Parashat Re’eh – Shabbat Mevarachim
In our parashah this week we find two times where God commands us to rejoice and to celebrate. The first, when we bring our offerings to the Temple, we are told to bring them and rejoice together with our household, “you your sons, your daughters and with your male and female slaves.” (Deut 12:12) and then again at the end of the portion when God commands us concerning Sukkot: bring your offerings and celebrate “you shall have nothing but joy.” (Deut 16:15)
It is not merely suggested to us that we celebrate but rather we are commanded; mark these precious moments, fill them with joy and celebration. And this is not a solo enterprise, it is for us to do together, as a household, as a community. Sometimes I think that we get so caught up in the daily grind of life, the rush, the pressures, the stress of living that we do not take the time to celebrate, to really rejoice in the special moments. God recognized that in us and so commanded that at least twice a year we should stop and remember the reasons we have for joy and rejoicing. Even those times when it seems there is nothing to celebrate, we are told; stop, celebrate, find something for which to be grateful and fill your hearts with joy, just for that moment.
And I think we are in desperate need of hearing that message, to be told to stop and celebrate, surround ourselves with love and fill our hearts with joy. Not only at special birthdays, anniversaries, but in our regular, ordinary, everyday lives. Celebrate the beauty of the moments, be thankful and grateful be filled with joy for what we have and not what we don’t have.
I know that it is so easy to say and all of us know the truth and wisdom of living a more balanced life, but it is so hard to do. It is such a struggle to fight constantly against the messages which come from the world around us. We see such excess. Celebrities and stars are presented as real, it is suggested that we should aspire to have what they have; handbags which cost as much as the gdp of a small nation, exotic holidays, mansions…
But Judaism is incredibly wise, it tells us to focus our energies in another direction, it calls upon us to take notice of what we have rather than to concentrate on what we do not have. Every day each of us are called upon to say 100 blessings. To give thanks, 100 times every day and when we say blessings it helps to elevate us.
It focuses our mind for just a moment on what we have to be thankful and grateful for in our lives. Scientists have been studying happiness and they found that people who kept a gratitude journal, writing down every day something for which they are grateful, were much happier and healthier than others. Judaism has its own gratitude journal, it is the system of blessings that we are called upon to recite every day, reminding us to stop, just for a moment, rejoice and be grateful for the small things we may otherwise take for granted. Or walk on by without noticing. Sometimes it takes those things to be taken from us before we really appreciate them. But Judaism struggles with us to be sure that does not happen. So in the mornings we thank God for giving us another day of life, for the world, for the sunshine for the rain, for making our bodies, for giving us insight and wisdom, for the beauty around us.
I hope and pray that we can celebrate and find joy in our blessings, to find the beauty in the world and to be grateful and thankful for what we have rather than resentful for what we do not have.