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  • Yehuda Pevzner

"I don't hear curses"

The Alter Rebbe would read the Torah in public. One year, he was away during the Torah reading of Ki Savo, and his young son, Rabbi Dovber, future Chabad Rebbe, heard someone else read the portion, which includes G-d’s severe rebuke of the Jewish people. The son became so distressed that he fainted, and weeks later, it was still questionable whether he’d be able to fast on Yom Kippur. The chasidim later asked him: “In previous years, you didn’t faint; what happened this year?” The boy responded, “When Father reads it, I don’t hear curses.”

This week’s Torah portion contains one of the scariest sections of the Torah. It is known as “The Rebuke,” and this is where Moses tells the Jews all the horrific punishment that will befall them for not following in G-d’s ways. Many synagogues recite these 45 verses in an undertone, because they are so harsh.

The Torah specifies what would lead to such a terrible outcome: “All these curses will befall you…because you did not serve Hashem, your G‑d, with happiness and with gladness of heart.” Why are the Jews deserving of these harsh tragedies? Serving Hashem without joy.

Let’s explore the idea of joy. We live in a disposable society. Your dress ripped? Buy a new one. Washing machine not working? Why fix the broken piece when you can buy a new part? We cut people out of our lives because the relationship isn’t as we would like it to be.

G-d is telling us: I don’t want to give up on this relationship. I want to fix it. And to fix something, we need to take it apart first. Hashem is willing to invest in you, because I love you. I will punish you to clean you, so that we can reconnect. G-d is never giving up on us.

And this brings true joy. That is the reason to serve Hashem with happiness, with the realization that we’re in this forever, and there is always a way to patch up our mistakes.

Saturday night, we start “Selichot,” a communal prayer for Divine forgiveness, said during the pre-High Holiday season. We’re happy because G-d gives us the ability to do Teshuva and not “throw us away”.

Shabbat Shalom!

Candle lighting time: 6:45 PM