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Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The Spirit of the Mitzvot

Sukkah 8

If I get all the details of a mitzvah right, but I don’t know why I’m doing it and I’m not really thinking about G-d, does it still count?

Rabbi Levi quotes Rabbi Meir who discusses a tradesperson has a year-round outdoor shop that is designed as a double sukkah, one inside another.  In the inner sukkah, he eats and sleeps; in the outer, he sells his wares.  The inner structure, although technically possessing the requirements of a sukkah, would not be valid for the purposes of the mitzvah on Sukkot.  Why not?

On Sukkot, we live outside demonstrating our faith in the Almighty’s protection.  If we live outside in the sukkah year-round, we have not demonstrated anything by spending the week in the same sukkah.  Although I may have fulfilled all the technical halachic specifications of the mitzvah, I have missed the spirit of the mitzvah and have not fulfilled my obligation.  Ultimately, I have missed the point.

Many of us get so bogged down in the details of halacha that we forget what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.  Some of us even forget that we’re serving G-d – we are so self-absorbed with the details.  This doesn’t mean that we don’t have to do the mitzvot the right way according to halacha, of course we do!  But we must always be acutely aware of the greater picture – why we’re doing the mitzvah and Whom we are serving.


The mitzvot were given to us as a media to connect with the Almighty.  Every detail of halacha foments that relationship.  Let’s never lose sight of the forest for the trees.