The Holy Arizal said that he merited his exalted levels of Divine spirit from all of his toil to find joy in performing mitzvos. How does one enjoy performing mitzvos? Mitzvah observance seems demanding. We’re often doing mitzvos for reasons we don’t fully understand and some of the mitzvos we do seem so irrelevant in our times. Even mitzvos whose significance we can appreciate, such as prayer, become so robotic over time. How can we find joy in mitzvos?
People have one of two motivations in observing the mitzvos, says Rebbe Nachman. Most people want the reward in the world to come, but some people actually enjoy the mitzvah itself. The Rebbe compares this to the difference between Moses’ ability to prophesy and the prophetic skills of our other profits. All of the other prophets were said to have seen their visions through an opaque mirror, whereas Moses saw his visions through a translucent one. This means that the other prophets were describing their interpretation of the vision, which was a subjective one seen from a distance. But Moses’ prophecy was the absolute word of God. He wasn’t speculating or interpreting the vision subjectively, but rather his humility allowed the word of God to reach the listener in its authentic form. This is the difference between doing a mitzvah for some reward in the future and doing a mitzvah for the mitzvah itself. When someone does a mitzvah for something in the future, he isn’t having pleasure now. But someone who only wants the mitzvah, experiences sheer joy from the mitzvah. The Rebbe says (Torah 5) that the Joy of Hashem is enclothed in the mitzvos. It’s His connection to us and when we are in it for its own sake we are like Moses, whose perceptions are exact. We’re able to tap into the essence of what the mitzvah is, which is joy – the joy of the Creator.
Ok, but seriously, how does this relate to me? Am I all of a sudden going to run to do a mitzvah for its purest sake? How am I, who generally performs mitzvos in cruise control, going to enjoy the mitzvah?
I think we need to read between the lines of what Rebbe Nachman is teaching here. Where are you when you’re doing a mitzvah? Are you present or are you checking it off your list? Are you mindful of what you’re doing or are you just putting one step in front of the other, because that’s what you did yesterday? Is your head focused on the mitzvah or are you concerned to present a certain way? Are you conscientious of it or are you dreaming of something else? The Rebbe is saying something very simple. To experience the joy of the mitzvah, you need to want only the mitzvah. But what if I don’t want the mitzvah? Well, no wonder you don’t find joy from it. Maybe you have ulterior motives for your mitzvah performance? Those considerations are interfering with the pleasure that’s inherent in the mitzvah itself. Mitzvos are משמחי לב, they make us happy (Psalms 19:9). Some might find that happiness from being associated with the observant community. Others might be meticulously observant for the pleasure they get when receiving honor. In the long-term those things don’t do it for me. If I’m doing this mitzvah-thing, I’m doing it because I believe in what the mitzvah itself has to offer me. But if I’m not present when I’m carrying it out, then I’m not enjoying it. If I’m not enjoying it, doing it annoys me. So my avodah is to be as mindful as I can when I’m doing it. If I’m spending the time on it anyways, it’s worth the extra effort to shut out everything else and reap the joy it has to offer.
בתוך שאר חולי ישראל Lippe Minya bat Rose רפואה שלימה