Parashat Ki Tavo

It's The Joy, Not The Oy

Our religious and spiritual experiences of serving God should be joyful and uplifting.

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We get to pray moving, ancient words every day, we get to say little blessings of gratitude before eating, we get to study laws for moral refinement, we get to sing and dance and celebrate Shabbat and the holidays, we get to bring holiness into our lives through beautiful rituals . . . . the list goes on. Making religion into a dreary drag is probably the best way possible to drive people away from it.

Maybe that's why not serving God "joyfully" is such a sin--not only do we fail to lift ourselves out of the burdens of daily life, we might even be convincing others that Judaism is a path of "oy" rather than a path of "joy."*  It's ironic, then, that in the middle of the most sobering passage in the Torah, we find a strong reminder that Judaism is supposed to be more sweetness than fright.

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Rabbi Neal J. Loevinger

Rabbi Neal Joseph Loevinger is currently the rabbi of Temple Beth-El in Poughkeepsie, NY. A former student at Kolel, he served as Kolel's Director of Outreach from late 1999-2001. He was ordained in the first graduating class of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies of the University of Judaism, and holds a Master's of Environmental Studies from York University in Toronto.