You should be happy with all of the good which G-d your lord has given you….
From here we learn that it is a Mitzvah to be happy. This Parasha not only tells us to be happy but it tells us how. First, let me tell you about research done by Psychologists on the Subject of Happiness.
It has been proven that people learn their opinions and even moods through their own actions. While reading a funny story people were asked to place a pen in their mouths. Some were asked to leave their lips open and place the pen between their teeth, this looks and feels like a smile. Others were asked to place it between their lips which simulates a frown.
The subjects who had their lips open and seemed to be smiling consistently thought that the stories were very funny. The others did not get the Joke.
The conclusion from this is that if you force a smile you will be happy. This is also the lesson from our Parasha.
Let’s look at the context in which we find the commandment to be happy. We are told to bring the first fruits of our harvest to the Beit Hamikdash. First fruits in themselves are a thrilling experience.
The trip to Jerusalem was a thrilling experience. The fruits themselves were to be packed into a beautiful basket. If the person could afford it he would use a basket of precious metal. The poor would make a pretty straw basket. The oxen which were brought as sacrifices were also decorated. Acting happy causes a person to feel happy.
Upon entering Jerusalem the pilgrims were officially greeted and musically escorted to the Beit Hamikdash. In the Beit Hamikdash the Levites would sing a portion of Tehilim for them. It has been said that music in the Beit Hamikdash was almost heavenly.
Their was a ceremony in giving the first fruits to the Cohen. Most know the ceremony by heart since it is part of the Passover hagadah. Arami oved Ami… An Aramian wanted to kill my father.
This statement is said by the people who brought the Bikurim – first fruits in order to instill happiness in themselves.
True happiness is the opposite from what many believe it is. The happiness which the Torah proclaims is being happy giving away what you have for communal good. This is the opposite of individualism.
Believe it or not, research has shown that people who are involved in healthy giving relationships with family, the poor and G-d are happier then selfish people. The research has already been stated in the Torah in our Pasuk which finishes off by saying:
You should be happy with all that G-d your lord has given you your family, You and the Levy and the stranger who lives with you.
This teaches us an incredible lesson. I have said to many people many times that if you want to be selfish and make sure that people always worry about you and how you are, you need to be selfless and give to your time and energy to those around you. Real selfishness is selflessness.
Today, We do not have the Mitzvah of Bikurim since we do not have a Beit Hamikdash to bring it to. Instead we can learn from the principle behind it. We learned two concepts behind happiness which research has proven. If you act happy you will indeed feel happier. People who worry about their family, the poor and G-d are happier than those who believe in individuality.
Toldot Yaakov Yosef says that physical happines with food can affect the soul and stick to G-d.
The Whole Mitzvah makes a person act happy. After harvesting the first fruits a whole group of people from the same area would get together in the city to make the pilgrimage. When they arrived in Jerusalem city and temple officials would greet them.
Someone would play the flute for them until they reached the Biet Hamikdash. Once they were at the Beit Hamikdash each individual would carry his own basket for the distance to the Azarah. Once in the Azarah the Levites would sing for them in the company of G-d and all other Jews, even if they are poor.
In a class I once mentioned that…. Judaism is a religion which calls for actions. Not only actions of being kind. We are asked to do actions which teach us a lesson. The most common example is putting on Tefillin. When you put on Tefillin you should think about how G-d takes special care of us and that he took us out of Egypt.