Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


Relationships, Mitzwot, Expectations



A genuine mitzwa is one which comes with no expectations for reciprocity.  When we give something to a needy person we must give with our whole heart, with our soul, with our physical being:  “bechol levovcho, uvchol nafschecho, ufchol meodecho”.  The mitzwa must be done without regret.  A giver feels good and that is the reward that the good deed brings.  To give or do something for a needy human being who cannot return the deed or pay us back comes with its own reward. 

The Rabbis tell us that G’d commands us to practice as many of the karyagim mitzwot (613 blessings or commands) as we can.  Giving a dying person a drink of water, following a funeral procession, at least for a few steps, extending ourselves to the poor, feeding the hungry, and giving anonymously, are just a few examples given here.  When we make certain commitments we must meet them.  All of life has rules of good conduct.  When we stray from the ten commandments, consequences are almost bound to follow.  When crimes are committed, even if they are not detected immediately, dire feelings, loss of safety, loss of belonging often follow.  A case in point is a “shoplifter” - a person who steals from a store and is caught.  The consequences are fines, court visits, embarrassment / shame.  The person thus charged has lost her good name (shem tov).  She is no longer trusted, has lost her status, has lost love.

When we marry we have made a commitment:  To love, to honor, to meet each other's needs and much more.  All this in a good marriage brings gratification, good feelings and happiness (unfortunately in our modern times we too often see these commitments broken). Divorce, unhappiness, and disillusion follows.

In this the twenty-first century, consumerism is the most important pastime for many in our western world.  Slogans, speeches and love songs call our attention to what is good and what goods we can purchase.  Children learn the inviting “ditties” much more happily and more quickly than they learn the ten commandments.  They know what toys and what foods they like best and all the endless choices they seem to have.  If adults do not have the means to produce these luxuries to gratify their and their children’s desires they are unhappy.  “Love,” satisfied through the ability of supplying material goods, is fleeting and not love at all.  It is possibly momentary, short lived gratification.  The good feeling disappears rapidly if the once attainable objects can no longer be purchased or attained.  It can be likened to the philanderer who is tired of his wife and chooses a newer younger version, or two or three or as many as he can attract.  His commitment to his partner is shattered and the affection and security that was there is destroyed.  He is no longer trusted nor can he trust, since he projects his feelings of momentary pleasure in all that he encounters.

Have you ever deprived yourself of doing something  that you really wanted to do or knew you should do and have deep regrets that you did not because you wanted to work to have the almighty dollar?  Perhaps you did not attend the lewaye (funeral) of a dear friend and missed comforting his family and bidding farewell to your friend.  You were not there to be the tenth man to complete the kosher minyan.  As time erodes you do not miss the money you earned by ignoring the memorial service, but the occasion to comfort the family of your friend is lost to you forever!  It is written that much more is gained spiritually when going to a house of mourning than it is to visit a house of frivolity.

Let us learn from our forefathers: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Rachel and  Rebecca and the wisdom of all those who have gone before us and value our commandments and commitments for a satisfying life!


Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the co-author, with Dr. Gerhard Falk, of  Deviant Nurses & Improper Patient Care (2006).

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