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An Inside Job

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You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. — Deuteronomy 28:3

The Torah portion for this week is Ki Tavo, which means “when you have entered,” from Deuteronomy 26:1–29:8, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 60:1–22.

I recently read the following insight from a psychologist who specializes in the art of happiness: “The questions you are asking yourself today will shape your life tomorrow.” In other words, the people who ask questions like, “Why is my life so horrible?” are setting themselves up for a life that might just be, well, horrible. However, those who ask questions like, “What can I learn from this?” are building a future that is better than the life they are living at the moment.

In life, our attitude often determines our altitude.

In this week’s reading, we once again encounter a list of curses that will come to pass if the children of Israel do not obey the Lord and a list of blessings if they do. In the section of blessings we read, “You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.” This verse promises that there will be blessings in the towns, where the people live, and blessings in the fields, where they work.

However, the Jewish sages point out that perhaps the order should be switched. If there are blessings in the field – meaning abundance and prosperity – then surely there will be blessings in the city as the people enjoy the fruits of their labor. Shouldn’t the promise for blessings in the field precede blessings in the town?

The sages explain that the order of the blessings teaches us something about cause and effect. While we may have thought that blessings from the outside lead to blessings on the inside, that isn’t quite true. Success in the field would not lead to happiness in the towns. It’s the other way around. If there were blessings inside the towns – if the people were happy, caring, and righteous – then that would lead to blessings out in the fields.

This teaching rings true on many levels. People go through life thinking that if their circumstances were better, then they would be happier. The thinking sometimes goes: If I were earning more money, then there would be harmony at home. If only I owned that car, then I would be happy. If only I lost fifteen pounds, if only I were married, if only I were single . . . and the list goes on. But this verse teaches us that none of that is true. Happiness is an inside job.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Choose to be happy on the inside, and look for success on the outside.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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