Family Parsha Parshat Ki Tavo: The Power of Joy
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Ki Tavo(Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8)

The Power of Joy


Anything we do - even if it's hard - will go so much better and easier if we do it with happiness and joy rather than with a heavy heart. In this week's Torah portion, God tells the Jewish people how much they would have gained had they been more joyful while doing what He had asked of them (28:47). God wants us to be happy and life is so much better once we learn to harness the power of joy.

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In our story, a kid discovers the power of joy.

"TURNING THE TABLES"

This yucky job is going to take forever, Debbie sighed to herself as she gathered up the plates and silverware from the one of the long tables of the camp's dining hall.

At her camp, they believed it was good for the campers to help out, so they gave everyone a few chores to do. Tonight it was her turn, along with another kid, named Joy, to clear the tables after dinner.

Why couldn't they just use disposable? Debbie thought to herself as she reluctantly separated the knives, forks and spoons each in their own compartment of the collecting cart like they told her to do. She hated doing any chores, but this one was the pits.

From across the room she heard her partner, Joy, singing an upbeat tune. What is that kid so happy about? Probably because she's slacking off and expects me to do everything. Well, I'll take care of that, Debbie thought as she stomped across the room to investigate.

She saw that not only was Joy singing, but she was practically dancing around the tables.

"Hey, like it or not, we've got a job to do!" said Debbie firmly.

"Oh, hi Debbie. You surprised me," Joy said with a smile as she turned around. "I'm sorry, what did you just say?"

"I said that I hope you don't expect me to do the whole job."

"Why should I expect you to do that?" Joy asked.

"You look like you're having way too much fun to be getting much work done. I know it's a really gross job, but I just want it to be a fair split, that's all." Debbie said.

"Oh, of course," said Joy. "Well, how many tables have you cleared so far?"

"I'm half way through my second one, how about you?"

Joy giggled. "Hmm, I think this table here will make my fifth."

Debbie couldn't believe it. "You've cleared almost five tables already?"

She looked around and sure enough, there were four sparkling clean tables and a fifth one well on its way. All the plates, cups and silverware were stacked neatly - much more neatly than Debbie's were.

"How in the world did you manage to do all that so fast, even though you were singing and having a good time?"

Joy smiled and shook her head. "It's because I'm having a good time!"

"Huh?"

"When a person's happy, she can do anything. Being happy and joyful is like super-charged energizing fuel that can get you through anything in life."

"But how can you be happy about clearing tables?"

"I'm not happy about clearing tables - I'm happy about life. And at this moment of my life I happen to be clearing tables, so I might as well do it happily, no?"

"Are you for real?"

Joy giggled. "Why don't you try it and see how real it is? Just smile, then start to sing a song - at least in your mind - and before you know it you'll be a new person."

"No thanks," said Debbie, "I think I'll save my good times for good times and not for drudgery like this."

Joy shrugged, gave Debbie a patient smile and went back to her table-clearing dance.

Debbie, still feeling down about the big job in front of her, shuffled back over to her half-cleared table and sighed. She just really was not into it. Suddenly, without thinking she found herself beginning to hum a tune. Joy's weird ideas must be rubbing off on me, she thought. Strangely enough, though, she had to admit that the humming made her feel kind of good.

As Debbie went on, her humming turned into singing and she started to feel much more energized. She noticed herself working much faster, and without all the bad feelings that she was having before. Life was something she could be happy about - even now.

Before she knew it she was done clearing, and even more amazingly, feeling great. Who would have thought it was possible? Debbie asked herself, glad she had shared the night's task - and learned a great secret of life - from a kid who lived up to her name, Joy.

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Ages 3-5

Q. How did Debbie feel about her chores at first?
A. She was unhappy and it felt very hard to do them.

Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She learned from her friend that by trying to feel happy, it would be much easier.


Ages 6-9

Q. What life-lesson did Debbie learn that evening?
A. She had assumed that happiness was something that only came when you were doing something you wanted to do, but she discovered that you can act and be happy, whatever you're doing and from this gain the positive energy to succeed.

Q. What can a person do to feel more joyful?
A. Like in the story, we can hum or sing a positive tune we like. Music has a big effect on our moods. Also many find exercise is helpful to make us feel good. The act of simply smiling has a positive effect, as does thinking positive thoughts.

Spiritual exercise: One time today, smile and hum or sing a tune you like while doing a task you find difficult and see how it makes you feel.


Ages 10 and Up

Q. In your opinion, is it hypocritical to try to act joyful if we just don't feel that way? Why or why not?
A. Not at all. The natural state of a person's soul is joyful. However, it's easy for that joy to get covered up in the difficulties and worries of life. When we break through that cover-up and push ourselves to feel joy, we are merely re-connecting with our true selves and with the infinite energy of the soul.

Q. One of our sages once said that even though unhappiness isn't a sin in itself, it leads to all negative and destructive behaviors. What do you think this means?
A. When a person is down on himself and others, he becomes lethargic and loses the will to fight against his negative impulses. Nor will he have the strength to stand up for the values that mean the most to him. A happy person will find himself full of positive energy that will push him in the direction of his deepest values and most cherished goals.

Spiritual exercise: One time today, smile and hum or sing a tune you like while doing a task you find difficult and see how it makes you feel.


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Published: September 2, 2006

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