Elevating Joy (Ki Tetze)
To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven. -Johannes A. Gaertner
The Torah reading of Ki Tetze has a seemingly eclectic grouping of commandments. One of them, a biblical precursor to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations, states as follows:
When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, so that you do not bring bloodguilt on your house if anyone should fall from it. – Deuteronomy 22:10
As he typically does, the Berdichever reads deeply into the verse and comes up with some interesting revelations about joy and the ideal form of enjoying joy.
Just as one may experience joy when building a new house, so too, any new joy that one experiences, can be built up, and elevated. It starts with the realization that it all comes from God and we need to demonstrate gratitude to Him.
And just as one might build a parapet on the highest point of the structure, the roof of a house, so too, there is a way to circumscribe and direct our highest emotions of joy to gratitude. The Berdichever explains that the way to connect our joy to its divine provenance is by articulating gratitude; it is by using words of Torah, of prayer, of songs and praises to God.
The Berdichever adds that the power, the force behind the words of praise we use is also God (or God’s name to be more specific) and that in Hebrew, the numerical value of God’s name (26) is identical with the numerical value of “your roof” (26) showing the deep linkage between these concepts. We extend, enhance and elevate our joy by articulating and exhibiting gratitude, using holy words directed to God.
May we always have the state of mind to experience joy and elevate it by being grateful to its ultimate source.
To the incoming students of Midreshet Torah V’Avodah and their newly appointed Rosh Bet Midrash, Rabbanit Dr. Tamara Spitz!