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There are so many do's and don'ts in Torah- how can I keep them all?

  

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Melissa: There are so many do's and don'ts in Torah — how is anyone supposed to keep them all?

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman: If Torah observance was an exercise in behavior compliance, you’d be absolutely right. There is only one way a person can learn to fulfil the Torah the way it is meant to be fulfilled, and that is by achieving a higher state of mind:

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman: Imagine a constant awareness that all you see and hear, the wind against your face and the pulse of your own heart, the stars in the heavens and the earth beneath your feet, all things of this cosmos and beyond — all are but the outer garments of the King, a projection of His radiance, His will, His thoughts, His words to you, within which He is concealed.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman: In such a state of mind, Torah becomes a natural response. You feel you can’t possibly do something that may be against His will, and you are inspired to joyfully do everything He asks of you.

Melissa: Nice try, but if the fix of Do’s and Don’ts is secondary, why should they be binding?

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman: It’s possible I was ambiguous in my presentation of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s thoughts. Allow me to explain a little further:

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman: The principle experience was the heightened consciousness achieved by those present at Mount Sinai. The acceptance of do’s and don’ts was a consequence of this—but still not the principal experience. In other words, first came the inspiration, and after came the inspired commitments.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman: In fact, this is the way experience works in general. At the time of an experience, it is the “process” of experience in which a person’s mind is absorbed. The **content** of that experience is best reaped after having left the thick of the storm, in what we sometimes call “debriefing” or review. While you’re white-water rafting, you can’t be analyzing. Water’s crashing and splashing all around you. You’re processing. Later, back on dry land, you review the content.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman: This is the way all of Judaism works: Practice must be an outcome of an inner feeling. Without a sense of whom G-d is, there can be no authentic fulfillment of the mitzvahs. How can you fulfill a command when you have no feeling for the commander? Who exactly are you serving in such a situation?

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman: This in no way condones putting off any Mitzvah until you understand and feel for it. On the contrary, the only way to come to an affinity for mitzvahs is by experiencing them first-hand. But dry fulfillment without religious experience cannot endure. As Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi said, “A mitzvah without inspired focus (“kavanah”) is like a body without a soul.”

All names, places, and identifying information have been changed or deleted in order to protect the privacy of the questioners. In order to preserve authenticity, the chat sessions have been posted with a minimum of editing. Please excuse typographical errors, missing punctuation, and/or grammatical mistakes which naturally occur in the course of informal chat sessions.

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Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Rebbe
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
Lubavitcher
One who follows the teachings of the Chassidic group which was formerly based in the Belarus village of Lubavitch. Today, the movement is based in Brooklyn, New York with branches worldwide. The Lubavitch movement is also widely known as "Chabad."
Moses
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Abraham
First Jew, and first of our three Patriarchs. Born into a pagan society in Mesepotamia in 1812 BCE, he discovered monethieism on his own. He was told by G-d to journey to the Land of Canaan where he and his wife Sarah would give birth to the Jewish People.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.