This week is the “dreaded” parasha of Ki Savo, which contains the Tochacha, the stinging rebuke that Moshe confers upon the Jewish People if they don’t follow the Torah. The question we must ask ourselves, however, is, are we really afraid of the Tochacha? Do the retributions that HaShem forewarns us about in His Torah really concern us? People are nervous about the Iran Deal, and tragedies always hit home, but constant dread of punishment is not necessarily part of our lifestyle. More relevant, however, is our approach to the month of Elul and Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. We are taught that this is a time to take stock of our actions of the year gone by, and it is said that the early Mussar giants would literally tremble with just hearing the word Elul. For many of us, however, the idea of constant introspection and trembling out of fear of Divine retribution is not in tandem with our reality. How, then, can we understand the Tochacha and the days of Elul and Yomim Noraim?
The answer to this question can be found in a passuk that states (Tehillim 2:11) וגילו ברעדה, rejoice with trembling. The Gemara (Brachos 30b) states במקום גילה שם תהא רעדה, where there is joy, there will be fear. This can be interpreted to mean that the essential state of being is joy, and one has to temper his joy with fear of HaShem. In this week’s parasha the Torah states (Devarim 28:47) תַּחַת ,אֲשֶׁר לֹא עָבַדְתָּ אֶת יְ-הֹ-וָ-ה אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ בְּשִׂמְחָה וּבְטוּב לֵבָב מֵרֹב כֹּל because you did not serve HaShem, your G-d, with happiness and with gladness of heart, when [you had an] abundance of everything. Thus, we see that all the tragedies and retribution befall the Jewish People due to a lack of joy. If we were to live lives filled with joy, we would only need to temper that joy with fear of Heaven and then there would be no need to worry about punishments and catastrophic events.
As we approach Rosh HaShanah, let us bear in mind the Halachic ruling that one takes a haircut and dresses nicely in honor Rosh HaShanah, as we are certain that we will be vindicated in judgment.
HaShem should give us joy tempered by fear of Him, to serve Him properly!
Have a Joyful Shabbos!