By Rabbi Michael Beyo
Sorry to all of you for the recent absence in posting. We are relocating and its been a stressful time. On top of this my partner in crime – Josh – got married so a big Mazal Tov!
The Rambam in More Nevuchim discusses one of the verses of this week’s Parasha. The pasuk that he is interested in explicating is the statement in 15:15, that God has given us one law / rule / commandment (depending on which translation you prefer). The Rambam uses this passage to teach us a very important lesson that unfortunately is either not taught enough, or simply not taught at all, because it has theological ramifications that many of us in what I call ‘contemporary Orthodoxy’ do not like.
The Rambam starts with a clear statement that all the Mitzvot of the Torah have one goal to impart on us either proper thoughts (ideas – not to be confused with what often is called Ashkafa), or to expel from us wrong ideas, or to teach us just laws to remove and stop injustice in the world (what many might call Tikun Olam) or to impart in us to proper character traits (Midot).
I find this clear statement of the Ramabam fascinating and very deep, in a sense even very spiritual! Spiritual maybe not in the sense that we commonly refer to spirituality, which often is nothing more than our emotions. The Rambam here is teaching us that the real and ultimate goal of the Mitzvot is NOT to achieve some metaphisical reward in a futuristic ‘world to come’ or Olam Aba or any other terminology that we might feel most connected with. The ultimate goals of the Mitzvot and the reason that we should all follow the Torah is because the Torah teaches us how to be good – probably the best – HUMAN BEING that we can strive to be.
That is the purpose of the Mitzvot – nothing more, nothing less. If so then why be bound by a set of rules that were determined thousand of years ago. Maybe today we should change the practical Mitzvot for the spirit of the Mitzvot? I ask this rhetorically since I do not believe that option to be the correct one but I pose the question. Why keep the Mitzvot and not just the spirit of the Mitzvot?