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August 11, 2019 – 11:11 pm | 42 views

G-d wants our love. How much love does He want? Whatever we are prepared to give, and then some.
“And you shall love G-d with all your heart, with all your life, and with all your might.”[1] This verse demands that we give G-d three kinds of love. The love of …

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Home » B'Har

B’har: To Be Happy

Submitted by on May 25, 2019 – 11:32 pmNo Comment | 172 views

Happy is the farmer who learns to trust in G-d. When Jewish farmers in Israel let their fields lie fallow on the Sabbatical year, they leave their fate to G-d. How do they feed their families if they don’t plant all year? G-d instructs us not to worry about that and leave it instead to G-d.[1]

This is reminiscent of the Talmudic prayer, “May my livelihood be sweet from G-d’s hand rather than bitter from human hands.”[2]

On the face of it, this prayer is confusing. When our livelihood comes from our hands, when we work our fields and reap the yield, life is sweet. We work hard and provide for our needs. We sleep well knowing where our next dollar will come from. Life is sweet today because we know what we will eat tomorrow. But if we leave it to G-d, our lives become stressed and tense. We have no idea how we will pay our bills or feed our family. We go to sleep tonight not knowing where our money will come from tomorrow.

Sowing with Tears
I once heard a lovely explanation to a verse we often chant, but don’t often analyze. The Psalmist wrote, “Those who sow with tears, with song they will reap.”[3] This verse has an anomaly. In the first clause, the subject precedes the predicate. They sow in tears. In the second clause, the predicate precedes the subject. With song they will reap. Why did the Psalmist modify the sentence structure?

On the surface it appears that the Psalmist is describing the same person. He cries when he sows because he doesn’t see the fruit of his labor, but he sings when he reaps because he is coming home with food.

But there is a deeper concept at play here. The Psalmist is describing two kinds of people. The first laments because he doesn’t have. His happiness hinges on his livelihood. If he has what he needs, he is happy. If he doesn’t, he is unhappy. He can’t sing before he reaps, he doesn’t know how. He sows to be happy, but happiness eludes him until he reaps—he therefore sows in tears.

The second person is happy regardless of what he has. He doesn’t reap with song; he sings whether he has or not. His state of happiness is inherent.  He is a singer. He is inherently happy. And because he is happy, he reaps. When our happiness depends on our handiwork, we are always on edge. We have enough for today, but what about tomorrow? When our happiness is inherent, we go about life happily and because we are happy, things work themselves out. In song we reap.

This helps us answer our first question. It is true that the person who plants in the seventh year knows where tomorrow’s food will come from. He has taken charge of his destiny and he knows how he will feed his family tomorrow. But he can’t relax. The very fact that he couldn’t abide by G-d’s instruction to let the field lie fallow and trust G-d to provide, tells us that he sows in tears. He is a perpetual worrier. He can’t let go; he must be in control. So, he sows and worries. Will it be a good crop? Will the rain fall? Will the sun shine? Even if he has enough for this year, he worries about next year. He will sow but he will always cry.

The farmer who lets his field lie fallow and is comfortable leaving his livelihood in G-d’s hands, is ironically the one who can rest easily. He sleeps at night though he doesn’t know where his money will come from. He doesn’t think he needs to know. He is comfortable leaving it to G-d. So long as G-d tells him to work his field, he works it. And when G-d tells him to leave it fallow, he leaves it. He knows that his efforts don’t net him his income. His income comes from G-d. He is happy. He sings. And because he does, everything works out. In song he will reap.

This is the meaning of the Talmudic prayer, “May my livelihood be sweet from G-d’s hand rather than bitter from human hands.” When I am able to surrender and leave it to G-d, I sleep sweetly at night. When I insist on taking over for G-d, I live with the illusion of control, but my life is bitter and worrisome.

Coming and Going
When we burrow further into this psalm, we find another delightful nugget that reinforces our message. The Psalmist went on to write, “Go he will go while weeping. . . arrive he will arrive with song. . .”

Some people spend their lives going, others spend their lives arriving. The difference between going and arriving is the focus of our attention. Those who go, feel that they have left their best years behind. With every step they travel further away from where they want to be, and they weep. Those who arrive, feel that their best years are ahead. With every step they come closer to where they want to be and no wonder they sing. Those who go, go in tears. Those who arrive, arrive with song.

The previous verse spoke of those whose happiness depends on their livelihood. For such people, the most important aspect of life is their material existence. So long as they are alive, they feel that they exist. They worry every day about the day of their demise. When the lights go out, will they still exist? What will happen to them? With each passing day they become more aware of their mortality. They worry about their body weakening and about the day they will no longer be able to fend for themselves. They travel through life going­—traveling away from their best days, and they weep. What a sad state of affairs.

Compare that to those who spend their days arriving. These people see life differently. To them, the most important part of life is the opportunity to serve G-d and to develop a relationship with Him through His Mitzvot. The reward for this service will only become manifest when they shuffle off this mortal coil and return their souls to their Maker. With every day they become more and more worthy of that reward. They journey through life arriving—traveling toward their best days, and they sing. What a happy state of affairs.

People like that don’t waste their time worrying about where their next meal will come from. Those are the minor concerns of life and they trust G-d to look after that. Life’s major concern is that they fulfill the purpose for which they were created. With every passing day, they gain another opportunity to serve G-d, and with that they rejoice. They don’t sweat the small stuff because they believe with every fiber of their being that if they take care of G-d’s interests, G-d will take care of their needs.

When we adopt this mindset, every step of life becomes a happy tune. We are constantly singing, constantly arriving. Drawing ever closer to our destination. We fear not. We worry not. We rejoice. We are happy. And we don’t go hungry. Ultimately, we place our lives in G-d’s hands and He provides for us. It isn’t always what, how and when we want, but it is always exactly what we need.

We sing and therefore we reap. Not only material provisions, but spiritual provisions too.

When all is said and done, I can’t think of anyone who would rather sow and weep than sing and reap.

[1] Leviticus 20:22.

[2] Babylonian Talmud, Eruvin 18b.

[3] 126:6.

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