In the infamously harsh passages known simply as the 'Tochacha' or Rebuke, the Torah spells out lists of every possible negative consequence – many of them too horrific to even contemplate. The Torah further teaches us that these are the inevitable results of sinning grievously. What moral debauchery is responsible for prompting Hashem's harsh response? The passuk spells it out.
"תחת אשר לא עבדת את השם א-לוקיך בשמחה ובטוב לבב מרב כל"
"In exchange for your failure to serve Hashem your G-d with happiness and a gladdened heart for the abundance [that you have received]"
The simple meaning directs us to the unshakeable stark truth – that pious, meticulous service is meaningless (actually far, far worse) if it is not performed properly. With the light, happy heart of someone truly grateful, and mindful of the glorious privilege it is to be performing that service.
But the Kotzker Rebbe taught us a deeper meaning, a meaning that has serious implications for our Elul and approaching Judgment Day.
The Kotzker said the passuk can be read with parenthesis bracketing the first phrase. So it would connote the following. Hashem is afflicting you with this suffering in exchange for your lack of service of Hashem, not only your lack of service – but the lack that you performed with happiness and a gladdened heart ! The passuk is not lamenting lethargy – but rather condemning active sin! Not any old sin – but the worst possible kind – the total ungratefulness of someone whose life is filled with blessings from Hashem turning around and rebelling against Him, and being happy about it!!!
Well, this idea certainly opens up our understanding of the severity of the consequences. But it also contributes to our path of return.
If we are not yet on the level where we can desist from our wrongdoings ( however slight or macabre they be ) we can at least feel bad about doing them. In the book of divine accounts, teach the baalei mussar, an entry of an act of sin is far more than a binary notation. Hashem sees all circumstances and motivations that you have. He also notes whether the act was done with a sigh or not.
There is a world of difference between chasing our physical pleasures heedlessly and willingly and succumbing to a moment of weakness and a chink in our staunch resolve. This Elul let us advance on all fronts in our service of Hashem –
- Improve the mitzvos we can.
- Take on the mitzvos we should.
- Avoid the temptations that are prevalent.
- and at the very least … if the desire to sin is too great – at least regret it. Regret it before it even happens. This way we are at least innocent of the heinous charge of sinning gleefully.