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No road too long for this package

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This week, we read the parsha of Re’eh, in which Moses instructs the Jewish people to bring their tithes to Jerusalem. For those who lived far from Jerusalem, there was a dispensation to bring the monetary value of the tithe and buy in Jerusalem instead of bringing everything with them. “If the road will be too long for you so that you cannot carry it, because the place that G-d, your G-d, will choose to place His name there is far from you.” [14:24]

“The place that G-d, your G-d, will choose to place His name,” in Hebrew, hamakom, is a reference to the Beit Hamikdash, the Temple that stood in Jerusalem. As the Jewish nation spread across the holy land, and in Second Temple times even to Babylon, it was often too far away to bring fruits and animals. Why does the verse need to repeat this with the double comment of, “If the road will be too long for you”, and “because the place … is far from you”?

The Dubna Maggid (d. 1804) clarifies with one of his parables on a verse in Isaiah (43:22): “You did not call out to me, Jacob, because you grew weary of me, Israel.”

Someone once sent a messenger to pick up a package. Afterwards, the messenger refused the payment offered, claiming that it wasn’t sufficient for carrying such a heavy bundle. In amazement, the sender said, “If the package was so heavy, obviously you weren’t carrying my package. My package was very small and contained valuable gems.” Similarly, the prophet is saying to the Jewish people, “If you grow weary and become tired doing my mitzvot, obviously you didn’t call out to me, Jacob.” In other words, they weren’t done for his sake – the sake of heaven – because his mitzvot are a delight not a burden.

We’re now in the month of Elul, in which we spend time in preparation for the high holidays. During this month, it’s traditionally a time to look back over the year that has gone by and make firm resolutions for the coming year.

As we look back, it’s easy to slip into feelings of entitlement. We may feel that we have been good Jews, fulfilled our responsibilities to G-d, but that He has been lacking to us. Chassidic philosophy teaches about awe and love of G-d. When we contemplate the awesomeness of Almighty G-d, it should engender feelings of deep love and appreciation for everything He does for us. Wishing you a ksiva v’chasima tova.

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