Why we do Mitzvos
[Editor’s note: As a memory of my beloved brother Shaya, I would like to continue sending out his pearls of wisdom that he has shared with all of you in the past. For some of you this may ring a bell and for others it may appear to be totally new. May the learning of Shaya’s Divrei Torah inspire us to change our ways and thereby give an Aliya to the neshama of our dear beloved Shaya whom we miss so much.]
One of Avraham’s ten great tests occurs at the beginning of this week’s Parsha: to leave his birthplace and travel to where G-d instructs him to go. G-d promises Avraham that if he listens, He will make Avraham into a great nation, bless Avraham with riches, and make his name great.
With all of these guaranteed rewards, wouldn’t it have been very easy for Avraham to listen and go? Why is this challenge considered to be one of Avraham’s ten greatest challenges?
Some of the commentators answer that Avraham’s test was to listen solely because it was G-d’s will, not because of all the benefits that would come from it. The test was the KAVANA [the INTENT].
Avraham passed the test with flying colors, as the Pasuk attests that Avraham left solely because it was G-d’s commandment.
This is a very applicable lesson for all of us. There are many aspects of Yiddishkeit where the act of the Mitzva is very pleasurable. What separates the ‘Adult from the child’ is the kavana. Are we eating because we enjoy food, or because we need to eat to stay healthy in order to serve Hashem properly? Are we learning solely because we love the intellectual stimulation and depth, or because Hashem wants us to study His Torah and get pleasure from it? Do we look forward to Shabbos as the day when we can simply relax from our hectic schedule, or as the day that we can connect to Hashem better without all of the distractions?
These are lofty goals, but as descendants of Avraham Avinu, we have that innate spiritual DNA to rise to the occasion of doing the Mitzvos solely because it is Hashem’s will, even though we derive pleasure from them.
[Editor’s Note: I think that this is a beautiful thought to keep in mind for this week’s Shabbos Project. Four summers ago, I had the privilege of going to Sydney, Australia on a SEED program. The program was a spectacular experience that I will never forget. At the end of the summer, I gave a good-bye speech.
One of the points I mentioned was that I gained so much from the teenagers asking questions, like “How do you know this law?” or “Why do you do this?” “What is the point of this Mitzva?” etc. My knee-jerk reaction was that we do it because Hashem said to… and then I thought to myself these teenagers were never exposed to the beauty and warmth of Yiddishkeit! How are they supposed to know what is the right thing to do!
Many people who grow up in a Frum environment just take for granted the sanctity of Shabbos: the holiness, the davening, the food, family time etc. We don’t realize what a treat we have with us every week. Sometimes it takes an outsider to allow us to appreciate what we have.
I think that this is one of Shaya’s points in this week’s dvar torah: we have to think about why we do Mitzvos and only that way will we be able to appreciate them properly.
Have a wonderful Shabbos!!]