One way of looking at this week’s Torah portion of parashat Ki Tavo would be to say that this is not a Torah portion for the faint-hearted! Reading the part of the portion that spells out the ‘curses’ which are the result of abandoning our covenant with Hashem, is chilling and disturbing! Scary stuff! But what’s really scary is that we forget about Hashem and abandon Him – not the other way around. He never abandons us. Buts life without an awareness of Hashem’s presence at every moment, and life without a connection to the Torah and commandments – is like a living death. And how ironic, how seemingly inexplicable, that the very same Torah portion of ‘Ki Tavo’ begins with the beautiful commandment of the bringing of the bikurim, the first fruits, which is an experience that is literally the pinnacle of joy, the realization that everything we have is a gift from Heaven!
The truth is, there is no irony here, and no contradiction. Hashem only wants good for us. Everything, every blessing and every success in our lives, depends on our recognition of Him, and the secret of joy is to know that whatever we need (not what we ‘want’ but what we ‘need’) is exactly what we have, with love from Him to us.
The most amazing verse of the parasha (Deut. 28:47) tells us the reason why we would be overtaken by the curses: ‘Because you did not serve Hashem your G-d with joy, and with gladness of heart, from an abundance of everything.’ Not because we did not obey Him and not because we worshiped idols and not because we did not keep the commandments….but simply because we did not serve Hashem (meaning, we did not live our lives, because 'serving Hashem' is a life's work) with joy, joyously realizing how many reasons we have to be glad, and how we are blessed with an abundance of everything…because what we have is exactly what we need. May we merit to serve Hashem with joy and gladness and appreciation for everything, for all the good in our lives.