visitors.
As crazy as it sounds, there is more to the story. A few days later, the real mourner contacted the rabbi of the local Shul and asked him the following question: “Since I hired someone to sit Shiva for me over my mother’s death, am I required to pay him a Shiva call?”
Absurd; but unfortunately, a true story!
There are Mitzvos which only the person himself can perform, and there are Mitzvos which one can appoint another to do on his behalf.
Certain Mitzvos that one performs upon or with his body such as, Tefilin, Talis, listening to the Shofar, sitting in a Sukkah, fasting, mourning etc. can only be fulfilled by the individual.
Then there are Mitzvos that one can appoint a messenger to fulfill and the messenger is considered an extension of the sender.
The Mitzvah that the Torah opens up with in this week’s portion is Bikurim – Taking the first ripened fruits from which the Land of Israel is noted for, traveling to the Temple in Jerusalem and presenting the fruits to the Kohain (priest), and reciting verses of the Torah that declare ones gratefulness to the Almighty for all the blessings he has received.
Bikurim is a type of Mitzvah where one is allowed to appoint a messenger to take them to Jerusalem. However, the law states that the messenger can only present the fruits to the Kohain, but he cannot recite the verses of proclamation.
Rabbi Nissan Alpert o.b.m. explains: The special declaration can only be proclaimed by one who has an innate joy in the performance of the Mitzvah, as the proclamation states, “You should be happy with all the good that G-d has given you.” This true happiness only comes about through the owner’s involvement in the Mitzvah from beginning to end. When the owner does it himself he displays his respect and affinity for the Mitzvah, and therefore, only he is qualified to recite the proclamation through his true feelings of joy.
There is a tremendous lesson we can learn from this. Often people are discouraged and feel dejected for lack of joy, inspiration and stimulation while performing Mitzvos. Often times we don’t perform the Mitzvah in its entirety, we just want to get away with it minimally. When corners aren’t cut, and there is an eagerness to perform the Mitzvah completely, joy and inspiration can be easily felt and experienced.
On my most recent trip to Israel, I prayed the afternoon service at the Kotel. The leader of the service was a Sephardic middle aged man. I was totally mesmerized and captured by the pure joy, devotion, and expression that he had while he was engrossed in reciting the prayer. This man exuded a deep love as he earnestly beseeched the King. His whole heart and being was into it. It was a truly inspiring image that I hold dear.
To try to attain joy in everything we do is a very bold step and highly impractical. There is however a realistic approach. Choose a prayer, Mitzvah, observance, act of kindness, or a particular time or segment of Torah study and endeavor to perform it eagerly and dependably. This will result in a feeling of joy and inspiration.
If we entertain and consider implementing this uplifting idea it will help us as we approach the final stretch to the upcoming days of awe.
Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks