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Virtue Is Its Own Reward

Rabbi Grossman writes movingly about the reasons she abstains from chametz on Passover. As a Reconstructionist Jew, I too believe that God doesn’t intervene in the world to punish wrongdoers or those who violate the commandments, and yet I still place great importance on them. When we choose to observe Passover by abstaining from bread and other leavened foods, we are binding ourselves to a sacred story–one that connects us to our history, to Jews around the world, and to God. I do this not because I worry I will be punished if I don’t, but because I believe acting this way brings its own reward. The ancient rabbi, Ben Zoma, captured this idea perfectly: Doing the right thing not to receive reward or from fear of punishment. He said, “The reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah and the reward of a transgression is another transgression.” (Pirkei Avot 4:2) By creating sacred places in our own lives and our own communities through these mitvzot, we invite God to enter into our midst and be present.


Read the Full Debate: Does God Really Care If We Eat Bread on Passover?

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Marian Neudel

posted April 6, 2007 at 6:42 pm

The ethical mitzvot are essential. The ritual mitzvot are what we are given so we’ll stop pestering G-d, “What else can I do for You?”

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posted April 9, 2007 at 1:44 pm

Marian, I don’t mean to seem nasty, but that comes across as REALLY petty. I tend to see the Ritual mitzvot as helping and assisting the Ethical ones. Though the reasons for many of the ethical mitzvot have been lost(look at the injunction against mixed fabrics), I think they are important, if only as markers of where we want to go.

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