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Going Postal... In a good way

Thursday, 4 February, 2016 - 1:26 pm

Which is a more compelling motivator for getting something done, logic or obedience? The common answer would be logic. For if one intellectually appreciates the reason for a particular task, there would most likely be more passion and therefore a greater motivation for accomplishing the said task.

We find two types of Mitzvot in the Torah, loosely categorized as – Mishpatim/Eidot and Chukim. Mishpatim are Mitzvot for which logical explanations are provided (to some degree or another). Examples would be civil laws such as the prohibition against murder and theft, as well as most rituals such Shabbat, Passover, Mezuzah etc. Chukim are the Mitzvot for which no real logical explanation has been provided. Examples would be the laws of Kosher, ritual purity, forbidden mixtures etc.

When it comes to Mishpatim the primary motivator seems to be the logic, which leads to a passionate fulfillment of the Mitzvah. When it comes to Chukim the primary motivator seems to be obedience – this is what Hashem commanded us to do, period.

Conventional wisdom would support the following assertion. One should seek to incorporate the same passion that one has for Mishpatim, when fulfilling the Chukim. This way the Mitzvot are not merely performed with a dry sense of duty, but with great feeling.

Chassidus comes along and argues. One should seek to fulfill the Mishpatim with the same degree of obedience (Kabbalat Ol) that one has when fulfilling the Chukim.

Why does Chassidus assign supremacy to obedience over logic? Because with logic the reliance is on the human capacity to translate the logic into passion and the passion into action. What about the times when “you’re just not feeling like it?” Or what if the Yetzer Hara is making powerful counter arguments to confuse the logic and cool off the passion? The Mitzvah is left unfulfilled. When, on the other hand, obedience is the motivator, all of the obstacles in the world cannot prevent the person from fulfilling Hashem’s Mitzvah.

To borrow the postal workers’ creed – “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” A person with Kabbalat Ol is not obstructed by feelings of apathy (snow), difficulties (rain), worldly desires (heat), or melancholy (gloom of night). Kabbalat Ol – obedience keeps a person laser focused on achieving the task at hand – fulfilling the will of Hashem.

Once the foundation of obedience is in place, then it is imperative to build upon that foundation, a beautiful structure of intellectual appreciation and passion for Torah and Mitzvot.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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