erev 17 Elul 5779

Intentions Count, by Tzvi Schnee

In Judaism, intentionality is not exclusive of the mitzvot (commandments). That is to say, that the inner component of intentionality (in Hebrew, kavannah) regarding a particular mitzvah does not exclude the actual doing of the mitzvah. For example, the commandment concerning the tefillin, placing leather boxes that contain key passages from the Torah, is meant to lead towards acknowledging these key passages within our heart. The mitzvot are a bridge to H’Shem; each contains the essence within, obtained through the performance of that mitzvah; the means point towards the end, yet, can not be separated from the end.

Another example, regarding tzitzit (religious fringes), specifically requires the wearer thereof to look at the fringes, and remember not to stray after his heart or his eyes (Numbers 15:38, Deuteronomy 22:12). Therefore, the actual commandment is a mneumonic device, for the sake of keeping in mind the essence, in this case, the moral component of the commandment.

This discussion hearkens back to a previous one, concerning spirituality and religion. Often, it is as if in most people’s minds, that the two are mutually exclusive; yet, this is not the case at all. Rather, primarily because of the influence of the New Age Movement, wherein spirituality is the experience sought after, the traditional means to that end – religion – has been cast aside in favor of a heightened religious experience without the structure of religion.

Yet, the two coexist; religion is a support system, a lattice for the vine of spirituality that encompasses the inner dimension of man to flourish.

With careful effort on a consistent basis, the concomittant reward of a felt connection to G-d will reveal the spiritual quality of religion to the adherent. This is especially true when an effort is placed on acquiring kavannah (intention) while praying, studying Kitvei Kodesh (Holy Scripture), and performing mitzvot (the commandments).