When the Jewish people received the commandments from G-d at Mt. Sinai, they experienced the difference between freedom from oppression and freedom to expression. When they left Egypt, the Jewish people were freed from Egyptian slavery, but only when they accepted the commandments were they free to be themselves — individualized manifestations of G-d, serving as channels for the flow of the presence of the One Great Self shared by all. A Torah life is all about freedom and self-actualization. It is not about changing who you are, but being you.
Even when you are freed from slavery or addictions, you are still not yet free to be the total you. To be all that you can be, you need to know who you really are, who is G-d, and what is your divine purpose and service on earth.
Living the commandments empowers us to connect with G-d and be our true Godly self. At first we may feel that obedience to G-d and the disciplinary life of mitzvot is submissive and restrictive. Ironically, however, submission and obedience to G-d becomes a source of empowerment and freedom. Through the mitzvot we can experience G-d as the essential power within us, seeking to become expressed through us. At this point, we no longer experience the commandments as acts of obedience, but rather as the free expression of our true inner divine self as an aspect of G-d.
In other words, after we make G-d’s will our will and obey, we ultimately realize that His will is actually what we, in our deepest of depths, truly wanted all along, because our will is an expression and ray of His will.
Fulfilling the commandments is not about collecting merit points to be cashed in after we die. An understanding like that may have worked for us when we were five years old; how else could our parents and teachers have explained it to us? But as adults we need to understand that commandments profoundly transform our life experience — empowering us to feel plugged into the source of all life, awareness, freedom and creativity. Many people resist a lifestyle dedicated to serving G-d only because they don’t understand that G-d is the source of all being, all energy, all values and ideals.
To serve G-d means to embody and channel into the world G-d’s love, wisdom, understanding, kindness, justice, compassion, beauty, truth, peace, etc. When you act mercifully, you are serving to make manifest the source of all mercy. When you act intelligently, you are serving to make manifest the source of all intelligence. And when you serve justice, you are serving to make manifest the source of all justice. You experience the joy of ultimate meaning when you make your life a means to an end, greater than yourself.
The commandments are not simply ways to earn reward and avoid punishment. Rather, they express our true divine essence — who we really are and who we are part of — in the language of human behavior.
When we behave in discord with the mitzvot, we block out G-d’s presence from our world. Conversely, when we behave in a way that expresses G-d, we become a channel for G-d’s presence, and we fill the world with blessing.
Being who we are, experiencing our connection to G-d, is paradise itself.