Why do some people say לשם יחוד קודשא בריך הוא before doing a mitzvah?
Before you do a mitzvah, it’s important to make sure to prepare yourself so that the mitzvah shouldn’t go lost. Everyday we say the following prayer: הוא יפתח לבנו בתורתו – Hashem should please open our hearts in His Torah, וישם בלבנו אהבתו ויראתו – and He should put into our hearts love for Him and fear of Him. And then we finish up like this: למען לא ניגע לריק ולא נלד לבהלה – in order we shouldn’t labor in vain and toil for nothing.
It means like this: Most of us davened today a whole davening, let’s say. But at the end of the davening we have to be afraid – maybe it was לריק, chas v’shalom; maybe it was for nothing. There’s no question that usually a great part is thrown out! Isn’t that a pity? Suppose you didn’t daven and instead every day you had a kevius to learn Mishnah Berurah in that time instead of davening – you would be a lamden in halacha already! If every day you would learn let’s say mishnayis or even plain gemara during that time, you’d be a lamden. Isn’t it a pity you waste so much time of your life on davening – if the davening is thrown out; and usually it gets thrown out! And therefore, we pray, “Ribono Shel Olam; put into our hearts love of You and fear of You, למען לא ניגע לריק – so that we shouldn’t toil in vain, for nothing.
And that’s why it’s important to prepare before you do a mitzvah. When you’re saying שמע ישראל ה’ אלקינו ה’ אחד, have in mind you’re doing it because of a mitzvah – a mitzvah of the Torah. Does it take long to think about that? In one second you can rescue that mitzvah from going לריק. Think: “I’m now about to do the mitzvah of ליחדו – of declaring yichud Hashem.” It takes a second and then you say Shema.
Then you come to ואהבת. The Chofetz Chaim says while you’re saying ואהבת, you might as well do the mitzvah and love Hashem. At least for one possuk you can love Him! You ever thought about that? The Chofetz Chaim says, love Hashem right now while you’re saying that possuk. You don’t have reason to love him?! The fact that you can talk is enough reason to love him. Look how many people can’t talk. They make noises and talk with their hands – that’s how they walk around the world. And you can talk! You’re a normal person! You should love Hashem for that. At least for one possuk love Him – fulfill the mitzvah.
Therefore, it became a minhag in a number of cases to say לשם יחוד קודשא before you do the mitzvah to remind yourself to be meyacheid the leiv, to assign your heart: “I’m doing it for this purpose.” A mitzvah should be done for the purpose of the mitzvah. עושה מצוה כמאמרה – You should do it like it was said, because Hakodosh Boruch Hu said it. That’s how you do a mitzvah.
And therefore it’s important. Even if you’re giving tzedaka to a poor person, don’t give it because you’re bashful, because you can’t refuse him. Think in your mind, “Hakodosh Boruch Hu told me: פותח תפתח, that I should open my hand. And I’m doing it now.” If you want to help somebody; let’s say you open the door to let somebody in or some other favor, so you say, “והלכת בדרכיו – I want to walk in the ways of Hashem, the original Ba’al Chesed.” Try not to waste your good deeds.
A woman in the house, she’s doing go many chassodim to her husband and her children; isn’t it a pity that her life is wasted, absolutely wasted unless she is mechaven l’sheim Shomayim and she’s thinking: לשם יחוד – I’m doing it because You, Hashem, want me to do it.”
All our lives – even a grocery man standing behind the counter and he’s handing the bread across to the customer, why shouldn’t he think? It costs you money if you think? He should think: “נותן לחם לכל בשר – Hashem is giving bread to the world – I’m a shaliach for Hashem. The fact that I’m getting money, it doesn’t detract from the mitzvah.” A mother feeding her children should add that thought as well.
And so, we should make sure to prepare ourselves before doing all of our mitzvos In order that we shouldn’t ניגע לריק – so that we shouldn’t toil in this world in vain.
TAPE # 501 (March 1984)