Ki Tetzei 5773

August 11, 2013

5 min read


Ki Tetzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19 )

Rabbi Kalman Packouz' popular Jewish weekly.

GOOD MORNING! Would you rather be happy or rich? Most people will respond, "Happy!" However, do we work more to be happy or rich? Most people work at being rich far more than they work at being happy. Perhaps deep down we think -- even though we know better -- that happiness comes through being rich. There are enough unhappy rich people to disprove the notion. There is more to happiness than wealth!

And how do many people pursue happiness? They strive for physical acquisitions and indulgences -- and then wonder why a nicer car, a nicer house doesn't make them happy.

Almost every human being on this planet knows the secret to being happy. It is simple. It just isn't always easy. All one has to do is to focus on what he has. The secret for misery is focusing on what one lacks or thinks he lacks.

However, a person can know how to be happy and do nothing to increase his or her happiness. It takes effort and that can be uncomfortable. So, we often avoid the effort it takes to be happy.

There is at least one exception to focusing on what you have in order to be happy. If you pursue something meaningful and important, as a bi-product you will likely have happiness. Perhaps by doing something altruistic and accomplishing, the pleasure comes more easily. It doesn't take the effort required to focus on what we take for granted.

Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory, the founder of Aish HaTorah, loved using the following scenario to drive home the secret to happiness:

Imagine standing on the 70th floor of the Empire State building. Suddenly, a man opens a window and says, "I'm going to jump!" You call out, "Stop! Don't do it!" And he replies, "If you try to stop me, I'll take you with me!"

The guy is 6'5" and weighs 260 pounds, so you say, "OK... but any last messages? Perhaps there's someone I should notify?" He says, "You seem like an intelligent, friendly person. I'll give you 15 minutes to try to dissuade me, but first let me tell you my troubles so you'll understand why I want to jump."

For hours you listen to him tell you about the most horrific misfortunes and tragedies. You've never heard stories like this. By the end, you're crying your eyes out. Finally, he turns to you and says, "I'm miserable. Why should I go on living?"

What can you possibly say? Suddenly, you get a flash of inspiration! "Sir, if on top of all your troubles you also happened to be blind, would you be more or less miserable? He replies, "Certainly, more miserable!" You then continue, "So you would then definitely jump?" "Of course!" he replies.

Now, imagine that you're leaning out the window about to jump and suddenly there's a miracle. You can see! You see people, the sun, clouds, birds flying in the sky! Would you jump ... or would you wait a week to look around?"

The man answers, "I suppose I'd stick around for a week." "What about all of your troubles and miseries?" you ask. "So, what? Now I can see!"

If a person really appreciates that he can see then all of his miseries are nothing. On the other hand, if you take everything you have for granted, nothing you'll ever receive in life will bring you lasting happiness. The secret of happiness is to really appreciate what you have.

Appreciating the pleasures we have is a simple and effective means to happiness. Every evening when you sit down with your family or a friend, discuss five pleasures each of you experienced that day. Incorporate this into your daily ritual -- especially if you have children. Eventually, those around you will be focused throughout the day on what pleasures they had so that they can share them with you.


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Torah Portion of the Week
Ki Tetzei, Deuteronomy 21:10 -- 25:19

Topics in this week's portion include: Women Captives, First-Born's Share, The Rebellious Son, Hanging and Burial, Returning Lost Articles, The Fallen Animal, Transvestitism, The Bird's Nest, Guard-Rails, Mixed Agriculture, Forbidden Combinations, Bound Tassels, Defamed Wife, Penalty for Adultery, Betrothed Maiden, Rape, Unmarried Girl, Mutilated Genitals, Mamzer, Ammonites & Moabites, Edomites & Egyptians, The Army Camp, Sheltering Slaves, Prostitution, Deducted Interest, Keeping Vows, Worker in a Vineyard, Field Worker, Divorce and Remarriage, New Bridegroom, Kidnapping, Leprosy, Security for Loans, Paying Wages on Time, Testimony of Close Relatives, Widows and Orphans, Forgotten Sheaves, Leftover Fruit, Flogging, The Childless Brother-in-Law, Weights and Measures, Remembering What Amalek Did to Us.

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Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah commands us to physically assist others in their time of need:

"You shall not see the donkey or the ox of your brother stumble on the way and hide yourself from them. Rather, you shall lift them up with him." (Deut. 22:4)

Why does the Torah specify the words "with him"?

The Sages clarify in the Talmud that if a person who needs help tells you, "I'm going to rest right now. You have a mitzvah to help me, so help me all by yourself," then you are not obligated to help him for the Torah states "with him." You need not allow someone to take advantage of you just because you want to do kindness and he is lazy.

It is important to understand the Torah's definition of what constitutes being taken advantage of. If a person always refuses to lend you his things, but then one day he comes to request that you lend him something, what is your obligation? Here the Torah position is very clear that you are obligated to help him and to refuse is a violation of the commandment, "Do not take revenge" (Leviticus 19:18). What is the difference between this and the above?

The principle is that whenever a person sincerely needs your help you should help him -- even if he does not reciprocate by helping you in return. This is true even if he will never help you. As a matter of fact, the highest level of kindness, chesed shel emes (true kindness), is to do a kindness when you know you will receive nothing in return. (Preparing a person for burial and burying him is the usual example; there is no way the individual can return the kindness.)

Therefore, if a person has a valid reason that he is unable to work with you, then you should help him in any event -- and focus on the pleasure of helping without any resentment!


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The greatest happiness in the world
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--  Luther Burbank


In Honor of

Ezra Pomper

Bar Mitzvah


In Loving Memory
of My Father

David L. Egozi, MD

Esther & Didier Choukroun


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