is the ultimate goal at which all humans aim.
in Judaism it is not necessarily so.
Happiness is a high value.
the closest Hebrew word to happiness is,
And it is the first word of the book of Psalms.
We say the prayer known as Ashrei 3 times each day.
is not the central value of the Torah.
We need to serve G-d with joy!
the Torah uses the words:
happy and happiness about 30 times,
while joy and rejoice appear over 300 times.
• Happiness is a feeling,
but joy is not.
• Happiness is fleeting,
but joy is everlasting.
• Happiness depends on circumstances or other people,
but joy is a gift from God.
• Happiness is worldly, but joy is divine.
Joy plays a key role in two contexts in this week’s parasha.
One has to do with the bringing of first-fruits to the Temple in Jerusalem.
“Then you will rejoice in all the good things that the Lord your G-d has given you and your family, along with the Levites and the stranger in your midst” (26:11)."
The other context is quite different and astonishing.
It occurs in the context of the curses.
The curses in Deuteronomy end in loss of hope.
The curses in Deuteronomy are stimulated simply:
“because you did not serve the Lord your G-d with joy and gladness of heart out of the abundance of all things” (28:47).
Within the Torah portion of
there is a list of blessings and then curses that may fall upon one depending on her or his actions.
According to the Torah these are given out by G-d.
When you look at them more closely,
you will notice that the curses are given by our actions toward others,
while the blessings are given by the things we create.
We typically think of curses as things that happen to us by an outside force,
but the Torah suggests that curses are things we bring upon ourselves as a result of the harmful things we do to others.
"Cursed be the one
• who insults his father or mother . . .
• who removes his neighbors' landmark . . .
• who subverts the rights of the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow . . ."
Being cursed is what happens
• to our place in the family,
• to our standing in the community,
• to our reputation.
On the other hand,
we often think of blessings as things that are given to us.
But in fact,
blessings are based upon that which we produce ourselves.
• "Blessed shall you be in the city and . . . in the country. . . .
• Blessed shall be the issue of your womb, the produce of your soil . . . your basket and your kneading bowl"
The things we ourselves create in this world
produce the blessings we receive in life.
And when we are no longer here, the blessings are those things we leave as a legacy.
"May her memory be a blessing,"
is what we say at a funeral or when we recite the Mourner's Kaddish.
Life can be filled with blessings and curses that come to us in many ways.
The Torah portion is simply reminding us
• that the ways we act,
• the choices we make,
• and the ways we treat others
do matter a lot in determining which we will experience.