Rabbi Chanan Morisson
According to the Forbes report, Israel is the second happiest country in Asia (after NewZealand) . According to an OECD study of 36 democratic countries Israel is marked the sixth after the Scandinavian countries regarding Life Expectancy. Despite the Army service, terrorism and war, endless bickering and open faced arguments, the life expectancy of Israeli men is the fourth highest in the world, according to the World Health Organization and in the top ten for Israeli women. Israel also was ranked the fourth-best place to raise a family, in a poll conducted by the InterNations expat networking service.
Yet despite these statistics there are many in the world, including those living in the land that would be surprised at these facts. What then is the secret to happiness that has been discovered in Israel?
In this week’s Toarh portion of Ki Tavo, the people of Israel are given instructions for events that are yet to come.
“And it will be, when you come into the land which Hashem, your G-d, gives you for an inheritance, and you possess it and settle in it, that you shall take of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you will bring from your land, which Hashem, your G-d, is giving you. And you shall put [them] into a basket and go to the place which Hashem, your G-d, will choose to have His Name dwell there. “( Deuteronomy 26:1-2)
After describing the trial and tribulations suffered by this emerging nation at the hands of the Arameans ( Laban) and then the Egyptians the farmer continues to declare;
“And Hashem brought us out from Egypt with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm, with great awe, and with signs and wonders. And He brought us to this place, and He gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” ( ibid: 8-9)
As a result of being gifted with the land the farmer continues with the words
“And now, behold, I have brought the first of the fruit of the ground which you, O Lord, have given to me.” Then, you shall lay it before Hashem, your G-d, and prostrate yourself before Hashem, your G-d. (ibid 10)
Then the Torah makes the following declarative statement
“Then, you shall rejoice with all the good that Hashem, your G-d, has granted you and your household you, the Levite, and the stranger who is among you”.(ibid 11)
The Torah does not tell us that then “you should rejoice “but rather, “ you shall rejoice”. What would lead to such a dramatic and unwavering statement? What is the secret of this rejoicing?
The answer may lie hidden within the following. The farmer begins his declaration in the temple with these words”
“I declare this day to Hashem, your G-d, that I have come to the land which Hashem swore to our forefathers to give us.”( ibid 3) .Yet when he finishes describing the long arduous path that he and his people have had to walk in order to get “to the land which Hashem swore to our forefathers to give ” he declares “And He brought us to this place, and He gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”(ibid 9)
The declaration should have read” He gave us this land and brought us to this place”. The land should have preceded the place of the Temple.
Yet the farmer was not to forget “the song” his forefathers sang as they crossed the red sea.” You shall bring them and plant them on the mount of Your heritage, directed toward Your habitation, which You made, O Lord; the sanctuary, O Lord, [which] Your hands founded.” (Exodus 15:17).
This ,the “song” teaches us, is so that “Hashem will reign to all eternity “ (ibid:18).
The land of Israel was not meant to simply a place of habitation. It was not meant to be simply a “start up nation” of invention and creative energy.
It was to be a place that would become the abode of Hashem’s house. That awareness of Hashem’s Presence is being experienced by more and more people in the world. itt is something that is sensed by many people in this land. Even those who claim to be “secular” never really are. They too sense a dramatic move of history and destiny in this place.
When one truly understands this point .When one knows that the purpose of this journey is acknowledge “He brought us to this place” and then to understand why “He gave us this land” then one immediately and automatically experiences true joy.
Though many would not define the feelings in this way and others don’t really understand what it is they are feeling but that sense of Destiny is palpable. That sense of destiny and purpose is the root of deep happiness and rejoicing.
Le-Refuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved