This week’s Torah reading contains the passage of “Shema,” in which the Torah commands us, “And you shall love your God with your entire heart and your entire soul.” On a simple level, we are hereby instructed to evoke our emotions to feel tremendous love for God. But how does this apply on a practical level?
The Seforno give the following interpretation: “You should rejoice in doing something which will be found favorably in His eyes, as you understand that there is no other objective as honorable as this one.” The Seforno has hereby paved a road for us in putting love towards our Creator into practice. It is incumbent upon us to recognize the awesome greatness which lies in any accomplishment of performing deeds which God favors.
The Chofetz Chaim (in Shem Olam, part 2, chapter 11) expounds on this concept and says: “Behold, when we examine our matters we will see visibly how because we are consumed by our many worldly stresses, we have lost the natural sense implanted in Man’s soul. We see that if a person has the privilege of speaking to a king, and he understands that the king is satisfied with him, and the king issues the command to inscribe this person’s wise words in his archives, what a mighty impression this will make on him! His excitement would be so intense and uncontainable, that as soon as he comes home he won’t be able to withhold himself from telling his family, friends and everyone he knows, about his experience. His face would shine from joy over this experience and the impression this made on him would be evident. Even if beforehand he was consumed with worries about caring for his household, they would all melt away in face of his great joy. For years to come he would continuously recall this experience and how the king granted him acknowledgement. And now let us observe, if this is how it would be if someone was privileged to speak to a king of flesh and blood, which is only temporary glory coming from a person who cannot extend his life one moment more than was decreed upon him, how much more so, thousands upon thousands of times over, in front of God, Who is the God of the whole universe, and exists forever. When one fulfills any Torah commandment He commanded us, and he makes a blessing, speaking in first person as if he is talking to his friend in front of him, or when he studies Torah, certainly the glory of God is there… God is certainly happy with him and he is inscribed in God’s books… And this will be for him a great honor and everlasting glory in the World to Come for having the privilege of serving God in this world. How befitting is it for a person to rejoice with immense joy at a time that he performs a Mitzvah (Torah commandment), and afterwards as well!”
Rebbetzin Kanievsky was known for her love of Mitzvos. Despite the help she was offered, she was always meticulous about placing the fish balls in the pot with her own hands, to cook in honor of Sabbath. Once when she was in the middle of preparing the fish she left the kitchen to speak to someone. While she was out, her daughter completed the job in an effort to help out her mother. When she returned to the kitchen, not only was she not relieved to have had the task completed by another, she was dismayed by the fact that her Mitzvah was “taken away” from her.
When a person really appreciates what a Mitzvah is, he delights in it, and feels sorry when an opportunity for one is lost. This might seem like a lofty concept, but it’s really just a matter of getting used to the idea. We are used to thinking of doing a Mitzvah as merely “getting a check on God’s chart” which we can redeem for reward at a later point. But this is nothing more than an undeveloped, childish perception. The commandment to serve God with love is not reserved for the elite, but was given to every Jew. To accomplish this, we must broaden our minds in realizing what a Mitzvah really is.
One single small Mitzvah is more significant, without comparison, than all other accomplishments of Mankind put together. What could be greater than doing an act applauded by the Almighty Himself?! From time to time, we must take a few moments to internalize this concept. When we do any Mitzvah, we should imagine God smiling at us in Heaven, beaming with pride as he calls over the angels and instructs them to inscribe our deeds. If we learn to appreciate just how tremendously great doing any single Mitzvah is, we can be sure that we will naturally be more invigorated to serve God with love.
Rabbi Yitzchok Aryeh Strimber (firstname.lastname@example.org)