Meaning in religious obligation

I want to share my ambivalence about a certain built-in difficulty I find in writing. The source of my ambivalence is that if I am writing personally there is going to be a link to my Jewish roots. At the same time I want to write to a general audience. My purpose here is to write about logotherapy, but my take on it is going to have a Jewish perspective. For this reason I try and I don’t know if I always succeed, to speak about common human experience.

Logotherapy is not a religion; it is a faith-compatible, faith-supportive therapy. The area of work always remains a therapeutic one. What this means practically speaking is that if we break meaning up into (a) explicit obligations vis-à-vis our relationship with God on one hand, and (b) the way we feel we are being personally addressed by God through a particular situation on the other, we can clearly state that the content of (a) comprises religious practice and the content of (b) comprises therapy. Yet it must also be said that within the category of (a) there are always personal meanings. If this is not completely clear, I will be writing more about it.

But I say all of this in preface to the concept in Judaism of the happiness of a mitzvah. Can I write about the happiness of fulfilling a religious obligation as a path to happiness if that is not your religion and religious practice is not in the category of therapy? I believe I can, and I believe anyone can identify with it, because no matter how much a religious practice is a religious obligation that an entire group of people does, there will always be an element of personal meaning to it and being personally addressed and called upon to do it.

In this regard the book Alei Shur, our book of study about happiness, speaks of the innate inclination of a person for one particular mitzvah obligation or another. It is not just the obligation that has been given to me. The inclination has been given to me and it tells me that this is my special path in my relationship to God. Therefore I have a particular capacity for growth through this activity more than other activities, even though those other things are also obligations. I can grow in my relationship to God by not rushing into this activity but preparing myself and arousing my feelings of joy about doing it, deeply contemplating the fact that this act is connective tissue in my relationship with God. Let me not do it out of rote, empty of feeling or meaning. Let me do it with the engagement of my mind and my heart.

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