Friday, June 12, 2020

Connection or Restriction?

As we are still sorting out the many different realities of the COVID-19 era, there was a welcome bright spot amidst the chaos. The IRS is not usually an organization that is associated with delivering positive news. In the upside-down world of 2020, not only did the IRS delay the tax deadline by three months, but they also deposited money in the accounts of U.S. taxpayers with the stimulus funds. I began to think that hypothetically speaking, were we to find out that we are exempt from observing a mitzvah what kind of reaction would that elicit. Would we be disappointed that we have been deprived of fulfilling a mitzvah, or would we breathe a sigh of relief?

I would tend to think that this is a philosophical question as to how we view the Mitzvos in the Torah. One way is to view the mitzvos as a means of connection to an Al-Mighty G-d. The Torah gives a plan of how to transform a finite and temporary world into a place of relationship with an eternal G-d that wants an eternal connection with us. This approach would translate into a great disappointment for a person that cannot fulfill a mitzvah. Another way of looking at the mitzvos is that they are a bunch of restrictions. Thus, the Torah is filled with a restrictive lifestyle. If one ever were exempted from keeping a mitzvah, he would be relieved from his perceived burden.

There is a compelling narrative in this weeks parsha. There was a group of Jews that could not observe the Pesach sacrifice due to their status of ritual impurity. Yet, they approached Moshe and demanded that he somehow find a way for them to fulfill the mitzvah. They could have had a different approach. They could have reacted with relief for their Pesach exemption that year. They reacted with disappointment because they viewed the Mitzvo's opportunities of connection and couldn’t find peace with the notion with the exemption for Pesach that year. If we were ever unexpectedly expected from a mitzvah, would we react with disappointment or delight?

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