Thursday, March 11, 2010


What is a mitzvah? Do we think of a mitzvah as a good deed, an obligation, or an opportunity? The word "mitzvah" means "commandment." Hashem commands us to perform certain acts. That in itself, is something to be in awe of. There are many to choose from. They are everywhere throughout our day.

Mitzvot are special and unique. They are holy commandments given to us directly from Hashem. Each mitzvah experience is distinct in it's own special way. They are precious little diamonds floating down from Shemayim. Each one marked "special delivery." No two are alike. Each one is a unique opportunity to take the mundane acts of the day and elevate them to holiness.

Hashem is actually handing us a guide book. It is detailed, structured and comes with specific instructions. The Talmud tells us the Torah contains 613 mitzvot. There are 248 positive commandments which correspond to the 248 limbs of a person's body. The remaining 365 are the negative commandments which correspond to the days of a year. Each day we have the power to perfect ourselves spiritually, to become closer to Hashem and to lead a happier life. All because of the commandments, there for us, gift-wrapped from Hashem. All we have to do is open the package and receive the rewards.

"Mitzvah gadolah b'simcha tamid."
It's a HUGE mitzvah to ALWAYS be happy.
Hashem wants us to be happy. Sometimes, it's hard to believe but it's true. Hashem is giving us many opportunities for a happy life. He hands it over to us in His guide book of mitzvot. He tells exactly how to follow the instructions for a happy life. Often, we have to journey down a difficult path. Hashem still commands us to live with happiness. Our extreme challenge is to hold on tight and never let go.

How can we achieve that? With Mussar wisdom. Rabbi Miller teaches us through the text based on the commentary of Reb Chaim Volozhin.

“Ben Azai said: The reward of a Mitzvah is a Mitzvah.

The performance of a Mitzvah awakens joy in the soul of man. What’s more, the delight and joy that we experience through performing the Mitzvah is a separate Mitzvah, in and of itself. That is, HaShem counts the pleasure and happiness that we feel when we do a Mitzvah as an independent Mitzvah.

Therefore, whenever we perform one Mitzvah, we are actually performing two Mitzvoth. Accordingly, for each Mitzvah that we perform HaShem grants us a double reward. Specifically, HaShem rewards us both for the Mitzvah, itself, as well as, for the Mitzvah of experiencing the joy of the Mitzvah.

In this light, King David said (Tehillim 68:4), “The righteous will be glad, they will delight before HaShem; they will rejoice with happiness.” Meaning, the righteous will “be glad and delight” in the Mitzvah that they perform; additionally they will “rejoice with the happiness” of the reward of the Mitzvah that HaShem grants them.

The Talmud tells us (Pesachim 68b) that when Rabbi Sheshes would complete the review of his studies, he would sing, “Rejoice, O my soul, Rejoice O my soul.” What is the significance of twice repeating the phrase? Rabbis Sheshes’ intention was first to ask rhetorically: “In what shall my soul rejoice?” Then he responded, “My soul should rejoice in the very joy of the soul that delights in the study of Torah!”
[Based on the commentary of the Chidah to Pirkei Avot]

Simply, the mere act of performing a mitzvah awakens the joy in our soul. We are actually living by the book, doing exactly as we're told, carefully following the directions. We are doing the will of Hashem. We are sanctifying His name and living in service to Him. We are not acting as a fair-weather friend only showing up in time of need with a list of requests. We are directly communicating with Hashem. We are letting him know that we want to be close to Him, always! Hashem wants us close and Hashem wants us happy. From that... Hashem blesses us with joy.

In addition, not only does HaShem grant us blessings and eternal reward for each mitzvah that we perform. Even more, He considers each mitzvah that we do with joy as a separate independent mitzvah that carries its own blessings and eternal reward.

In His great love for us, Hashem gives us mitzvoth, that naturally awaken joy in our soul. Then, for the joy which we experience, He gives us "matching funds" -- and grants us a double portion of reward!

When we awaken to the precious opportunity that each mitzvah provides for us, we awaken the joy in the soul even when faced with a difficult mitzvah. Like a jogger going out the door on a dreary morning, when he'd rather stay in bed, he forces his body to make the move. Because he knows when he returns home, he will receive TWO REWARDS. Not only the reward of a healthier body, but the reward of feeling great.

The lesson is about training one self to have heightened awareness. Instead of struggling through mitzvot as obligations, realize the preciousness and inherent joy of each one. How many times do we have the opportunity to show Hashem how grateful we are for all the blessings He showers upon us? Through mitzvot, we can. When reading Tehillim (Psalms) for a person in need of healing or delivering a meal to a needy family, when washing for bread or saying a prayer... practice being aware that you are actually giving back to Hashem.

Too often, we become overly absorbed (with our own thoughts) regarding a mitzvah. Or sometimes, the opposite occurs and we don't even realize we are performing mitzvot, we forget what it's purpose is. The lesson teaches us to gain heightened awareness when doing mitzvot.
Like the jogger running out the door to receive two rewards, so too, should we run to do all mitzvot. And to feel the process of awakening joy in our soul. Become aware of the mitzvot you are performing and then sit back for a moment... relax and enjoy the feeling of joy.

When you perform a Mitzvah, discover the joy that awakens in your soul – and rejoice!

May you blessed with desire to run to do mitzvot!

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