Tuesday, March 23, 2010

One That Corrects and One That Connects

Each person has two special “mitzvahs”, positive deeds:
One that corrects us and one that connects us.
What corrects us reshapes our desire to receive.
What connects us activates our desire to give.

A mitzvah is a special positive deed that connects a person to his or her Creator. Though a very Jewish concept with roots deeply embedded in Judaism, every human being (whether or not Jewish) is accorded the special privilege of connecting to his or her Creator by what s/he does. The Torah provides every human being with guidance in this area.

Some years ago, during a weekly study session with a teacher of Jewish mysticism, I was exposed to the teaching that every human being has a unique mitzvah specially designed for his or her soul. It’s via this deed that this individual soul connects most strongly with the Creator, as if given an individually tailored doorway. Naturally after hearing such a profound teaching, I was left the session wondering to myself, “What’s my special deed?”

This question has bounced itself around my head for years. It propelled me to ask various spiritual teachers for clues. Invariably, the messages were always mixed. Some claimed that this special deed is the one that a person finds absolutely most difficult to perform. While others claimed just the opposite, that this special deed is the one that a person finds the sweetest and most inspiring to do. These answers were enough to leave my head spinning, as my mind searched for a logical reconciliation.

Having to hold onto a question whose answer literally carries the key to life is uncomfortable enough. Being mixed up by opposite answers is a recipe that begs for mercy. Not knowing what else to do, I just kept the question available and continued to ask people who seemed like they might have an answer.

One weekend, I was visiting my beloved Aunt in Los Angeles. After enjoying a Sabbath meal is a friend’s home, I was invited to attend a small synagogue in the area that I would have certainly not discovered if left to my own devices. The attraction of the synagogue was an inspired visiting Rabbi. I sat down and listened to him deliver an inspiring lecture in Talmud, laced with delicious tidbits of Jewish mysticism.

The next morning I once again visited this synagogue, hoping to soak in more soulful teachings. After a morning of inspiring prayers and devotional studies, I escorted out the visiting Rabbi through a back ally. Realizing that I was in the company of such a special person I asked, “How does a person know which is his or her main special mitzvah, positive deed?”

“Actually, a person has two main mitzvahs.” He corrected.

”One mitzvah is what a person finds easiest to do. The other mitzvah is what s/he finds hardest to do.”, he explained.

This was one of those eureka moments for me. I finally understood. My confusion was finally clarified. The reason why I was getting mixed messages was because both answers are true.

Also, once I understood that I was searching for two mitzvahs, not one, and I had also received clear clues on how to identity them I was able to restart my search of a firmer footing. When I finally located these two mitzvahs within I noticed something very interesting. My most difficult mitzvah to perform seems to be anchored in my strongest "desire to receive". My sweetest and most inspiring mitzvah to perform seems to be anchored in my strongest "desire to give".

Dealing with my strongest "desire to receive" is about taming raging temptation. Once tamed, it can be reshaped as a vehicle for kindness. However, the work of reshaping is the process of correcting the misguided lower elements of the soul – vestiges from the animal world.

Dealing with my strongest "desire to give" is about reaching into the soul’s deepest yearning and making it manifest on earth. At the deepest core, humans want to give. It is the deepest human pleasure. Just at times this desire gets clouded over by fears and insecurities that haunt and taunt by feeding a person with one version or another of that narrow minded message that it’s a lot safer and smarter to receive and hoard.

However, if freed from these illusory psychological shackles a person would be edging every moment for an opportunity to meaningfully give. It’s too deeply pleasurable to ignore.

As the Passover season approaches, it’s worth considering what does that elusive word “freedom” mean to each of us individually. For me it means more freedom to give.


  1. I had an aunt that seems so similar to yours. She died almost 2 years ago, and I miss her immensely.

    Regarding your text, I've really never thought what was my most unique mitzvah is, but I've often wondered what my evil impulse/inclination is that I'm here to overcome. I realize we're individually born with an evil impulse we must overcome. I can see many other peoples' evil inclination, but I have trouble seeing my own. I see my sister is a slave to self & to the world. She puts people on an earthly, physical hierarchy by their positions in life. More than once I've pointed out to her that their reward in this life is mostly what they get, but the spiritual treasures we build up have carry over & everlasting values. She admits she knows this, but she still can't stop elevating the man of this world.

    With other people--mostly females I've known--I see a dybbuk on their shoulders. This malicious spirit drives me crazy, but I realize it's not between me and another. It's between me & evil. All I can do is point out what they're doing.

    When I try to see my own, I come up with a million faults; then, I see it's really easy for me to give and to love others. This is also one of my faults because I hate the way most of the world thinks. In planting seeds, people often snarl. In my overcoming, I see when the evil impulse is overcome--when evil is eradicated by doing good, then the self is us is overcome. We absorb our dual nature. This is when the female becomes a male, when up becomes the down, when right becomes the left, when the circle from Abraham to Abraham is completed without beginning, without end.

    So, imo, it boils down to we have a unique mitzvah that is easy for us & one that is most difficult. When the difficult becomes the easy, we have overcome. When the easy becomes the difficult, the Kingdom of God/messianic age has arrived. Our dual nature is now One.

  2. Hi Angela,

    Thank you for your post. Yes, it's true that at some deeply rooted core, I see how the two mitzvahs comprise a single continuum. I can't properly do one correctly without doing the other correctly also. They're interwoven.

    Have you discovered your positive mitzvah also?

    Best Wishes,

  3. I have no idea what my two mitzvahs are--one that connects & one that corrects. Hmmm. God has blinded my eyes to these.

    I asked my good ole hubby what they could possibly be, and he said one could be that I pay cash for everything and give almost half our money away each month. I also have more empathy for my fellow man that I do for myself, but I fail to see how either one of these corrects or connects. I have faith God will show me when He's ready.

    Meanwhile, are you going to tell what your two are? It might help others see ours once we see how they're interwoven and one comes easy & the other one harder for you.

    I can see how my could possibly connect thinking about it. Maybe correct too. Just talking about it helps.

  4. It seems to me that for me the mitzvah that "corrects" me is staying away from certain temptations that are a result of a short sighted view on life.

    It's seems likely that the mitzvah that "connect" me is to teach others Jewish spirituality. This is partly why I am working this blog.

  5. I think I know what you're talking about. When I point out to others the error of their ways, I then find myself in a similar situation and almost falling victim too. Thinking about a previous discussion that took place with someone, I can avoid being a hypocrite, and resist temptation, because of my own words to them. Therefore I'm corrected because of my previous discussion of trying to help others see how they didn't live up to what they knew was right. I then do the right thing.

  6. I understand what you're conveying and at times I have stopped myself short and changed the path of my behavioral advice, when I realized that I myself needed work in that area of life.

    Usually, I'd begin by admitting that I am also weak in this area. Then I'd state my "target behavior", followed by a discussion of possible strategies to achieve it.

  7. That's what it takes to be an over comer. Many detours. God can only use over comers, and you see to be very conscious of every little path, valley, alley, and avenues. All God planned & inspired.