How does one maintain enthusiasm in mitzvos?
There are two ways; a superficial but useful way and also an intrinsic way. The superficial way is to do the mitzvah with a superficial alacrity, a superficial enthusiasm. When you do something in a sleepy way, you fall asleep. When you do it with enthusiasm, you become enthusiastic. For example, let’s say at the Seder you’ll take the matzah in your hand, and you’ll say, “Ahh! Matzah!” And you say, הנני מוכן ומזומן and you are talking about the greatness of the mitzvah, so even though your mind is blank but by doing the externalities so החיצוניות מעוררת את הפנימיות — doing certain external acts will wake up your interior.
So therefore, if you are the father of a house, before you wash you should say to the children, “Children, we’re about to perform a mitzvah de’oraisa of בערב תאכלו מצות. It’s a mitzvah de’oraisa tonight to eat matza. Tomorrow it won’t be a mitzvah de’oraisa anymore to eat matza. You can’t eat chometz tomorrow but tonight eating a kezayis matzah is the same as tefilin; it’s the same as any mitzvah de’oraisa, that’s how important it is. And it is going give you kedusha; אשר קדשנו במצוותיו. And keep in mind that it’s זכר ליציאת מצרים and put all you can into it.” That’s how the father should speak to his children – even if he doesn’t feel it.
So the father, by his externalities, by means of his words, and the children who listen to him, they’ll do the mitzvah with a certain superficial enthusiasm and we have to know how valuable that is.
That’s why you come to daven in the morning and you sit down and say הודו לה’ כי טוב, if you’re mumbling the words quietly, so you fall asleep after a while. But if you say הודו לה’ כי טוב (the Rav said the words loudly), then you wake up; your words wake you up and you become enthusiastic. And that’s how we have to do all the mitzvos. The exteriority awakens the interiority.
However, a second and more fundamental way is understanding what you’re doing. And that’s what we are talking about tonight. Spend time on thinking! Learn how to think! It’s a rare exercise for most people. Did you ever think five minutes on one subject? Did you ever think five minutes about matzah? Come on, tell the truth; you never did.
Sit down for five minutes – before Pesach – and think about matzah; sit five minutes and think about Yetzias Mitzrayim. Don’t tell me you think about it all night at Pesach seder, you’re not thinking; you’re just saying words.
When a man learns the art of thinking, he becomes a different man. Now I have a program for people who like to do that, a program for teaching yourself how to concentrate for five minutes in thinking. It is of the utmost importance to gain this knack; if you learn how to do that you’re a different personality. When you learn how to think about things, then you’ll have insights and understanding that others don’t have. And then your enthusiasm will be kindled; it’ll be just like you pour oil on a fire. Every time that you refresh your thoughts that you invested in this mitzvah – when you remember what you once thought about it – it’s like pouring oil on the fire and your enthusiasm will burn brightly.
TAPE # 504