Let My People Know

"The lulav, in itself, is a branch and not a mitzvah."


"What does it mean to bless God?" (Because all our prayers assert: Blessed art Thou, Lord our God.) 

It is as though I, the one who prays, am giving something to God, as though I were wishing Him well and offering a blessing. 

But the question is: How is this at all possible?

What does God need that I can supply with words of benediction?

The meaning of the blessing and of the mitzvah that follows it lies in the wholeness of the sanctification, in the necessary inclusion of oneself, the Torah commandment, and the outward action. 

There is an inner connection between the ner mitzvah–the candle of the mitzvah–and the candle of God, which is the soul of man. 

For as we have said, the soul of man becomes the instrument for the mitzvah; he is the lamp or vessel containing the components of light. 

For the mitzvah has no significance other than as light-giving reality, and the soul of man is where this takes

One may thus view the human being as nothing more than a vehicle, a means for the mitzvah or Divinely inspired
action to occur. 

Or one can see the mitzvah as an essence in itself, a potential reality that receives life when man touches it. 

What is the primary, what is secondary? 

The combination is one that is necessary, as we have said, and neither of the factors stand alone. 

The question is, Where is the light? 

What is the oil and the wick? 

For example one can take the lulav and recognize that, in itself, it is a branch and not a mitzvah. 

It becomes a mitzvah when a Jew waves it within a certain set of circumstances. 

All the components are essential–as with every mitzvah.

The mitzvah is thus a commandment from God; it is also an idea that can become a reality, given the right combination of factors, and then it is manifested as the light of Divine revelation. 

This makes it preferable to heavenly bliss, and one can declare with the Sages, "Better one hour of repentance and good deeds in this world than all the life in the next world."

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From The Candle of God, p.346, by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz