The Greatness of Constant Joy
It is written, “Vehaya [And it will be], when you enter the land” (Devarim 26:1).
We are familiar with what our Sages have taught, namely that the term vehaya always denotes joy (Bereshith Rabba 42:3). That said, we need to understand exactly what joy this verse is referring to. In fact the parents of those who entered Eretz Israel had died in the desert, for they had been the generation which left Egypt. None of them remained, and they did not even deserve to enter the land. So what exactly is joy doing in this verse?
If we think that this joy refers to bringing the firstfruit, then why does the Torah not state: “Once you are in the land, you shall immediately bring the fruit of the earth”? Why does it say, “When you enter the land,” which seems to imply that this joy is directly related to entering Eretz Israel?
We shall attempt to explain. Here the Torah is teaching us two principles that a person focus on in order not to stumble. It will also teach him why, when he enters the land, he should be joyful. This approach will enable us to explain everything.
1. A person is obligated to accept everything with love, as the Sages have said: “It is incumbent on man to bless [G-d] for evil in the same way as for good” (Berachot 54a; Zohar II:174a). He must realize that everything comes from Hashem, Who is the Judge of truth, and that he has no reason to protest against how He deals with us. If Hashem has caused someone pain, he must search his soul and ask himself why it happened to him, for evil cannot come from the Most High (Eicha 3:38). We may therefore say that everything is for the good; all that the Merciful One does is for the good (Berachot 60b). It is man’s fault that misfortunes come upon him, and “Hashem admonishes the one He loves” (Mishlei 3:12).
We see this when the Children of Israel entered Eretz Israel. Although they were suffering because their fathers had died, and also because their fathers were not found worthy of entering the land, they had to realize that everything was their fault because they had spoken ill of the Holy Land. That is why the children had to enter the land with joy, as well as to bring the firstfruit to the Temple with joy.
It was only through joy that they could acquire the land, for it is through joy that we can serve Hashem. When this happens, the Holy One, blessed be He, sends an abundance of sustenance and sanctity upon the Jewish people. However if we do not act with joy, then admonishment comes, as it is written: “Because you did not serve Hashem your G-d amid joy” (Devarim 28:47).
As a result, when the Children of Israel were about to enter Eretz Israel with joy, despite fearing the battles that awaited them, they could be certain that Hashem would fight for them. Herein lies the connection between this week’s parsha and last week’s parsha, Ki Teitzei. They were forbidden to succumb to sadness and pain because their fathers had not been able to enter Eretz Israel. Otherwise, they would not have an abundance of fruit to bring as firstfruit.
This is why they had to rectify the sin of their fathers, who had spoken ill of the land (Bamidbar 13:32), and for whom the land had not yielded its fruits. It is also why they had to enter the land with joy, which primarily concerned their entry into Eretz Israel. They would thus rectify, with even greater power, the mitzvot that depend upon Eretz Israel, and they would have fruit and firstfruit to bring to the Temple.
2. We may add that the expression vehaya ki tavo teaches us that we must enter the Holy Land with joy. Even the poor, those who had almost nothing to bring as firstfruit – and who were ashamed of the small baskets which they used to bring their firstfruit, given that the rich brought theirs in golden baskets (Bikkurim 3:8) – had to be joyful and not protest, for hidden things belong to Hashem our G-d (Devarim 29:28), Who alone knows the reasons for what He does.
Furthermore, someone who was rich and accustomed to bringing his firstfruit in a golden basket – but then lost his wealth and had very little left, thus becoming worried about what people would say about him and how the kohanim would treat him, without as much respect as before – was liable to lose hope and become depressed in serving Hashem. Nevertheless, the Torah tells us vehaya, which denotes joy. In other words, whatever your situation is, bring your firstfruit to the Temple with joy. In any case, we must be joyful to be able to live in the Holy Land, which represents the firstfruit of the entire world for Hashem, the land in which the Shechinah dwells in every generation. Of the Holy Land it is written: “The eyes of Hashem your G-d are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to year’s end” (Devarim 11:12). There can be no greater joy than this! In fact due to the Shechinah and the sanctity of the land, a person can grow spiritually and his heart can become elevated in the ways of Hashem and His mitzvot (II Chronicles 17:6).
We may also explain this week’s parsha according to a statement of the Sages: “One who brings a gift to a talmid chacham is as if he had offered firstfruit” (Ketubot 105b). In fact the generation of the desert spoke ill of the land, which alludes to the tzaddik, for as we know Eretz Israel is the holiest of all lands. Instead of bringing a gift to the tzaddik, we observe the mitzvot that depend upon the land, like someone who cleaves to the truth. The land was disparaged – people did not want to seize the opportunity and bring a gift – which is why Hashem punished that generation measure for measure by forbidding them from entering the land. On the other hand, the children of that generation were seized by a great joy for Eretz Israel, which is like the tzaddik, and they held firm in every trial. Hence it was as if they offered firstfruit, since they elevated themselves upon entering the land, they were influenced by the holiness of the Temple, and they adhered to a good and upright way of life.
We learn a great principle from this: A person can continuously learn without ever doing work in the field, but in that case he will be unable to bring firstfruit, for he will have grown no fruits. Nevertheless, the Torah commands us to put an effort into it, to work the earth and bring firstfruit to the Temple. Even if someone is wealthy and has people working for him, he must still put an effort into bringing these fruit himself, to demonstrate his love for the land and the mitzvot.
In fact today, even if someone studies Torah himself, it does not prevent him from going to see the tzaddikim of the generation and not to worry about the difficulties and hardships involved. This is because he will always have something to learn from the tzaddik, and he will go to see him with joy, as people did in the era of the Temple.
Hence this is the meaning of vehaya, an expression denoting joy, for regardless of the situation that a person finds himself in, he must enter Eretz Israel with joy, not with despair or sadness, knowing that no evil comes from Hashem. He will then bring a gift with joy and be able to overcome all obstacles and difficulties because of this joy.