Service Out of Love

“The fruits give forth fragrance, all kinds are there by our gates, new and old, stored up for you beloved.” ~Song of Songs 7:14


In the Babylonian Talmud the Rabbis suggest a number of explanations of this passage. One explains that the fragrant fruit are mitzvot stored up by Israel for God. The “old” refer to mitzvot from the Torah, he explains, and the “new” are those added by the Rabbis. This is what Israel says before The Holy One, Blessed Be: “I have added restrictions onto myself beyond what you gave me, and I have fulfilled them all.” (Eruvin 21b)


What I think we can learn from this is an attitude to bring to the mitzvot we chose to take on as practices. Although they may involve sacrifice or uncomfortable effort, we should not view them as things we do out of fear or mere obligation but rather as expressions of love for God. As the Sfas Emes famously taught, the meaning of “mitzvah” is found in the root “tzav”, bridge. The mitzvot are ways to connect ourselves to God out of love. They can be expressions of care for God and Its world.


Author: Matthew Zachary Gindin

Freelance journalist and teacher. I write regularly for the Forward, All That In Interesting, and the Jewish Independent, and have been published in Religion Dispatches, Situate Magazine, Elephant Journal, and elsewhere.

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