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.