[Avodah] Mitzvos are not for Hashem

Kenneth Miller kennethgmiller at juno.com
Wed Jan 30 09:13:23 PST 2013

R' Micha Berger wrote:

> The chazal usually cited to teach that mitzvos are for our
> benefit, not HQBH's, is Bereishis Rabba 44:1:
>    Rav says: The mitzvos were only given letzareif bahem
>    es haberios. ...

I would like to suggest that this cite from Rav teaches some other things, in addition to R' Micha's point.

Besides teaching that mitzvos are for our benefit, not HQBH's, Rav also teaches us that mitzvos are for our *benefit*, not for our *enjoyment*. Further, they are not for the enjoyment of our guf, and not even for the enjoyment of our neshama. 

"Benefit" and "enjoyment" are both legitimate translations of "hanaah" in various contexts, but unfortunately that often leads to choosing the wrong one, and this time, Rav makes it it clear which is the intended meaning: Mitzvos are for our *refinement*. This improvement might be enjoyable on occasion, but if one is so fortunate, he should realize that it is a side benefit. The ikar is "letzareif bahem es haberios", which is an improvement (in the long term) that may or may not be enjoyable (in the short term).

Akiva Miller
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