Living with Constant Joy
Our Parsha begins with the verse that states, “Vehaya [And it will be] when you enter the land” (Deuteronomy 26:1), and concerning this our Sages have said, “The word vehaya always expresses joy” (Vayikra Rabba 11:4). One must therefore understand what type of joy is meant here, since the parents of all those who entered into Eretz Israel had died in the desert. They were the ones who had left Egypt, but now there was not one of them left because they did not have the merit to enter into Eretz Israel. In light of this, what could this type of joy consist of? If we say that it was the joy of bringing the first fruits, why does the Torah not immediately state, “Vehaya [And it will be] when you enter the land … you shall bring the first fruits of all the produce of the earth”? It is the entry into the land that the Torah cites as the primary reason for the joy in question.
We will attempt to explain this point. The Torah teaches us two principles here, ones from which a man should learn to diligently work on himself, and ones that explain why joy must be felt when entering into Eretz Israel. Thus everything will become perfectly clear.
These principles are as follows:
1. Man should accept everything that happens to him with joy, in the spirit of the Sages’ teaching: “One must bless G-d for evil in the same way that one blesses Him for good” (Berachot 54a) in regards to everything that concerns the observance of mitzvot. It must be understood that everything comes from G-d, Who is a righteous Judge, and that there is no reason to protest His decisions or His commandments. In fact, if He sends troubles to someone, that person must examine himself and reflect upon the reason for this decree, for “Nothing bad comes from the mouth of the Most High” (Lamentations 3:38). Consequently, everything is for a person’s good, as it is written, “Everything that the Merciful One does is for the good” (Berachot 60b), and troubles come to a man but through his own sins, for “the L-RD admonishes the one He loves” (Proverbs 3:12). Thus everything that comes to a man from G-d is for the good.
This is what we note at the moment when the Children of Israel entered into their land. True, they were in pain because of the death of their fathers, who were not even allowed to be buried in Eretz Israel, but they had to keep in mind that it was their fathers who had brought this upon themselves by speaking ill of the Holy Land. This is why their children had to enter in joy and bring the first fruits to the Sanctuary with joy, for it is only through joy that one may acquire the land and that one may serve G-d. And at that very moment, the Holy One, blessed be He, gives to the Children of Israel both material and spiritual abundance, while if they act without joy He comes and reprimands them, as it is written, “Because you did not serve the L-RD your G-d with joy” (Deuteronomy 28:47).
Consequently, at the time when the children had to enter into Eretz Israel, even if they dreaded the wars that awaited them, this should not have prevented them from acting out of joy, for the Eternal fought for them. This is the connection with the previous Parsha, Ki Teitzei (“when you go out to war”). It was forbidden for them to sadden themselves over the fact that their fathers were not to be buried in the Holy Land, for this would have undermined their joy and therefore they would have had nothing in abundance. In such a case, they would not have had any first fruits to bring.
This is why they had to repair the sin of their fathers, men who had slandered the land (Numbers 13:32), so much in fact that it had not yielded its fruit to them. It was necessary for the children to enter into the land with joy, the joy of having merited such entry, and that joy would have enabled them to accomplish with fervor the mitzvot that depend on the land. This in turn would have allowed them to have agricultural products and first fruits to bring to the Sanctuary.
2. We may also add to this and say that “Vehaya ki tavo” teaches us that one must enter into the Holy Land with joy. We must enter in joy even if there are no first fruits to bring, or even if we must suffer shame and bring them in twig baskets while the rich bring them in golden baskets (Bikurim Ch. 3, Mishnah 8). In any case, one must always rejoice and guard oneself against rebelling against G-d’s word, for “the hidden things are for the L-RD our G-d” (Deuteronomy 29:28), and only He can know the cause of our pains.
Moreover, let us imagine a person who in the past was rich and brought his first fruits in golden baskets, but now has become impoverished. He worries over what people will say about him and how the priests’ attitude toward him will be, for in his mind they will certainly not honor him as before. He risks becoming saddened and depressed in his service of G-d, and yet the Torah tells us vehaya, an expression signifying joy. This is because, regardless of the circumstance, one must bring the first fruits to the Sanctuary with joy. And in any case, one must always rejoice over having the merit to live in the Holy Land, the most important land in the eyes of the Holy One, blessed be He, and the place where the Shechinah resides for all generations. As it is written, “the eyes of the L-RD your G-d are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to year’s end” (Deuteronomy 11:12), so much so that there is no greater joy than living in the land, for the Shechinah and holiness of the land allow a man to increase in greatness, and his heart elevates itself in the ways of G-d (II Chronicles 17:6) and in His mitzvot.
One may also explain this Parsha according to the following words of the Sages: “Whoever brings a gift to a Talmid Chacham, it is as if he had offered first fruits [in the Sanctuary]” (Ketubot 105b). In fact, the generation of the desert had slandered the land, which represents the righteous, for as we know Eretz Israel is the holiest of all lands (Kelim 1:4) and instead of bringing it a gift (meaning, to attach oneself to it and to perform the mitzvot that depend on it, just as one attaches oneself to a Tzaddik), they spoke badly of it and didn’t want to bring it a gift. This is why the Eternal punished them with death in the desert without letting them enter, and by way of compensation their sons received the command to attach themselves to Eretz Israel with joy, for it represents the Tzaddik. They were commanded to enter therein and to affront all the trials awaiting them there, for better or for worse, and thus it would be as if they had brought the first fruits. For in arriving in the land, they would elevate themselves, become influenced by the purity of the Sanctuary, and would attach themselves to the path of justice and goodness.
This teaches us a great principle: One may devote oneself to study Torah without participating in the work of the land, however in that case, one would not have first fruits to bring, for one would not have any fruits at all. Thus the Torah commanded us that regardless of the circumstance, one must put an effort to work the land and to bring the first fruits to the Sanctuary. Even if someone is rich and has workers to do his work for him, he should do as much as possible to bring the fruits himself in order to show his love for the land and the mitzvot. In the same way, in our time a great person who devotes himself to Torah should not neglect to go to the Tzaddikim of his generation, without worrying about the effort and weariness that this will entail. This is because there will always be something to be learned from them, and one must do so with joy, as was the case with the Sanctuary.
This is what the expression vehaya alludes to, a word that denotes joy, for in all circumstances a man should enter the Holy Land in joy, and not in hopelessness or despair, for no harm comes from the Eternal. Thus such a man will rejoice to bring his gift, will attach himself to the land, and will be able to triumph over all obstacles and all his suffering because of joy.