kosher bookworm

At Sukkos, it’s not hard being a Jew


In school they always told you “Don’t try to take the easy way out.” You have to work hard and not expect any free rides. In business it’s the same way, and the people who take shortcuts often end up either unsuccessful or find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

But why can’t some things be easy? Does everything need to be a fight? Nope, not at all. In some scenarios it’s not a problem at all to take the easy way.

There’s a bank that I go to which has a drive-up teller. They actually have two places to pull up. One is adjacent to a teller window and the other has a pneumatic tube which is just as much fun today as when I was a kid, and in fact more fun because I’m the one who gets to operate it from the driver’s seat.

When you pull into this bank there’s a small parking lot and you drive around the u-shaped lot to enter the drive-up lanes. There is a way to cut through without going all the way to the back but there’s a sign directing people not to turn there but to go to the back. I wonder why they do this and prohibit making the earlier turn. Maybe they’re afraid too many people will come into the bank at one time and the lanes will get clogged.

That’s definitely a possibility, and one that reminds me of Simchas Torah. I mean, what is it about the circles of dancing that they keep getting tighter and tighter until people get pushed out for lack of space or so cramped they can hold the hand of the guy three people in front of them? I always try to go around an obstacle like a chair or table that requires a larger circumference, and may make people spread apart for easier movement. So, perhaps that’s what the bank is doing by ensuring that people have to drive around a longer course, thus giving them more room.

By now you’re probably asking yourself, “Ok, what is it with this guy and the bank parking lot? Who cares whether you turn where they tell you to or at the other opening?” And that’s my point exactly. When I go there and DON’T take the earlier turn, I feel like such a good boy! I’m following the rules and it’s literally no big deal. It’s not even like I’m walking those extra thirty feet. I’m driving them! But I can still feel accomplished for obeying.

When it comes to serving Hashem, we can find ourselves up against some difficult challenges. Fasting 25 hours for Yom Kippur? Hard. Finding a perfectly unblemished esrog with all the hiddurim? Pretty hard. Eating and sleeping for Oneg Shabbos? Easy shmeezy!

You see, there are some mitzvos that are very easy and yet we get rewarded for doing them. Sometimes we get rewarded even when we would have done the same thing without it. Take Hakhel for example. On Sukkos of the year following a Shemitta, everyone would go to Yerushalayim to hear the king read from the Torah. Men, women, children and even infants were commanded to be there. Why the babies? To give reward to those who bring them.

But wait a second, if everyone is at the Bais HaMikdash, there’s no one to babysit! That means they had to bring them anyway. And yet, Hashem gives us reward for listening to His word even when we have no other choice. Yes, He is just that good to us.

We’re going to eat anyway, but if we make a bracha or it’s Erev Yom Kippur or a Shabbos or Yom Tov, now it’s a mitzvah. We’re going to sleep but if we do it in the sukkah we get credit for that. Pay attention, folks, this is the easy way you’ve been hearing about. 

Whatever we do in life, direct it towards serving Hashem and it’s easy to get paid for what you’d be doing otherwise anyway. Find the mitzvos that are light and easy to do and own them! Be a boss and dominate this arena as you find simple ways to do Hashem’s bidding in your everyday life. 

Sukkos is here. It’s one of the only mitzvos you can do with your entire body. (Can you think of two more that involve your entire self?) How hard is it to fulfill the Mitzvah of Sukkah? Not hard! Just eat a cookie, take a nap, learn some Torah and be yourself, but do it in the Sukkah and you’re doing easy mitzvos. Before you go to sleep declare “I’m going to sleep to have strength to daven and learn and all those hours are counted like the ones you’re preparing for. Imagine, learning for six or eight hours straight with your eyes closed!

I don’t know who it was that said it’s hard to be a Jew, but I’m pretty sure he was doing it wrong.

Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz is a columnist and speechwriter and author of “The Observant Jew” and “Operation Inspiration.”