Linking Mitzvot Together

The opening pages of our 2,000 year-old and ongoing collective masterpiece, the Talmud, repeatedly mentions the imperative, כדי שיסמוך גאולה לתפלה (K’dey She’Yismoch Geula L’Tefila), “in order to join Redemption to Prayer”. Within the context of the discussion, Geula refers to the bracha that ends גואל ישראל (Go-ahl Yisrael) “…Who redeems Yisrael“, the bracha linked to the קריאת שמע (K’riyat Shema), the twice-daily recital of the affirmation, commonly tranlated “Hear O’ Israel, the Lord is God the Lord is One”, considered the keystone of Jewish faith. The mitzva of reciting it actually includes saying the two brachot which precede it and the either one or two (one in the morning, two at night) which follow it. The bracha which follows it (the only one in the morning, the first of two in the evening) is גואל ישראל  (Go-ahl Yisrael) and is referred to as גואלה (Geula). תפלה (Tefila), which generically means prayer, specifically refers to the thrice-daily Amida, the Standing Prayer, also known as the Sh’mona Esrei, the 18.

Reciting the Shema twice daily is a mitzva d’oreita, a Torah-mandated mitzva (Devarim 6:7). Likewise, so is Tefila (Shemot 23:25 and Devarim 6:13). Not only is it impossible to do both at the same time, it’s unnecessary. We’re also guided by the principle עוסק במצוה פטור מן המצוה (Osek b’mitzva patur min hamitzva), one who is engaged in (one) mitzva is excused (literally, has discharged their obligation) from another mitzva.

The Rashab, Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber Schneersohn, the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, takes this principle much deeper. In essence, he explains that when one is so fully engaged in performing a mitzva, with all of one’s heart and with the devotion of קבלת עול מלכות שמים (Kabbalat Ohl Malchut Shamayim), which literally translated to accepting the “yoke” of God’s Majesty, but, while untranslatable fully, points to single-minded/hearted dedication to bring the knowledge and essence of God’s presence into the material world, one can draw into our world not merely the אור אין סוף (Ohr Eyn Sof) the Infinite Light/Energy of that particular mitzva, but, indeed, the Light of the mitzva that one isn’t performing as well. Not only that, but by extension, each mitzva we perform with that sort of whole-heartedness brings both its own Light as well as all the Light of all the Mitzvot. (My own attempt the begin to understand what that really means might employ visualize and 248-sided (the number of positive mitzvot) “ball”, connecting to the plane of our world, and thus allowing the flow of the entirety, but with a particular facet of this ball in prime, forward contact, one-at-a-time, as we perform that mitzva–Remember, this is merely an attempt to understand, given my personal intellectual orientation and should not be taken as literal in any manner whatsoever!)

Thus, when we aspire to fulfill the mitzva of reciting the Shema with our fullest commitment, we not only draw into our world the Light/energy associated with the Shema, but also of Tefila/Prayer (from which we are currently פטור, patur (excused). As we move to pray, again as deeply engaged as we can be, we now draw down the Light of Tefila as well as the Light of all other mitzvot we might otherwise be engaged in. (Of course this isn’t a perfect analogy since the principle of “Osek b’mitzva patur min hamitzva” only applies when the two mitzvot can’t be performed at the same time. There are, of course, mitzvot we can and do perform simultaneously with wearing our Tallit and Tefillin both while reciting the morning Shema and saying the morning Tefila, for example.)

If we look at our days as a chain of opportunities to perform mitzvot, we can participate in an almost endless chain of bringing the Divine Shefa into our world almost continuously. Furthermore, the Light each of us individually draws down is specific (a unique “wavelength” might be one way to visualize this) to our unique Neshamot, meaning that no one else has the capability (nor the responsibility, nor the honor) of contributing this exact energy.

Of course, very few, if any, of us will achieve the spiritual skills and elevation to reach this fully at any time, let alone constantly, but what a goal to dream of!

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1 Response to Linking Mitzvot Together

  1. Mr. Cohen says:

    Are Jews repeating the mistake of the Ancient Romans?

    “Social status was defined in-part by the food served at a banquet.

    The more numerous, varied and expensive the dishes a host served,
    the more impressive he seemed to his guests.

    It was not unusual, therefore, for some people to spend more than they could afford on food for such occasions, causing them to go into debt.”

    SOURCE: The Roman Empire (chapter 3, page 35) by Don Nardo, published by Lucent Books in year 2006 CE in Detroit, ISBN: 9781590186572

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