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Shabbat Parashat Behar 5775

Ein Ayah: Mitzvot and the Berachot on Them

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 2:22-23)

Gemara:  What beracha does one recite [on the lighting of Chanuka candles]? He recites: “… Who sanctified us with His mitzvot and commanded us …”


Ein Ayah: Every mitzva certainly has a special purpose. This is true for the mitzva in general, as the existence of the mitzva and the fact that it is fulfilled have a positive impact on the world. Every specific act of mitzva fulfillment also plays its role in bringing the overall good for which the mitzva was intended. The broadest view of the impact of a mitzva is possible when it is seen as part of an entire set of mitzvot, which is such a powerfully lofty goal that is glorious beyond description.

In regard to practice, a person is limited and can only perform an act of mitzva as prescribed by his specific obligation and fulfillment, according to the situation and time. However, there are no limitations in the realm of the idea of the mitzva. One can rise to the loftiest goals possible by connecting to the power of the mitzvot as a whole and throughout time to which his specific mitzva is certainly linked. This connection is made by means of the beracha that one makes on mitzvot.

The purpose of the mitzvot is to elevate life to the highest possible level, at which point life itself has its own independent value. Otherwise, life in the present era, which is full of flaws and shortcomings, is not fit to be a goal of existence, as “against one’s will he lives” (see Avot 4:22).  Only in the future will life be an end rather than a means, as it will be pleasant and full of wisdom, power, justice, and joy. Mitzvot are arranged as straight lines that lead life to the goal of sanctity, and sanctity is by its definition a goal rather than a means. The mitzvot are able to cling to the person and sanctify his life already in the present. The sanctity that is built on the higher level of life in the future can only be reached based on the mitzvot of Hashem.

It is not possible for us, who are spiritually myopic and full of silliness, to know or clearly imagine the grandeur of holy lives in the truest sense. We certainly cannot fully grasp the strings that connect the flawed present to the complete future. We are not even able to truly desire to march on toward this sacred goal because one can desire only that which he can grasp.

Therefore, belief, albeit belief that is founded on the intellect, takes the place of clear knowledge. We know that Hashem gazes on a world of lofty life and that His plan is connected to the loftiest levels that life can reach. We also know that He established the mitzvot upon this goal. Therefore, only through the mitzvot of the Master of actions and the source of good, about Whom it is said, “I am first and I am last, and there is no G-d but me” (Yeshaya 44:6), do we find ultimate sanctity. This transcends any goal that is envisioned weakly by feeble eyes of flesh and blood.

[It is with these ideas in mind that we bless, “…Who sanctified us with His mitzvot…”]


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