In this week’s parsha, Moshe tells the b’nei Yisrael, “And it will be, if you forget Hashem your G-d and follow other gods and worship them and prostrate yourself before them, I bear witness against you this day that you will surely perish.” In lashon hakodesh, this pasuk begins with the words, “V’haya im shacho’ach tishkach es Hashem Elokecha.” The holy Rizhiner asks two questions regarding the wording of this verse. First, couldn’t the Torah simply have written, “V’haya im tishkach”? Why the seeming redundancy of “shacho’ach tishkach”? Second, Chazal teach that the word, “V’haya” always hints to the introduction of a joyous episode. It seems quite inappropriate for a word associated with joy to be used in the context of our forgetting Hashem and serving idols! What place does joy have in this somber verse? The tzaddik answers with an amazing thought.

One of the mighty pillars of avodas Hashem is simcha, joy, as David HaMelech sang, “Ivdu es Hashem b’simcha”. Chazal teach that the Shechinah only rests on a person who is in a state of simchah shel mitzvah, the joy experienced by engaging with the Master of the world by way of His commandments.  Indeed, joy is so fundamental to Yiddishkeit that, based on the verse, “Pikudei Hashem yesharim, m’samchei leiv”, “The ways of Hashem are straight, they gladden the heart,  Rebbe Nachman of Breslov teaches that the foundation of all the mitzvos is Hashem’s joy and that when a Jew performs the mitzvos with joyous connection, one can experience the reward in the mitzvah itself!

However, when a Jew’s avodas Hashem is devoid of simcha, it is easy for him to become detached from his holy thoughts, words, and actions. Instead of performing the mitzvos with passion and excitement, he begins to go through the motions by rote without paying heed to the significance of his deeds or the relationship with Hashem he is attempting to build. With time, his mitzvos become devoid of spirituality to the point that he performs them solely for his own honor or to preserve his social standing in the community. This kind of avodah is an aspect of avodah zara; instead of serving Hashem, he is serving his own interests.

In light of this concept, the Rizhiner reads our verse in an incredible manner. “V’haya im shacho’ach” – When a Jew forgets “v’haya”, the joy his mitzvos should rightfully embody, “tishkach es Hashem Elokecha” – he will end up forgetting Hashem entirely, “V’halachta acharei Elohim acheirim” – eventually coming to perform the mitzvos for his own motives, a form of avodah zara. May Hashem help us serve Him with passion, joy, and an expanded consciousness!

One of the mighty pillars of avodas Hashem is simcha, joy, as David HaMelech sang, “Ivdu es Hashem b’simcha”. Chazal teach that the Shechinah only rests on a person who is in a state of simchah shel mitzvah, the joy experienced by engaging with the Master of the world by way of His commandments.  Indeed, joy is so fundamental to Yiddishkeit that, based on the verse, “Pikudei Hashem yesharim, m’samchei leiv”, “The ways of Hashem are straight, they gladden the heart,  Rebbe Nachman of Breslov teaches that the foundation of all the mitzvos is Hashem’s joy and that when a Jew performs the mitzvos with joyous connection, one can experience the reward in the mitzvah itself!

However, when a Jew’s avodas Hashem is devoid of simcha, it is easy for him to become detached from his holy thoughts, words, and actions. Instead of performing the mitzvos with passion and excitement, he begins to go through the motions by rote without paying heed to the significance of his deeds or the relationship with Hashem he is attempting to build. With time, his mitzvos become devoid of spirituality to the point that he performs them solely for his own honor or to preserve his social standing in the community. This kind of avodah is an aspect of avodah zara; instead of serving Hashem, he is serving his own interests.

In light of this concept, the Rizhiner reads our verse in an incredible manner. “V’haya im shacho’ach” – When a Jew forgets “v’haya”, the joy his mitzvos should rightfully embody, “tishkach es Hashem Elokecha” – he will end up forgetting Hashem entirely, “V’halachta acharei Elohim acheirim” – eventually coming to perform the mitzvos for his own motives, a form of avodah zara. May Hashem help us serve Him with passion, joy, and an expanded consciousness!

Forgetting to serve Hashem with joy is a step in the direction of forgetting Him entirely.

Rebbe Yisrael of Ruzhin
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R’ Yaakov Klein is the founder of the Lost Princess Initiative, an author, musician, and lecturer devoted to sharing the inner light of Torah through his books, music, and lectures.

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