R’ Micha Berger has written a fine essay pointing out that mitzvah observance is a means, and we need to do more if we want to achieve the goal of Torah and mitzvos. I’m assuming he doesn’t disagree with the Ramchal in the chapter on Human Responsibility in Derech Hashem where he says:
We therefore see that the true purpose of the commandments is to turn us toward G-d, bring ourselves near to Him, and thus be enlightened by His Presence, to avoid sin and other phenomena that lead us away from G-d. This is the true purpose of all the commandments.
In a post titled Getting Better Mileage from our Mitzvah Observance, I pointed out that according to the Ramchal in Mesillas Yesharim:
Observing mitzvos are indeed the means, but the goal is to continually growing in our connection to Hashem. If we don’t notice progress in that goal of closer connection, then we’re not getting the appropriate value from our mitzvah observance.
The Mesillas Yesharim also tells us what we’re doing wrong, we’re not focused on improving our performance of the mitzvos. We need to be more careful in their observance, and more mindful when we perform them. If we follow the Torah’s prescription in mitzvah performance, we will achieve the goal of continuous growth in our connection to Hashem.
In the previous mentioned post and a post around Chanukah time, I suggested we work on our Kavanna in the following four things:
1) Say one Birchos HaMitzvot each day with Kavanna
2) Say one Shema each with Kavanna
3) Start one Shomoneh Esrai each day with Kavanna
4) Say one Birchos Hanehenin each day with Kavanna
When Rebbetzin Heller was in the U.S. in November, I had the pleasure of having dinner with her and I mentioned the above project and asked her opinion. She said that if a person could do these four things daily, it would be transformational. She also pointed out that because we do these things every day, it is difficult to say them with Kavanna.
When a friend from Baltimore stayed by us for Chanukah, I mentioned this project. He also agreed that it would be amazing, but that it’s hard.
So that’s situation we find ourselves. If we can do some of the mitzvos that we’re already doing, with a little more Kavanna, we can take ourselves to a higher spiritual level and perhaps in the process we can motivate those around us to reach for higher levels. It’s hard, because of the regularity with which we perform these mitvos, but it’s definitely within our grasp. I’m still working on it and encouraging others who are interested to join me.
Yes, growth and change are hard – so what are we waiting for?