What a Mitzvah?

Last week’s Torah portion starts off saying, ” God spoke to Moses, saying, ” Tzav – Command Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘ This is the Torat  Ha Olah- Law of elevation…'” (Leviticus  6:1-2) It would seem obvious in the context of the Torah that all the laws are commanded. There seems to be part of the recipe of a commandment is authority. But it also seems that authority seems to be part of Law. It makes me pause to ask a fundamental question,what is a Mitzvah- commandment?

At some level a Mitvah indicates a certain nature of relationship, where Torah speaks of a certain institution. Tzav– speaks of the relationship between Moses and Aaron, where the Torah seems to exist is an absolute form beyond the known realm. A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to reconnect with  Jane Shapiro. She asked a group of us at the Foundation for Jewish Camps Leader’s Assembly a great question. ” What is your signature Mitzvah?” Everyone answered differently, but Jane argued that at the core of all of our answers was the concept of connection. People did not claim some removed nature of the Torah, but some dynamic connection with others.

In a couple of hours we will be sitting at our Seder. We find meaning for ourselves in the retelling of the exodus, and it is for us and not for the wicked child. In response to the Wicked child we will say, ” Li V’ Lo Lo“. In essence we are cutting him off. But, this also points out that at it core Jane is right. We are to make connections, personal connections. In many ways our task on this planet is to transform the institution of law into a movement of relationship. In these terms we can come to an understanding that the a mitzvah is the Torah in motion and emotion. It is the point of contact where the Torah is not in heaven, but instead manifest in all of our connections in this world. If we do our job there need not be any wicked children.

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