Rabbinic Reasons For the Mitzvot

The Sages proposed additional reasons to obey the mitzvot beyond those offered by the Bible.

Print this page Print this page

Rabbinic literature discusses the artistic and aesthetic values in the covenantal relationship between God and the Jewish people. Obeisance to the command­ments helps to make Israel beautiful and attractive in the eyes of God. Finding beauty in each other helps to reinforce the covenantal relationship between God and Israel. It is as if the jewelry and perfumes with which Israel decorates herself for God, her lover, are the commandments themselves:

 “You are beautiful, my love” (Song of Songs 1:15). You are beautiful through the commandments, both positive and negative. You are beautiful through loving deeds, beautiful in your house with the heave offerings and tithes; beautiful in the field through the com­mandments about gleaning, the forgotten sheaf and the second tithe[;]... beautiful in prayer, the reading of the Shema. (Song of Songs Rabbah, 1:15)

In short, the authority of the commandments according to rabbinic sources stemmed from a host of factors, all of which were intended to help the Jewish people transform themselves and the world into the kind of community that God wanted them to become.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs

Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs is the spiritual leader of Temple Sholom in Bridgewater, New Jersey. He has served as the publications committee chairperson of the Rabbinical Assembly.