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Does obeying G-d bring you closer to Him?

Once upon a time in a small village somewhere in Russia a woman asked her son to make her a cup of

tea.

Her devoted son dutifully gathered the best tea leaves that he could find, brewed the tea in a samovar,

carefully poured it into a beautiful cup, and handed it to his mother.

The next day, again she asked for tea and again, her son obeyed.

This continued every day for fifty years until one day his old mother told him she had a confession to

make.

“My son,” she began. “I want you to know that I never drink tea. Every time you make it for me I spill it

out onto the ground.”

Her son was shocked. “If that’s the case, why, mother, do you ask me to make you tea?”

“You see,” she replied. “I don’t need tea. The reason I asked you to make it for me all these years was to

give you an opportunity to get closer to me.”

How do you feel about that story? Do you think this brought the son closer to his mother?

It certainly did not. On the contrary, it probably drove them further apart. In fact, the mother in this

story was a horrible mother. And if you think I’m being too harsh in my assessment of her parenting

skills, let me put it this way:

If you really don’t like someone, you ask the person to do something you don’t need.

Giving someone an unnecessary task is a great way to get rid of them and keep them out of your life. For

example you might tell an unwanted visitor: ‘Please go outside and watch to see if the grass is growing.’

That’ll keep him occupied…and out of your hair.

Thankfully, G-d doesn’t work this way.

G-d doesn’t give you 613 commandments that He doesn’t need just so that you’ll be able to get closer to

Him by doing them. Sadly, we are often taught in school that G-d doesn’t need the commandments, but

this isn’t true and it distorts our understanding of G-d. To tell someone that G-d doesn’t need the

commandments is to make G-d out to be the mother in the silly story.

If G-d doesn’t need tefillin and He tells me to put on tefillin every day, then He’s not bringing me closer.

If anything, He’s mocking me. He’s keeping me out of His life. If G-d doesn’t need the tefillin and I don’t

need the tefillin, then why in the world am I putting them on in the first place?! It certainly wouldn’t

bring me closer to G-d.

The possibility for closeness can only exist when there is a need. In other words, if G-d has no needs,

then there is absolutely no way for us to grow closer to Him.

One’s needs correspond to one’s deepest essence and place of vulnerability. If you need something,

then what you need is precious and valuable to you. If someone wants to be closer to you, then the

person wants to be the one who fulfills your needs. To be in a relationship with someone is not just to

be cherished, but to be needed.

But one cannot get close to another unless one invites the other person to get closer. By communicating

one’s needs to another, one invites another to get closer. Only then can a relationship begin to develop.

Having a need and communicating that need to another is required in order for there to be a chance for

a relationship.

When G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai, He gave us a list of the things that are

the most precious to Him – these are His needs. This list of things is known as the commandments, or,

the mitzvot. Until the giving of the Torah, the mitzvot were the most important things to G-d. But once

He gave them away to us, we then had the ability to become more precious to G-d than even His most

prized possessions.

For example, G-d told us Shabbat was precious to Him. Now, if you keep Shabbat, you will become

closer to G-d than you were previously. How much closer will you get? As close to Him as is Shabbat. If

He needs the mitzvah of tefillin and He allows you to put on tefillin, then you get as close to Him as is

tefillin. If G-d needs the mitzvah of charity and you give charity, you become as close to G-d as is charity.

That is the awesomeness of mitzvot. Doing the mitzvot brings you closer to G-d, because the mitzvot

themselves are actually closer to G-d. And when we perform the mitzvot, we are then drawn into that

same higher level of closeness. The performance of mitzvot is not an exercise in pointless activities for

the sole purpose of demonstrating obedience. On the contrary, the mitzvot are channels to connect to

G-d through doing things that He finds necessary, meaningful, and important. Therefore the

commandments of the Torah are what draw us near to the Creator.

The fact that G-d gave us something so precious to Him tells us something wonderful. Consider the

following thought: In order to get something you need, you must be willing to give away something of

value. For example, when you want someone to mow your lawn, you pay them $10. Your lawn matters

more to you than the $10.

G-d gave us His mitzvot. He didn’t give us something worthless and unnecessary to Him. He gave us

something that was incredibly valuable to Him. When G-d gave us His mitzvot, He was saying: “I would

give to you my most precious mitzvot anytime, because I’d much rather have you.”

This is called a two-way relationship. If someone has a need and she communicates that need to you,

that is an invitation for you to get closer to her. There is now the possibility for closeness and

connection.

This is the essence of what it means to be Jewish. Why do we serve G-d?

It’s not because He is strong or smart or kind.

We serve G-d, because He told us what He needs. That was His invitation for us to get closer to Him. By

communicating His needs and giving us what was closest to Him, He created the potential for a

meaningful relationship to exist between us and G-d.

When you think about it this way, it’s enough to melt your heart.

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