Just a moment before Moses parted from the people and ascended the mountain to his death…
Just a moment before the children of Israel enter the Promised Land…
Moses offers the people final guidance in very important matters, guidelines for the future, regarding how they should behave when he is no longer with them, including this foundational command:
”And you shall rejoice in all the good that the Lord your God has given to you and your house, you and the Levite and the stranger who is among you…” (Deuteronomy 26:11)
Moses explains to the people the 2 possibilities before them:
The good life: Settling the land; a good, prosperous and comfortable life with full abundance. Chapter 28 is full of a huge variety of blessings, of “rewards” for obeying God and being joyful and thankful. And it works like a wheel. When there is joy, there is prosperity. When there is thanksgiving, there is fruitfulness. When these are the dominant emotions, no one can defeat us. When the mood is so uplifting, we are on top of the world. We become the head, not the tail.
“And the LORD will make you the head, and not to the tail, and you will be above only and not beneath…” (Deuteronomy 28:13)
And what is the bad life? In the bad life we might objectively have everything we need, but we stop enjoying it. We stop rejoicing and stop thanking. That’s where the curses arrive.
What is the “trick” to a good life?
The moment we stop rejoicing in what we have – we will stop having it. Once we stop being thankful for what we have received – we will find nothing for which to be thankful. When we are no longer aware of the good that is in our world – our world will no longer be good.
And when Moses prophesies about the bad, he doesn’t leave out anything: diseases and enemies and epidemics and madness.
The worst of all is the loss of a homeland: exile. To be enslaved. To lose our identity. Exile is a very difficult place, a place where one feels lost and trapped. It is hard to rejoice in exile because nothing there belongs to us.
Exile does not necessarily have to be in another country. We can even feel exiled in our own homeland. When we act according to the dictates or fears of others, we are in exile. When we are faithful to others and not to ourselves we are in exile. When anger, sorrow, pain and guilt stand between us and joy, we are in exile.
This Torah portion reflects the great weight we give to the thought “I don’t have…” “I am missing out on…” This is a place of emphasizing lack and pain. This behavior takes away our joy, and then the downward spiral can be rapid. The way back home, to God, to ourselves – depends on us. It depends on the mood with which we journey in this the world.
We must learn to move from a “lack” consciousness to an “abundance” consciousness, and walk in the world with a mindset of seeing the cup half full.
This spirit will bring back joy, will bring back the pure blessing, will bring us back from “exile” to the house of God.