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When Doing a Mitzvah is Hypocritical

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

Library » Holidays » Rosh Hashanah » A Month of Preparation | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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Often times we are faced with an “ethical dilemma”: is it hypocritical to resolve to do a particular Mitzvah when overall I remain an “unspiritual individual”? Would it be proper for me to commit to pray every day if I am not yet prepared to give up non-Kosher foods?

This problem is especially accentuated when a person is temporarily inspired to do a particular mitzvah, but is just not ready to make a long term commitment. What value is there to making Kiddush this Shabbat if I didn’t do it last week and probably will be playing golf at this time next week? If Mitzvot are about self-betterment and real commitment, is there any purpose in a one-night stand?

The answer to this question isn’t clear-cut, and actually depends on intention of the person performing the mitzvah. Indeed, the person who views the mitzvot and a Torah lifestyles as a means of achieving a spiritually wholesome existence, a divinely inspired disciplinary system which brings happiness and contentment to its adherents, has no reason to bother with a mitzvah which currently isn’t his cup of tea and which won’t be increasing his spiritual growth. He also won’t entertain the notion of performing some mitzvot when he knows that others will be ignored. This person’s sense of integrity will be affronted by a mitzvah which is seemingly pointless and duplicitous.

When approaching the mitzvot from G-d’s point of view, instead of a self-centered approach, suddenly there’s no such thing as a hypocritical mitzvah
In truth, however, observing mitzvot is not merely a panacea which imparts a lifetime of spiritual bliss. Yes, it is true that a Torah led life offers all the above benefits—but they are fringe benefits. The meaning of the word “mitzvot” is “commandments,” and that is precisely why we observe them, because we are servants of the A-lmighty and we follow His orders.

When approaching the mitzvot from G-d’s point of view, instead of a self-centered approach, suddenly there’s no such thing as a hypocritical mitzvah. A normally miserly person who decides to give a donation to the poor may feel hypocritical—but to the poor person that is irrelevant. All that matters to him is that he finally has bread to put in the mouths of his family. So perhaps the miser isn’t perfect, but the act was! Every mitzvah which is done is beautiful in the eyes of G-d – no matter what tomorrow will bring – and isn’t that what it’s all about?


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Right to the Root

Posted by: Travis on Sep 05, 2009

I truly appreciate how you got to the root of the issue. In trying to figure out how to implement Torah into my home there have been times where we start out in the right direction and then forget to obey a mitzvah. My heart is always saddened by this but it is encouraging to know that it's the act that matters most to the one to whom the kind act is being done.

Shalom


RELATED CATEGORIES

Mitzvot » What are they?

Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
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.
Mitzvot
Plural form of Mitzvah. Commandments of G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Kosher
Literally means "fit." Commonly used to describe foods which are permitted by Jewish dietary laws, but is also used to describe religious articles (such as a Torah scroll or Sukkah) which meet the requirements of Jewish law.
Kiddush
Prayer recited at the beginning of the Sabbath or Holiday meal--both the evening and afternoon meals. This prayer, acknowledging the sanctity of the day, is recited over a cup of wine or grape juice.
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.