Posted by: reuvenflamer | September 8, 2009

Parshas Ki Savo – Part 2 Thankfully Yours

Thankfully Yours

It’s natural to be grateful for the joys of life. It’s not that difficult to express it either. We recite a blessing before a meal (the hungry stomach thanks the prospect of a meal). We recite a brocha over extra special moments with a shechiyanu – thanks for bringing me to this moment. We thank G-d for Shabbos by reciting Kiddish (rest is a true pleasure). We thank G-d for traveling safe. We thank G-d for the pleasure of smell. And we thank G-d for health after sickness.

We thank G-d for Life with “Modeh Ani l’fanecha shechezarta bi nishmati.” Upon opening our eyes in the morning we thank G-d for returning the soul to the body –  “you are reliable! I admit that your great mercy has returned me my soul.”

The common denominator of all the above is that thanks is for what you have. Food. Song. Consciousness. Purpose. Life.


The unique Mitzvah of Bikkurim, the first fruits – in force during the times of the Bais Hamikdosh (the farmer takes his first fruits of the season and places them on the altar in the Temple, and rejoices in his good fortune). It also has a directive today as well (as all ideas and direction in the Torah).

Unlike thankfulness through thought and speech, the Jew is commanded with Bikkurim, to thank G-d on the physical action level as well. Not only does the farmer give thanks for his first fruits of his very hard labor, but he also deposits them “in front of Hashem” (the kohanim would eat the left-behind offering). The Bikkurim is not a simple thanks that a blessing was given and received. The Mitzvah of Bikkurim is a statement that all that we have, and are, remain “in front of G-d.” Life is not from G-d. Life is with G-d.

The perspective that life is a blessing, health is a gift, wealth is good fortune is a perspective that once given that which I have is mine, and is my domain! Thanks for sending it.

The Torah’s view is that everything remains “in front of Hashem,” sitting on the altar in the Temple! There is no aspect that remains outside. Life’s blessings are not a process of transference from here to there, nor are they a sum total or end result.

This is seeing life like a fruit basket! I am a container. I am waiting for something good to be placed inside. When a deposit is made I am happy (this is how many view the soul and body). The body is like a basket, and the soul sits in it! In truth however, the life energy force in the body is not an added element to the various body parts! The soul life is so deep and all encompassing that the body parts themselves become alive – as long as one is alive, the meat, blood, and sinews of the body are transformed to living tissues. The soul is not moving the body, pushing it around. The body is a moving lifeforce itself (as long as the soul resides with it).

The Curse of Sadness

The Tanya lays out two general types of sadness: depressiveness from physical hardships (financial stress for example), and sadness over one’s personal failings (sinfulness, etc.). Both are poisonous! There is a Chassidic saying: though sadness is not a sin, it does the most harm – more than any sin!). Sadness allows the excuse for giving up (after all my effort I remain who I was before – I might as well drop the discipline and give up. Your last diet ended when you decided that the lapse in your menu was enough to call it quits). The natural progression from this point is that nothing really matters anyways.

“Nothing really matters” does not simply mean that nothing counts. “Nothing really matters” means that this moment now, the breath I take now, is in itself not a “purpose.” This matter is really nothing! In other words, this moment is outside the perspective of the being in front of the altar, and not a Bikkurim. This is turn removes any feeling of “thankfulness” – joy of the soulful experience that this moment is indeed with G-d, (not only from G-d). All sadness, the curse that sadness brings, is traceable to not “serving G-d with Joy.” Even the joy of a Mitzvah, for what it brings or achieves (down the line), is a state not entirely “on the altar.” It is the beginning of not serving (every moment and facet) Hashem with joy!

Moshaich, Chassidus, and the Art of Joyful Life

In the prophetic description of the Messianic era, Isaiah says “and on that day, all flesh will see G-d together.” Like the ocean is filled with water, the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G-d. Moshiach is not the reward for having lived life. It’s not an added step in the history of mankind. Rather, Moshiach is the moment of awareness (permanently) that we all sit “in front of Hashem, on the altar.”

The power to see life this way comes about through the teachings of Chassidus, revealed by the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe. Their birthday falls within the aura of the portion of the first fruits. Their teachings energized a nation that was in dire straits, and very much in a saddened state. They teach how everything is indeed “in front of the altar.” As we approach the New Year, and seek to revitalize ourselves, it is a fitting time to delve more often and deeper into the living waters of Chassidic teachings. It will make your next moment an altar of living!

Learn On! Light On!


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