LIVING IN SYNC WITH OUR HIGHEST SELF # Parsha Yitro
Many of my students are astonished to learn that the commandments — mitzvahs— guide us towards a natural life and empower us to become our most natural selves. That the commandment-driven life is all about being in sync with the cosmic principles; attuning us to the will of G-d that governs all life.
What really are the mitzvahs?
Mitzvahs, plural — mitzvah, singular — is often translated as commandment, but that doesn’t do it justice. Mitzvah really comes from the Hebrew word that means “to connect” or “to unite.”
Many people mistakenly think of commandments as demands. They are not.
A demand sounds threatening and self-denying, while a command is an invitation to commune, to join, which is joyous and empowering.
A mitzvah is about connecting with G-d. It’s through the mitzvahs that we transcend our ego, and synchronize our individual lives to the universal life, bonding our selves with G-d, the all-embracing Universal Self of all selves, the Soul of souls. G-d is the Great Self — the Ultimate “I” — the source of all will, intelligence and love.
The Torah tells us that before the Israelites even knew what the mitzvahs were they accepted them unequivocally and unconditionally, telling G-d “we will do and we will hear.” The Talmud says that G-d responded in admiration, “Who revealed this secret to My children, the secret that the ministering angels use for themselves.”
In contrast, the Talmud, also tells us that a heretic criticized the Israelites for being so impetuous putting their mouth before their ears. It makes more sense to first hear what the commandments would be and then decide whether to accept them or not. What did the Israelites understand that this heretic obviously was missing?
This heretic understands G-d as a being separate from man, floating in heaven over there, and that the mitzvahs are His demands. He therefore sees the acceptance of mitzvahs as a sign of weakness and an act of self-sacrifice. You are surrendering your will and your self-interests to the will and self-interest of this other being—-G-d. But the Israelites knew better. They knew that G-d is the Great Self; the root, context, ground and essence of our souls. They understand that there couldn’t be any conflict of self- interests, because the soul is a ray of the One Universal Self of all.
If G-d were the sun each one of us would be a ray of His light. To do the mitzvahs is actually an act of Great Self-expression. It’s an act of strength. In sync with G-d, I am even more natural and empowered to express the real me. This is the secret the angels know—- performing the will of G-d is a joyous opportunity for being our true self. Through the mitzvahs we attune ourselves to the Ultimate Self; radiate His light and channel His presence.
What a gift!