The word “Mitzvos” occurs many times in this week’s Parsha. When we perform Mitzvos as we are supposed to, G-d guarantees us blessing. G-d is not only interested in the big Mitzvos; the ones that we may think are insignificant are what matter, as they show that we are in a relationship with the Almighty. Similar to the way human relationships are fused and bonded, it is the small things that one does for the other which proves true interest and deeper connection.
Our Sages encourage us to perform a Mitzvah even though it is being done for some type of personal benefit. This is because of the rule, “Through the involvement of doing a Mitzvah – even if it is done for self-interest – the spiritual energy of the Mitzvah performed will eventually generate true feelings towards performing the Mitzvos.”
Of course, the more one studies the laws and is aware of the reasoning and flavor of the Mitzvah, the Mitzvah becomes that much more meaningful, significant and valued.
I came across a wonderful way of illustrating this point through the works of the Ben Ish Chai – the great rabbi of Baghdad who lived at the turn of the 20th century.
A woman fell in love with a diamond ring, put down a deposit and brought it home to her husband asking him if it was worth the $2000 price set for the ring.
During dinner that night, the wife took out the ring while in the box and showed it to her husband. He looked and examined it and said he would spend $1500 for it. Later that night she took out the ring again and asked her husband to look at it once more. He further inspected it and this time he came up with a lower assessment, ‘I would give no more than $1000 for the ring.’
His wife said ok. She held onto the ring for a few weeks and this time she showed the same ring to her husband while she was wearing it on her finger, claiming that it was too tight for her to remove. He took her hand and began inspecting the ring. He said, “For a ring like this I’ll spend $2000 dollars.” She said okay. Later that night, while still wearing the ring she showed it to her husband and asked him to look at it more attentively. He looked it over and said, “I would be willing to spend $2500 for a ring like this!”
The wife then shared with her husband that the ring was actually the same one that he had looked at a few weeks ago, which he had assessed for much less than its value.
The husband couldn’t understand how he could be so off evaluating the same ring.
His wife explained to him the reason. I really loved the ring and recognized its true value. So I first showed you the ring in its case. While you admired it, you still estimated its value a bit lower than its price. Then I showed it to you again, because you had already seen the ring, it didn’t wow you as it did the first time, so its value diminished further in your eyes.
After waiting some time, I then showed you the ring while I was wearing it. The value of the ring did not necessarily change in your assessment, however, since the ring was adorning my finger, the love that I have for you enhanced the value of the ring and it went up in value in your eyes. Then when I showed it to you again while I was still wearing the ring, my love towards you intensified and you evaluated it for even more than it’s even worth!
The Ben Ish Chai applies this concept to the way we perform a Mitzvah. When a Mitzvah is done without understanding the meaning behind it, it can be likened to the ring being shown in the ‘box’. It has value, yet its true luster and beauty is not totally revealed.
However, when one understands, has researched, and appreciates the Mitzvah, the Mitzvah takes on the dimension of the wife wearing the ring. The value of the Mitzvah continually rises dependent on the interest, devotion and love of the one who performs it!
Our Sages infer from the verse, “This is my G-d and I will beautify Him,” that one should enhance a Mitzvah by beautifying it; for example by lighting Shabbat candles using a beautiful candelabra.
The Ben Ish Chai applies this verse to the enthusiastic way one performs a Mitzvah as well. When one performs a Mitzvah with passion and meaning, it creates additional beauty within the Mitzvah which is greatly valued and cherished by the Almighty!