Re’eh – Deut. 11:16-16:17 (Aug. 14/15)

As the Torah Turns

Rabbi Lader’s Weekly D’var Torah

Re’eh – Deut. 11:16-16:17 (Aug. 14/15)

 This week’s Torah portion is Re’eh – Deut. 11:16-16:17 – and ends with a description of the offerings to present for the festivals of Pesach, Shavuot, and Succot.  But it’s not only offerings to bring; there is also joy to be felt:  

V’samachta b’chagecha v’hayita ach same’ach. ושמחת בחגך והיית אך שמח.

You shall rejoice on your festivals​, and should be fully happy.
Deut. 16:14a,15b(That means, the first half of verse 14, and the second half of verse 15.) In his poem, “Motions and Emotions”, Rabbi Michael Hecht teaches us that joy is the “highest mitzvah… and the most difficult!” Can we be commanded to be happy?  We might not be able to force emotions, but we can act as if with joy. … If we cannot be happy,We can still smile. If we cannot feel thankful,We can still say words of praise. If we cannot feel festive,We can still set the table. Light the candles. Pour the wine.Sing the songs. If we smile, maybe others will smile back.If we say words of thanksgiving, maybe we will come to feel them.If we help others,Maybe we will be warmed by our deeds.If we celebrate the feast, perhaps festivity will come. And joy, joy unbounded,Joy complete, joy overflowing – Joy will come to us. Help us to go through the motionsThat will bring us to the highest emotions.  

Friends — As I read this poem, I could not help but think about the High Holy Days and Sukkot and Simchat Torah to follow in the next months.  During this time of COVID-19, what will our festivals look like?  What will our joy look like?  We will be surely challenged… and yet, I invite you to “go through the motions” in new and meaning-filled ways – to celebrate the feast, and bring in festivity.

From Previous Weeks