Office of the Chief Rabbi

D’var Torah: Parashat Ki Tavo

In his D’var Torah this week, the Chief Rabbi highlights that there is a punishment for not being happy!

There is a punishment for not being happy.

It’s in this week’s Parasha of Ki Tavo: the long list of the Klalot, the curses, of the Tochecha is presented to us. And the Torah gives a reason why these awful things might occur: ‘Tachat Asher Lo Avadeta Et Hashem Elokeicha Besimcha’, ‘on account of the fact that you did not serve the Lord, your God, with happiness’.

Usually we explain this to mean that in the event, God forbid, that there is machloket, serious division, let’s say within a community, a lot of tension. And as a result, the community cannot function in a happy and joyous way, the impact of what we are doing is limited and so, as a people we don’t function as we really should.

‘Says the Kotzker Rebbe, here we are talking about a phenomenon, where people have no shame whatsoever with regard to what they are doing…’

That’s a good message, but can we really justify so many Klalot, so many curses, happening?

I love the peirush of the Kotsker Rebbe on this verse. You see, he reads this as follows: ‘Tachat Asher Lo Avadeta’, it’s when your ‘Lo Avadeta’, when the absence of your serving of Hashem is carried out ‘Besimcha’, ‘with joy’.

Says the Kotzker Rebbe, here we are talking about a phenomenon, where people have no shame whatsoever with regard to what they are doing and in a brazen way, they are flaunting their rebelliousness and encouraging, thereby, others, to follow them. That’s when we as a nation have a problem.

‘In the event that you are ever going to stray from that path, if you are embarrassed or ashamed about it, that actually is a good thing’

You know, I’m sure in some Shuls on some Shabbotot, people have a mobile phone in their pocket, and they turn it off and you know, they will be exceptionally embarrassed if anybody knew about it. But I’ve known in a few instances, in a Bar Mitzvah, somebody taking out a phone to take photos while the boy is singing his Haftorah, without any embarrassment, any shame. You see, if you know that it’s wrong, then there is some hope, there is some recognition of respect for the law. But if the ‘Lo Avadeta’ is carried out with ‘Simcha’, and people flaunt what they are doing, and more than that, they might even encourage others to be just like them, then as a nation we are in trouble.

So, the message therefore from our Parasha is, of course, do what is right. In the event that you are ever going to stray from that path, if you are embarrassed or ashamed about it, that actually is a good thing. It’s good for you and it’s also good for us.

Shabbat Shalom