People often assume the impossibility of observing all the mitzvot in the Torah, and therefore, make no effort to even try. In our modern world of “doing what we want,” and “answering to no one,” the idea of living within a holy framework of ritual observance seems backward. Freedom is what we all desire, right? As such, what is the purpose in keeping the mitzvot?
The Torah teaches us that there is a great purpose in keeping G-d’s commands:
The purpose is that you should enter into the covenant of HaShem your G-d and into His oath which HaShem is making with you today, so that He can establish you today for Himself as a people, and so that He will be your G-d – as He said to you and as He swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Deut. 29:11-12)
G-d’s desire is to set us apart. To establish His covenant with us, and be in relationship with us. Through the observance of G-d’s will for our lives, He imparts vision and blessing unto us and to our children. This responsibility to walk in the halakhah, in the way of G-d’s instructions, is not simply for our ancestors. It is an act that involves each of us today:
For I am not making this covenant and this oath only with you. Rather, I am making it both with those who are standing here with us today before HaShem our G-d and also with those who are not here with us today. (Deut. 29:13-14)
G-d gives each one of us, in every generation, the opportunity to walk out His Torah. It was not meant to cause us to stumble, but rather, to give us the opportunity to be in connection with G-d. To be partners with G-d in bringing redemption into the world.
According to Abraham Joshua Heschel, the Torah is an answer to the supreme question: What does G-d demand of us? G-d is in passionate pursuit of a relationship with us. For Heschel, God’s search of man, not man’s quest for G-d, was conceived to have been the main event in Israel’s history. The way to G-d is the way of G-d, and the mitzvot are 613 ways of G-d, a way where the self-evidence of the Holy is disclosed.
Observing the mitzvot is the opportunity to take a leap of action rather than a leap of thought. HaShem never promised that it would be easy, but He did promise that it would be possible.
For this command I am giving you today is not too hard for you, it is not beyond your reach…On the contrary, the word is very close to you – in your mouth, even in your heart; therefore, you can do it! (Deut. 30:11, 14)
As we prepare for Rosh HaShanah beginning Sunday night, may we truly see the value of keeping G-d’s mitzvot, and may we grow exponentially in our pursuit of HaShem in the coming New Year!
“L’Shanah Tovah Tikateivu – May you be inscribed for a sweet New Year!”