Perfection and Mitzvahs

Question

What is the purpose of the commandments?

, 6 months

Answers

  1. Judaism accepts as axiomatic that neither the human being nor the world in which he lives is perfect. Rather, just as this world is incomplete and designed to be perfected, the human being is also designed to strive for perfection.

    The Midrash recounts a discussion concerning this idea between Rabbi Akiva and the roman official Turnus Rufus. Turnus Rufus asked Rabbi Akiva, “What is better, the deeds of God or the deeds of man? If you say the deeds of man are better, then you are a heretic! If you say the deeds of God are better, then why do you circumcise your children? If God wanted them circumcised, why are they not born without a foreskin?”

    Instead of answering directly, Rabbi Akiva showed Turnus Rufus a stalk of wheat and a piece of cake and asked him, “Which do you think is better: The deeds of God (meaning the inedible, raw stalk of wheat) or the deeds of man (meaning the delicious cake)?” The Roman was forced to admit that the deeds of man were better.

    Rabbi Akiva demonstrated to Turnus Rufus that just as the wheat is inedible until it goes through many steps of refinement and is turned into bread or cake, the human being also needs refinement and perfection — physically, morally and spiritually. The purpose of the commandments is to refine the human being and bring him closer and closer to perfection.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team