u’l’avdo b’chol l’vavchem
and to serve Him with all of your heart
There is a dispute as to whether or not mitzvos require kavanah (direction/intent) or not. While it is beyond the scope of these tefilah segments to discuss these halachic rulings, what we can say is that all agree that a mitzvah with kavanah is more complete, achieves far more in the world, and the rewards for performing the mitzvah are greater.
The purpose of all mitzvos is to draw us closer to Hashem. Certainly when we think about Hashem and why we are performing a mitzvah, we will perform the mitzvah mindfully and with heart, thereby achieving the above-stated purposes to a far greater extent than had we mindlessly performed the perfunctory actions of the mitzvah. The Kaf HaChayim writes that when we do the physical or verbal act of performing a mitzvah – that is considered like the body of the mitzvah. When we are mindful and have kavanah – that is considered like the n’shamah. Therefore, if we perform the physical act of a mitzvah without kavanah, the mitzvah is like a body without a n’shamah.
The Ramban (in his “hasagos” to Sefer HaMitzvos, mitzvah 5) uses these words of “u’l’avdo b’chol l’vavchem” as the source for his opinion that there is a mitzvah min haTorah requiring that our service to Hashem be performed with the totality of our minds and hearts. He explains this to mean that we must serve Hashem with a pleasing and complete kavanah to do His will “li’shmah.” Li’shmah generally means that we do a mitzvah out of love of Hashem, the Master of the world, Who commanded us to do so [Rambam].
Mind and heart:
that is how we can change our lives and the world
The most basic kavanah before performing a mitzvah is to say (which is preferable) or think that I now intend to fulfill this mitzvah as Hashem commanded. Additionally, the more mind and heart, reverence, love, and joy that we infuse into a mitzvah, the higher the quality of the mitzvah and the greater the impact will be on the world and on ourselves.
Living a purposeful and meaningful life is a goal that we all desire and crave. We know that living such a life will bring us true happiness, success, and fulfillment.
Imagine the knowledge and feeling that through each mitzvah we perform, we are adding k’dushah to the world and to ourselves, creating positive and tangible benefits for others, while bringing us and others closer and closer to Hashem. Imagine how fulfilled and happy our lives would be.
We can achieve this feeling and result throughout our day, for in truth, every mundane action can be a mitzvah. What is required is “u’l’avdo b’chol l’vavchem” – to serve Hashem throughout our day with complete mind and heart. Granted, this is very challenging in today’s world. However, the rewards for our efforts are nothing less than success and happiness in this world and for eternity.
In order to accomplish this, we need to learn about the mitzvos that we perform and be aware that even seemingly mundane acts are and can be mitzvos. Then we need to think about how what we are about to do, say, or think is part of performing a particular mitzvah. In fact, often, if we think for a bit, we will realize that we are performing multiple mitzvos with one action. Although it is only one action, each separate mitzvah will add k’dushah. Mind and heart: that is how we can change our lives and the world.
Let us begin our efforts today and infuse our lives with a new zest and vigor to make every precious moment of life meaningful, enjoyable, and powerful.
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You can direct any questions or comments to Eliezer Szrolovits at 917-551-0150.