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    Benefits of the commandments – Lech L’cha

    The title of this week’s sidra literally means “Go for yourself” (Gen. 12:1).

    The commentators say that HaShem is telling Abraham, “Go where I send you, and it will be good for you!” Rashi tells us that l’cha indicates, “for your benefit, for your good”.

    The broader question is whether this approach applies to the religious life as a whole.

    Are we saying that we should be religious for the sake of the benefit it gives us? Do we keep Shabbat, for example, because of what we will gain from it?

    There isn’t an easy answer. Strictly speaking one should say, “I keep the commandments because they are the word of God”. But throughout Jewish history there have been attempts at finding ta’amei hamitzvot, the reasons for the commandments. Sometimes God gives us a clue as to what lies behind a particular mitzvah: sometimes He doesn’t.

    Sometimes we experience a personal or group upsurge (in Hebrew, n’shamah yeterah) because of the effect of keeping the commandments, but that upsurge – reflecting the time and place where we live – may not be shared to the same extent by other people.

    Whatever your thinking may be, let it reinforce your devotion to the life of Judaism.

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