man loves his freedom. No-one is going to tell him how to
act. This is why giving criticism, even when constructive,
is so hard and usually ineffective. It is no coincidence
that the obligation to rebuke a person committing a wrong
is juxtaposed with the prohibition
"Do not hate your brother in your heart". While constructive criticism is a sign of love it often generates friction between people. We like to do what we want, when we want. Of course, Judaism places all kinds of demands upon us, telling us to do all kinds of
things even if they may be inconvenient. Hence it should
come as no surprise that Jewish thought says that "greater is the one who is commanded and does than the one who volunteers
and does." With our natural tendency to resist orders and to feel good about ourselves when we volunteer, it is the following of G-d's orders that marks the truly devoted person. Whereas volunteers can take a day or a week off and still be considered giving, no break is allowed for the "employees". The discipline required in the daily performance of mitzvot, demands observance even when one is not in the mood to do so.
While mitzvot are meant to bring us joy and impart meaning and enrichment to our lives we must perform them even when they do not have the "desired effect." While our subjective feelings help determine our attitudes, they must not interfere with our performance of mitzvot. Whether something feels spiritually uplifting or not, does not impact upon its obligatory status. Mitzvot are the objective standards by which we are judged.
"If you lend money to my people, to the poor man amongst you do not press him for repayment (22:24)." Judaism demands that those capable lend money to those in need and therefore Rashi explains that the Hebrew word Im, in this instance should be translated as "when", not "if". If so, one may ask, why doesn't the Torah just write K'asher, when? Why not say what you mean?
While we are obligated to do mitzvot our attitude towards them should be that of a volunteer. A volunteer will bring enthusiasm excitement and tremendous caring to the task at hand. No task is too menial and no challenge is too great. They are deeply committed to their organizations. We all know what happens however, when we are forced to do something against our will. There is no real concern for the what we are doing; rather we just do the minimum needed to fulfil our obligations. Often it is an acceptable job that meets our standards as opposed to the best job possible.
Nowhere is this more true than in the giving of charity (of which giving a loan is the highest form). Often people give money but do so only grudgingly. They may feel guilty about not helping or may be responding to social pressure. It may even be a good marketing move. While it is true that a million dollars is a million dollars whether given willingly or not, attitude does count. Maimonides rules that it is better to give less but to do so graciously than to give the proper amount grudgingly.
All mitzvot should be done not out of a sense of duty but rather because we feel it is the right thing to do. We should perform our obligations voluntarily.
Our generation has unfortunately seen a marked drop in volunteerism, the lifeblood of any organization. Whether due to less "time", increased pressures or just the focus on me, myself and I this is a trend that must be reversed. We must learn to say yes when asked to help so that our increased involvement is a matter of "when" not "if". Shabbat Shalom!